Guest Dress Codes - An Overview
Updated: Jun 9
Always set dress code expectations for your wedding day - guests like the direction in what to wear. Consider your venue, theme, and time of year when deciding your dress code. From most formal to least, here is a breakdown of all of the dress codes you can choose from.
WHITE TIE ATTIRE
This dress code is as formal as it gets. A white tie event can be compared to a royal event. Women are expected to wear formal, floor-length evening gowns, equipped with jewelry, heels, elegance, and sometimes gloves. Men wear a tuxedo with tails and all the works - a formal white shirt underneath, a bow tie, a vest, gloves, and formal footwear. This dress code is perfect for a very formal wedding.
Pros of this dress code: You can be sure everyone will look their very best!
Cons of this dress code: It’s likely that not all of your guests have white tie attire in the back of their closets. This dress code could be a financial burden to some of your guests.
BLACK TIE ATTIRE
A step down from white tie, black tie attire is formal attire, usually reserved for evening events. Women wear floor-length gowns or elegant pantsuits. Men are expected to still wear tuxedos, but can cool it on the works (i.e., gloves optional). Men can choose between a bowtie or a tie in black tie attire, but a formal white shirt underneath their tuxedo and a vest is still expected.
Pros of this dress code: Everyone wants to go to a black tie event at least once in their life, why not make it your wedding!
Cons of this dress code: Black tie can still be a bit of a financial burden to your guests, but the good thing is that there’s a bit more leeway in this dress code compared to White Tie, so the chances of accommodating a budget is good.
FORMAL OR BLACK TIE OPTIONAL
Although still formal, this dresscode gives your guests a bit more options to choose from. Women have options to wear a floor-length ball gown, or can get away with a nicer cocktail dress or dressy pantsuit. Men don’t have to wear a tuxedo (but they can) and can opt for a formal dark suit, equipped with a nice white shirt underneath, and their choice of a tie or a bowtie.
Pros of this dress code: It’s still just as fun as black tie, and just formal enough.
Cons of this dress code: The options are endless with this dress code, so your guests have a little less guidance in what to wear.
Cocktail attire is definitely a popular choice when it comes to weddings. It’s a perfect balance between sophistication and comfort. While longer skirts or a pantsuit are okay, elegant floor-length gowns don’t really fit within this dress code. Instead, women can opt for a tea-length or knee-length dress, a pantsuit, or elegant jumpsuit. Women should still pair their selections with accessories and nice shoes. For men, wearing a tuxedo to a cocktail attire event is a no-go. Instead, men are invited to wear a suit and tie (jacket optional).
Pros of this dress code: Your guests more than likely already have something in their closets to fit this dress code.
Cons of this dress code: While your guests have more options within this dress code, they may miss the mark on what’s acceptable or not.
Semi-formal, or dressy casual, attire is a flexible and comfortable dress code for your guests. A step down from cocktail attire, when asked to dress in a semi-formal or dressy casual dress code, it’s important to consider the time of day your event is. If the event is a morning or daytime affair, lighter colors and airy fabrics work best. If it’s an evening celebration, darker and more formal colors are recommended. Women can wear slip dresses, a dressy skirt, a pantsuit or jumpsuit, or anything else of this nature. Pair it with heels, wedges, or formal flats and you’re good to go. As for men, tuxedos are an inappropriate choice and a tie is optional. Men can opt for a nice pair of slacks accompanied by a dress shirt with comfortable, yet fashionable, shoes.
Pros of this dress code: Your guests aren’t short of options for what they can wear. They most likely already own appropriate attire that fits this dress code.
Cons of this dress code: Semi-formal, or dressy casual, is a gray area between casual and formal, leaving an outfit choice up to more interpretation.
Casual attire is appropriate for backyard weddings, beach weddings, or any other type of laid back weddings. However, when you think casual, don’t think shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops. For women, think of a summer sundress or a cute two piece set. For men, think of a nice collared shirt or polo, accompanied by a pair of khakis or dress pants.
Pros of this dress code: You & your guests will be comfortable!
Cons of this dress code: You will most likely have one guest that will show up in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops.
When thinking about dress codes, it’s important to note what you, your partner, and your bridal party will be wearing. If your bridesmaids aren’t wearing floor-length gowns, you shouldn’t ask your guests to. Similarly, if the groom and groomsmen aren’t wearing tuxedos, guests shouldn’t either. Lastly, if you’re wedding dress is more on the casual side, you should probably invite your guests to dress more casually as well.