What to Wear to a Formal Wedding in the Mountains

From semi-formal to formal to black-tie, we break down each dress code for your mountain destination wedding. Read on for inspiration here.

By Rachel Varina

Formal Wedding in the Mountains Attire
Photo by Daylene Wilson Photography

A wedding in the mountains is one of the most magical places to say “I do.” If you’re attending a ceremony amongst the peaks, there’s a good chance that you’re trying to figure out how to dress for the special event. While there are different levels of formality, there's also the added question of whether or not the couple wants you to lean into the mountainous vibe and dress on-trend. We’re breaking it all down so that you can figure out what to wear to a formal wedding in the mountains with absolute confidence.

If the Invitation Just Says “Semi-Formal”

Zola: What to Wear to a Formal Wedding in the Mountains Photo Credit // The Kents Photography

A semi-formal wedding dress code means that you want your outfit to fall somewhere between formal and casual, such as what you would wear to church, a nice dinner, or a chic job interview. The real determination here will be the time of the event: Steer toward darker colors for evening ceremonies and lighter colors and fabrics for daytime events. Additionally, make sure to keep an eye on the temperature, since mountain wedding venues can be chillier than those at the base.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: Depending on how formal the wedding venue looks (take a peek at the website to get an idea), you can wear either a suit and tie or a dinner jacket and dress pants. For shoes, you can wear dress shoes, dressy loafers, or oxfords. Items such as shorts, jeans, sneakers, short-sleeved shirts, polos, and t-shirts aren’t semi-formal (no matter how nice you think they look), so opt for something a little more elegant for the event.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: A cocktail dress, nice suit or jumpsuit, or a dress skirt and top work well for semi-formal events. Just remember that there’s a chance that you might be walking in grass or uneven terrain, so check out the venue online and choose your shoes accordingly.

If the Invitation Says “Mountain Semi-Formal”

Just like traditional semi-formal, a “mountain semi-formal” dress code means that the couple wants you to get dressed up as you would for a nice event, but lean into the mountain theme a bit, too. While you still want to avoid items such as sneakers, jeans, and tees, the couple is okay with you adding a special touch to your look, so consider adding in some on-themed elements or colors for the mountain themed wedding.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: A suit and tie or a dinner jacket and dress pants are still appropriate for a mountain semi-formal event, but consider adding a touch of the theme to your look. Earthy tones such as tans, browns, greens, and blues are great ways to give a subtle nod to the ambiance. Or, for more flair, consider a button-down shirt with a pine tree or snowflake pattern worn under a dinner jacket, paired with some nice boots.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: While a cocktail dress, skirt, and top, or jumpsuit are still the base of your look, think of ways that you can lean into the mountain feel. Consider a nice pair of booties, a mountain wedding dress, jacket with faux fur, flowy fabrics, turquoise jewelry, or a nice, knit sweater (especially if you get chilly as the sun goes down).

If the Invitation Just Says “Formal”

Formal or “black-tie optional” means just that: The event is formal, and while it’s appropriate to dress black-tie, it’s not necessary. If you’re unsure which way to lean, chat with other guests and look up photos of the venue to gauge how fancy the event might be. When in doubt, always dress the more formal option because you can easily “dress down” by taking off a bow tie, letting down your hair, or leaving your jacket on a chair.

Since the couple didn’t indicate that they want you to lean into the mountain theme, dress as you would for any other formal event, but keep an eye on things like the weather and the terrain to make sure that you’re comfortable.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: A dark suit and tie, or a tuxedo (if you want to go more formal) with dress shoes. There’s no grey area here.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: A long evening dress (but not a ball gown), a formal cocktail dress, or a dressy suit.

If the Invitation Says “Mountain Formal”

If the couple indicated that they’d like guests to have fun with the “mountain” concept in their looks, feel free to get creative, as long as you stick within the formal guidelines (and don’t go too flashy, so you don’t take away from the couple). After checking out the venue online, build your look with rich or crisp hues (depending on the time of day) and subtle, yet creative mountain elements.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: If you want to go the dressy route, stay traditional with a tux and dress shoes. If you want to play up the mountain theme, pair a dark or chic, Earthy-toned shirt under your suit jacket with dressy boots. Consider adding a tie and matching pocket square with a subtle nature pattern on it for an extra pop of pizzazz.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: While you still want to rock an evening dress, formal cocktail dress, or a dressy suit, look for colors and fabrics that play up the natural vibe.

If the Invitation Just Says “Black-Tie”

One of the most formal dress codes, black-tie is just under white-tie in terms of elegance. The event usually takes place in the evening, but even if not, the dress code indicates that you should dress almost as formally as possible.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: A black-tie wedding means one thing and one thing only: You need to wear a tuxedo. A black bow tie and patent leather shoes are also suggested, but the cummerbund is optional. If you don’t have a tux (and can’t rent one), a black suit and black tie will work in a pinch.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: An evening gown or your nicest, chicest cocktail dress or jumpsuit are appropriate, as are heels. While you don’t need to wear black, a lot of people will. Take a look at the venue to determine whether you can get away with stilettos or need something with a thicker heel. Additionally, consider bringing a faux-fur shrug or sophisticated jacket, in case the mountain air gives you a chill.

If the Invitation Says “Mountain Black-Tie”

While the “black-tie” portion of the dress code indicates that you should dress majorly formal, the “mountain” part might be throwing you for a loop. Unlike less formal events, there’s less room here to be creative and play up the mountain feel, but with some precision and thought, you can easily pull it off.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: While you still need to wear a tuxedo, the fact that the couple included a mountain component means that you have a few more options surrounding what tuxedo to don. While you still need to stick to dark colors, you can consider a dark blue, green, or grey tux, or select one with a slight pattern on the lapel. Additionally, you can wear nice, formal dark boots, a patterned bow tie, and a chic scarf if the ceremony is outdoors.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: An evening gown, your dressiest jumpsuit, or chicest cocktail dress are still appropriate, but consider selecting boho-style pieces made from soft, flowing fabrics in Earthy tones or with subtle nature patterns, such as leaves or touches of lace and fringe.

If the Invitation Just Says “White-Tie”

The most formal of all the dress codes, this is the formality reserved for events such as red carpet awards and dinners at the White House. If you were ever to bring your A-game, this is the time.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: A long, black tailcoat, a white pique vest, a bow tie, opera pumps, and (optional) white gloves.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: If you ever dreamed of rocking a formal, full-length ball gown, this is your time to shine. Go all out with jewelry, formal hairstyles, heels, and full-glam makeup for the perfect white-tie look. Don’t forget a long, formal evening coat in case it gets cold on the mountain.

If the Invitation Says “Mountain White-Tie”

If the couple wants you to play up the “mountain” aspect at their white-tie wedding, make sure to still stick within the extremely formal dress code to ensure that you’re at their preferred level of formality.

For Those Who Prefer a Masculine Style: A long, black tailcoat, a white pique vest, and a bow tie are still “musts,” but there are a few small ways you can add in some fun elements. Opt for dress shoes instead of opera pumps and wear a pair of festive socks or don a scarf as you would with a tuxedo for a chic take.

For Those Who Prefer a Feminine Style: Consider a formal ball gown made from a flowy fabric in rich, Earthy tones (just nothing too light that could run the risk of looking white). Think accents such as lace, appliques, fringe, tiers, and ruffles. For an extra touch of whimsy, select a hairstyle that includes braids to complete your elegant boho look.

Zola: What to Wear to a Formal Wedding in the Mountains Photo Credit // Onelove Photography

Whether you’re attending a mountain destination wedding or just a celebration amongst the peaks, knowing what to wear so that you feel comfortable and look your best is important. As long as you pay attention to the wording and adhere to the formality, you’ll be able to party with confidence as you celebrate the happy couple.