A Guide to Wedding Guest Dress Etiquette: What Should You Wear?

Published 07/06/2022

You want to look good but not too good as a wedding guest. You want to dress appropriately. Regarding wedding guest dress etiquette, there are about as many opinions as dresses at wedding shops. Some people swear by dressing up like royalty, others say that black is just fine, and then there are the folks who don't want anything on their backs but a tattoo of their partner's name or initials. Here are some of the attires you should wear to a wedding. 

White-Tie Attire 

This is the most important look to have as it signifies that you are a wedding guest. A white-tie consists of a long coat and bow tie, which is supposed to be worn with black dress pants. Black socks and shoes complete the look. The only good occasion for wearing this garb is when you attend the wedding reception, where you can relax and enjoy yourself. 

For women, a white-tie dress code means wearing a full-length gown and gloves, which should also be black. Wedding guest dresses are preferred, although cocktail dresses are also appropriate. You can even wear a nice pantsuit with a white top if you are inclined. That will make you stand out from the crowd. 

Black-tie Attire 

Black-tie attire is the most common dress code you will encounter at a wedding. It consists of a coat, a white bow tie, and black dress pants. A black suit is acceptable, but it's rarely worn unless the groom or his father wears a tuxedo. 

Black-tie attire is preferred for all formal occasions, including ceremonies and receptions because it makes you look like you have money. Black-tie attire is also acceptable for the rehearsal dinner. However, you can get away with an equally luxurious-looking suit if you are unsure whether the wedding is formal or informal. 

Cocktail Attire 

Cocktail attire is more relaxed than formal apparel. It consists of a cocktail dress or pants and a blouse or sweater. Cocktail attire is preferred for the ceremony, reception, and other occasions when a tuxedo coat will not cover your body. Cocktail attire is also appropriate for the rehearsal dinner when you expect it to be casual, but if you want to wear a dress and heels, that's fine too. 

Formal Attire 

Formal attire consists of a suit for men and cocktail dresses for women. This is the attire to wear if you are not sure what the guidelines are for an occasion, as it never runs afoul of the dress code. Men's suits may be black or dark grey, with a white shirt and dark tie. It is preferable to wear a long coat to the wedding, but if you plan on taking it off at any point during your time there, go in a suit jacket instead. 

For women, a formal dress code means wearing a long gown that stops just above the ankle. If you are going in a pantsuit, wear it with flats. You can also wear a nice blouse or sweater instead of a long-sleeved dress. 

Casual Attire 

Informal or casual attire consists of anything from jeans and a t-shirt to a button-up shirt, khakis, skirts, and dresses for women. Men can also wear dress shirts with khakis or slacks. 

It's not appropriate to wear a suit to the rehearsal dinner unless you are the groom. It is appropriate to wear slacks and a button-up shirt, the groom's everyday attire. Someone attending the ceremony should think twice before wearing a pair of jeans. Jeans are fine at the reception if you will be seated most of the time.   

If you are planning on wearing casual attire you should make sure that is something you can move around in. Weddings are usually fun and may have a reception right after. If you do not have the time to change you will want to make sure what you are wearing will be able comfortable so that you can dance around with friends and family to all the songs the amazing DJ plays.  

Beach Formal Attire 

This is a combination of the casual dress code and formal attire. While still wearing a suit, you may wear a nice pair of khakis or slacks with loafers. 

This is the attire to bring on vacation if you want to look like a baller on the beach. It's also appropriate for daytime weddings when you are unsure what attire is appropriate. As on other occasions, women should wear cocktail attire at the ceremony or reception. 

As you can see, there are many ways to dress for a wedding. Whether you choose to dress up like a baller or like you are going to the beach is up to you. The point is that wedding guests' dress etiquette depends on the occasion and the couple’s preference. It's best to ask the couple what they want you to wear or follow local standards if they differ from what's written here. What matters is that you look good and get compliments from your fellow guests. 

Written by Maggie graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in communication and writing. In her spare time, she loves to dance, read, and bake. She also enjoys traveling and scouting out new brunch locations.  

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