Wedding Guest Attire Etiquette

June 12, 2017. Category: dress code, tips, wedding guest attire

With the start of Summer wedding season upon us, we couldn’t think of a better time to put together a quick and easy cheat sheet for wedding guest attire etiquette.

Whether you are attending an outdoor garden party, a country club soirée or a black tie affair what you should wear as a wedding guest can be confusing to some, especially if it is not specified on the invitation.

Photography: Paul Morse

White Tie – This is the most formal of all wedding dress codes. For this type of event, you will absolutely need a formal, full-length ball gown. For the gentleman, you will need to wear a tuxedo, or a traditional tailcoat, a formal white shirt, white vest and white bow tie.

Photography: Kate Headley 

 Black Tie Affair – This is the most common formal wedding dress code, and usually implies that the wedding is an evening affair. A black tie wedding used to always mean a ball gown but that has changed over the years.  If the event is inside a ballroom and the invitations states black tie, you can certainly wear a long dress but a formal cocktail-length dress is also appropriate.  For the gentleman, you will need a tuxedo.

Photography: Jodi and Kurt Photography

 Black Tie Optional or Formal Attire – Black tie optional suggests that the dress code is slightly less formal than black tie, which means a tuxedo isn’t required but, the event is still formal enough that wearing one would be appropriate. You can’t go wrong with wearing a tuxedo, as it always a safe and classic option although, if you don’t own a tux wearing a formal dark suit and tie will be completely acceptable.

Photography: Katelyn James Photography

Semi-Formal  – Depending on the time of the wedding you’ll want to dress somewhere between formal and casual. We suggest wearing darker more formal hues for an evening soirée, and then lighter colors for a daytime affair. Keep in mind that the  location of the wedding will also be your cue on the appropriate dress code.  For the gentleman, a suit and tie will be your best option.

Cocktail Attire – You can never go wrong with a cocktail dress, it is cocktail attire after all. However, if you do choose to wear a long dress, make sure it is season appropriate and not to overwhelming. For the gentleman you should wear a suit.  Most Summer weddings tend to have part of the evening outside be it the ceremony or cocktail hour, so you want to make sure you are not too hot and dressed appropriately.

Photography: Abby Grace Photography

What if not attire is listed? By old school etiquette, any wedding starting after 6pm, should be black tie.  Any wedding starting before 6pm, you can assume cocktail attire. When in doubt, check the couple’s website to see if they have listed any attire.

Also, never ever wear white.  Really do try to avoid a white dress, even if it has a pattern on it you are better off selecting a different dress. The bride deserves to be the center of attention on her wedding day, and wearing white, steals attention from her unless of course you are a bridesmaid and she has specifically chosen a white bridesmaid dress.

Photography: Jodi and Kurt Photography

Budget friendly tip: Wedding season can become expensive very quickly if you have multiple weddings to attend, especially if they are with the same group of people. So instead of buying a new dress or wearing the same suit and tuxedo head over to Rent The Runway or The Black Tux, as they have endless options and are very easy to rent from no matter where you live!

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