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. Below we’ve highlighted the dos and don’ts of wedding guest fashion so you can dress appropriately for any occasion.
Note that the following are a general list and dos and don'ts that cover most wedding dress code guidelines. That being said, each wedding celebration is unique—which means its attire guidelines might be an outlier. Take the following as baseline rules to follow, but always double-check any dress code information provided in paper suites or on a couple's wedding website.
Do follow the requested dress code (typically provided on the wedding invitation or the wedding website)
Don't wear white, cream, ivory, or any other shades of white (unless the couple has specifically asked guests to wear white)
Likewise, don't wear the same color or colors as the bridesmaids (if you're able, find out this info beforehand)
Do opt for appropriate wedding footwear (you can always bring a pair of backup shoes for dancing)
Don't wear denim—unless it’s a very casual wedding
Do prepare and dress appropriately for the weather and season
Don't wear anything too short, tight, flashy, or revealing
Weddings can range from super casual to ultra high end, and, as a result, figuring out what to wear as a wedding guest can be tricky. Throw in lingo like “black-tie optional” and “beach formal” and your head can really start to spin. To help you select an outfit that's appropriate, we’ve outlined the need-to-knows and go-tos for common wedding dress codes, organized by season, theme, and formality.
Much of what you should wear to a wedding is depending on what season it's taking place in. Not only because of the weather (you'll want to keep tabs on the expected temps), but also because of aesthetic influence. Certain seasons lend themselves to different colors, fabrics, and styles. Read on to see what's certain to work for each of the four seasons.
Have you recently been invited 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, light colors and pretty blossoms through your choice of pastel, floral, and breezy attire.
Colors: pastels (light pinks, blues, greens), neutrals (black, blush, beige, mauve)
Fabrics: linen, cotton, silk, or seersucker
Patterns: gingham, madras plaid, florals, paisley, pinstripes, or polka dots
For a majority of North America, summer weddings are hot, hot, hot—especially if they're outdoor weddings. Opt for breezy fabrics and forgiving shapes to keep you comfortable through all of the heat. That doesn’t mean you can’t represent the season with colors and patterns as bright and happy as a summer sunset, however. When it comes to your wedding attire throughout the summer, keep comfortable fabrics and seasonal shades top of mind.
Colors: bold, bright hues (blues, oranges, greens, yellows)
Fabrics: linen, cotton, silk, or seersucker
Patterns: madras plaid, florals, bold stripes, or polka dots
Like spring, a fall weddings signifies 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, warmer, more bronzed color palette and anything that feels cozy and textured. As a wedding guest, choose a formal dress or suit that either compliments the couple's wedding colors or the style of the season.
Colors: rich, warm colors (red, orange, yellow, purple)
Fabrics: wool, flannel, tweed, cotton, suede, corduroy, or leather
Patterns: plaid, fall florals/natural patterns
A winter wedding can often be the easiest to dress for, as you’ll most likely be indoors (which means the temperature will be controlled). Let the formality and/or theme of the wedding guide your attire. Neutral colors like black, dark green, gray, or cream (if white is requested) best reflect the season’s landscape—but the sparkly, festive nature of winter holidays can also inspire wedding guest attire. All of this being said, we suggest you bring a coat, just in case you're outside for any period of time.
Colors: warm tones (cream), neutrals (black, gray), or festive colors (green, red)
Fabrics: crepe, velvet, cotton, suede, wool, tweed, corduroy, sequins, or fur
Patterns: plaid, sequins, sparkles
Often times, couples will take inspiration from their wedding season, weather, or the ceremony location. This can translate into a slightly more specific theme that suggests a somewhat different way to dress. If general themes like the following typically leave you in a bit of a rut, read on for some helpful guidance.
Speaking of winter, the season is packed full of festivities that are likely to contribute to a wedding's theme. If that seems to be the case, feel free to lean into a more merry and celebratory look. If sparkling fabrics are a go (always check with the couple first), open your mind up to eye-catching metallics. If you'd rather go for something a little less flashy, consider sleek fabrics and festive staple colors seen throughout the holiday season.
Colors: rich seasonal favorites (hunter green, rich reds), metallics (silver, gold, copper)
Fabrics: wool, tweed, suede, corduroy, sequins,
Patterns: plaid, sequins, sparkles
On the other hand, a warm weather wedding may heavily lean into a tropical setting. Much like beach weddings and summer weddings, your comfort should be high priority when dressing for a tropical wedding (whether or not it's actually in the tropics). Keep light, breezy fabrics top of mind during your search. That being said, you can still pull off a flattering look complimentary to the wedding's theme. Look to the location's natural sights—such as beaches and tropical forests—for inspiration when it comes to your color palette.
Colors: bold and nature-inspired (emerald green, turquoise, navy blue), neutrals (black, beige)
Fabrics: linen, cotton, silk
Patterns: florals, palm fronds
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.
A wedding's dress code should heavily influence what it is you decide to wear. Typically, the couple will provide the level of formality in their paper suite or on their wedding website. If you're unsure of a wedding's formality, always check with the couple before shopping (even if you're just shopping your closest). However, sometimes you can have this information and still not be sure what it means. For these cases, we've provided an easy-to-understand guide below. Browse it for explanations, as well as outfit ideas.
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, t-shirts, shorts, or jeans (in general, avoid an every-day outfit). To play it safe, dressy casual or business casual is your best bet for a casual dress code. Keep in mind that a daytime wedding vs. an evening wedding may influence how nicely you should dress.
Ensemble: Button-down shirt, polo, relaxed pants (chinos, khakis), sports coat or blazer
Shoes: Casual loafers, boat shoes
Ensemble: Sundress, midi-dress, jumpsuit
Shoes: Kitten heels, wedges, flats
Semi-formal attire, also commonly referred to as cocktail attire, falls in the middle between casual and formal on the formality scale. For semi-formal weddings, focus on ensembles that are nice and put-together, but avoid going over the top. Remember: It's better to be a bit overdressed than to show up in something too casual.
Ensemble: Suit (button down shirt, dinner jacket, dress pants)
Shoes: Dress shoes
Accessories: Tie optional
Ensemble: Cocktail dress (typically knee-length), midi dress, dressy jumpsuit
Shoes: Heels, kitten heels, dressy flats
Accessories: Complimentary jewelry, purse or clutch
A black-tie dress code traditionally refers to tuxedos for men and floor-length dresses for women. That being said, as time has gone on, most couples have loosened up their definition of a black-tie wedding just a bit. Black-tie optional weddings usually imply that, while black-tie attire is preferred, men can opt instead for a nice dinner jacket, dress pants, and dress shoes, and women can instead wear a very nice cocktail dress (think high quality fabrics and rich colors). If you go with the later, make sure that your formal wedding attire will blend in with a crowd of people wearing tuxes and evening gowns.
Ensemble: Tuxedo, dinner jacket, or formal dark suit
Shoes: Dress shoes, dark dress socks
Accessories: Black tie, black bowtie
Ensemble: Floor-length gown, nice cocktail dress, formal pantsuit
Shoes: Heels in a neutral or complimentary color
Accessories: Classic jewelry (pearls, diamonds, faux diamonds), evening purse or clutch
White-tie dress codes are often requested for especially formal weddings and formal events. It's the most formal wedding dress code and is typically reserved for prominent and upscale wedding ceremonies and celebrations. Full-length gowns in rich and elegant fabrics are expected of women, while men are expected to don tuxedos. When a wedding is said to be white-tie, it implies that formality is a large part of the occasion. When in doubt, dress in your most formal attire.
Ensemble: Tuxedo (including button-down shirt and waistcoat), tailcoat
Shoes: Black patent-leather dress shoes with black laces
Accessories: Bowtie, cufflinks, white gloves
Ensemble: Floor-length ball gown,
Shoes: Sophisticated and solid colored heels
Accessories: Opulent jewelry, white gloves
When in doubt, don't hesitate to reach out to the bride(s) or groom(s) with questions. It's polite and more comfortable for everyone that you play it safe and ask for any dress code clarification you need. That being said, if you're newly confident in how to dress for an upcoming wedding, but aren't sure how to dress your children, we've also got you covered there.