Dos and Don’ts for What to Wear to a Wedding

Knowing what to wear to a wedding can be challenging, but there are some basic guidelines that will narrow down your options and make your outfit selection process a little easier:

Dos

  • Follow the recommended dress code (typically provided on the invitation or the wedding website).
  • Choose comfy footwear (or bring a pair of backup shoes for dancing).
  • Dress appropriately for the weather and season.

Don’ts

  • Wear white, cream, or ivory (unless the couple has specifically asked guests to wear white).
  • Wear jeans (unless it’s a VERY casual wedding).
  • Dress in anything too short, too tight, too flashy, or too revealing.
  • Wear the same color as the bridesmaids (if you can find out this info beforehand).

Weddings can range from super casual to ultra luxe, and, as a result, figuring out what to wear can be tricky. Throw in lingo like “black-tie optional” and “beach formal” and your head can really start to spin. To help you choose an outfit that matches the formality of the event (and looks equally sharp), we’ve outlined our suggestions for how to dress for every type of wedding, depending on the season and dress code.

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

The formality of the event will heavily influence what you wear, but the season can influence the shade and material of your outfit choice. Spring weddings are all about embracing nature’s renewal, so mirror the season’s soft color palette and pretty blossoms through your choice of pastel, floral, and breezy attire.

  • Colors: pastels or neutrals
  • Fabrics: linen, cotton, silk, or seersucker
  • Patterns: gingham, madras plaid, florals, paisley, pinstripes, or polkadots

What to Wear to a Summer Wedding

For a majority of North America, summer weddings are hot, hot, hot—so opt for cool fabrics and forgiving shapes to keep you comfortable. That doesn’t mean you can’t represent the season with colors and patterns as bright and happy as a summer sunset, however.

  • Colors: bold, bright hues
  • Fabrics: linen, cotton, silk, or seersucker
  • Patterns: madras plaid, florals, bold stripes, or polkadots

What To Wear to a Fall Wedding

Like spring, fall weddings signify transition from one extreme season to another. Instead of new blooms, however, fall weddings celebrate the natural abundance of the harvest. This time of year intrinsically inspires a richer, more bronzed color palette and anything that feels cozy and textured.

  • Colors: rich, warm colors
  • Fabrics: wool, flannel, tweed, cotton, suede, corduroy, or leather
  • Patterns: plaid

What to Wear to a Winter Wedding

Winter weddings can often be the easiest to dress for, as you’ll most likely be indoors. Let the formality and/or theme of the wedding guide your attire. Neutral colors like black, dark green, gray, or cream best reflect the season’s landscape—but the sparkly, festive nature of winter holidays can also inspire your wedding fashion.

  • Colors: warm tones, neutrals, or festive colors (like bright red or green)
  • Fabrics: wool, flannel, tweed, cotton, suede, corduroy, leather, sequins, or fur
  • Patterns: plaid, sparkles

What To Wear To A Casual Wedding

The attire for casual weddings can vary a lot depending on the location and time of day. Unless it’s communicated that the celebration has a very relaxed vibe, we would recommend avoiding tank tops, shorts, or jeans. To play it safe, dressy casual or business casual is your best bet.

For Men

  • Relaxed pants (chinos, khakis)
  • Casual loafers or boat shoes
  • Sports coat or blazer
  • Polo, button down, or sweater

For Women

  • Sundress
  • Jumpsuit
  • Sandals, flats, or wedges

What to Wear to a Semi-Formal (or Cocktail Attire) Wedding

Semi-formal attire is commonly called cocktail attire and falls between formal and casual on the formality scale. For these events, it’s better to be a bit overdressed than to show up in something too casual.

For Men

  • Suit with/without tie

For Women

  • Cocktail dress (typically knee-length)
  • Dressy jumpsuit
  • Heels

What to Wear to a Black-Tie Optional (or Formal) Wedding

For a black-tie optional event, it’s up to you whether you get really gussied up or go with something slightly less dressy. Either way, your look should be formal enough for you to blend in with a crowd of people wearing tuxedos and evening gowns.

For Men

  • Tuxedo
  • Dark suit with bowtie or conservative tie
  • Dress shoes
  • Black dress socks

For Women

  • Cocktail dress
  • Evening gown
  • Very dressy pantsuit or jumpsuit
  • Heels

What To Wear To A Black-Tie Wedding

Black-tie weddings can be intimidating if you aren’t used to dressing fancy. But there’s a major pro here: the guidelines for what to wear are pretty easy.

For Men

  • Tuxedo (complete with bowtie, white dress shirt, and vest or cummerbund)
  • Dress shoes

For Women

  • Evening gown
  • Cocktail dress
  • Very dressy pantsuit or jumpsuit
  • Heels

What to Wear to a White-Tie Wedding

Weddings with a white-tie dress code are as formal as it gets, and to avoid embarrassment or feeling out of place, you should absolutely dress the part. The requirements here are strict, which, again, makes choosing a little more simple.

For Men

  • Black tailcoat, white vest, formal white shirt, white bowtie, and white gloves (optional)
  • Opera pumps

For Women

  • Long evening gown
  • Heels

What to Wear to a Wedding With Themed Attire

Couples are getting more creative with their wedding style these days, and may request that you wear clothing that adheres to particular palette or theme. If faced with this scenario, we recommend you get into the idea of dressing up in a fun or creative way, and simply ask the hosts if you need clarification or have questions. As they say, better safe than seriously underdressed.

For Men

  • Attire that matches the couple’s request

For Women

  • Attire that matches the couple’s request

What to Wear to a Wedding With Traditional Cultural Attire

If you’re invited to an event that calls for traditional clothing typically worn during specific religious or cultural wedding rituals, it’s important to do your research and dress the part. Ask for assistance if you need it, and respect the couple’s wishes and their traditional customs.

For Men

  • Appropriate attire to match the traditional religious/cultural celebration

For Women

  • Appropriate attire to match the traditional religious/cultural celebration

What To Wear To A Wedding With No Dress Code

In the event that your invitation gives you no instructions whatsoever about what to wear, there’s a couple things you can do:

  1. Play it safe by going with semi-formal cocktail attire.
  2. Ask the couple for their preference.

What to Wear to a Beach Wedding

Beach wedding attire can go one of two ways: it can be very casual, as in barefoot in shorts, or it can be more formal, like cocktail attire with vacation vibes. If your invitation says “beach attire” or “beach casual,” follow the tips below for how to dress. If the dress code is “beach formal,” however, look to the next section for advice on more formal beach attire.

For Men

  • Khaki or linen pants
  • Tailored knee-length shorts (no athletic, denim, or cargo shorts)
  • Collared, short-sleeve button down or polo shirt
  • Boat shoes, leather sandals, or barefoot (based upon invitation instructions)

For Women

  • Sundress
  • Linen separates
  • Casual jumpsuit
  • Leather open-toe flats, sandals, or barefoot (based upon invitation instructions)

What to Wear to a Formal Beach Wedding

Beach = casual, yes? That’s typically a solid conclusion, but all those assumptions quickly get tossed out the window when you receive a wedding invitation with the words “beach formal” stamped on it. You’re probably wondering what that means. The answer isn’t as complicated as you might think. Beach formal is just a fancy way for the hosts to communicate that although the wedding is set on a beach, guests shouldn’t show up in their usual beach getup, like shorts, tank tops, or a bathing suit (yikes). If you’re invited to an event of this sort, we recommend cocktail attire with a beachy twist.

For Men

  • Summer suit with/without tie
  • Boat shoes, loafers, or leather sandals

For Women

  • Formal sundress
  • Dressy jumpsuit
  • Leather open-toe flats or sandals