8 Wedding Dress Codes Explained
What to wear to a wedding
Whether you’re planning your own wedding or are a guest, the last thing you want is to look – or feel – out of place when you arrive. Especially if you’re the groom!
Some weddings are black tie or black tie optional. Others are dressy casual or have no real dress code at all. But even if you know what the wedding dress code is, that doesn’t mean you know what you should wear.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here are the eight most common wedding dress codes you’re likely to come across, what they mean, and the most appropriate attire to wear for each one.
Most Common Wedding Dress Codes
There are endless possibilities and options even within each wedding dress code. Still, this list should give you a solid idea of what to expect so you can prepare for any wedding, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.
1. Black Tie
Black tie wedding attire is one of the most common dress codes, as well as one of the most formal and distinct. Unlike many of the other dress codes in this article, black tie doesn’t leave much room for anything beyond what the rules say. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a touch creative with it, though (more on that later).
The basic outfit checklist for black tie is:
Black tuxedo with a white tuxedo shirt paired with a stud set, cufflinks, cummerbund or vest, black bow tie, white pocket square, and black patent leather shoes.
Along with being traditional, most black tie weddings are also considered highly sophisticated or elegant. They also typically take place at luxury venues.
2. Black Tie Optional (aka Formal)
Even if you’re going to a black tie optional wedding, that doesn’t actually mean the tie itself is optional. Nor does it mean you can wear whatever you’d like.
For a wedding with this dress code, guests are generally still expected to wear a tuxedo. Unlike with more traditional black tie weddings, they have a little more leeway in their attire.
Instead of a classic black tux, for example, you might opt for a midnight blue one. The rest of your ensemble should still be the same as before. That is:
Tuxedo with a white tuxedo shirt, stud set, cufflinks, vest or cummerbund, black bow tie, white pocket square, and black patent leather shoes.
In rare cases, the bride and groom might allow guests to wear a formal suit to their wedding. This typically only occurs when a guest doesn’t have a tuxedo and can’t get one before the event. If you’re still not sure about the best course of action, it’s worth reaching out and asking for clarification.
3. Creative Black Tie
Creative black tie is another type of formal wedding attire, but it’s much less rigid than the black tie and black tie optional dress codes. In fact, this dress code gives you the option to add a personal touch to tone down your ensemble without looking too casual.
Essentially, think of creative black tie as formal attire minus the rigor and stuffiness of black tie or black tie optional. With the latter two dress codes, you really don’t have a lot of room to go outside traditional boundaries. But with creative black tie, adding some personality and flair is not only recommended but often encouraged.
Of course, when you’re given creative license with your outfit, it can be tricky to choose the right accent pieces or personal touches. So, before we get into that, here’s the basic checklist for creative black tie:
Dinner jacket, tuxedo pants, a tuxedo shirt, bow tie, cufflinks, pocket square, and either a patent leather shoe or velvet slipper.
The dinner jacket is one of the biggest areas where you can let your personality shine. However, the one you choose should be based on the overall vibe of the wedding and your own style.
Blue/Black Jacquard Dinner Jacket
Starting at $750.00Add to cart
Burgundy Dinner Jacket
Starting at $795.00Add to cart
Golden Brown Velvet Dinner Jacket
$995.00Add to cart
If you’re going for something classic and sophisticated, an off-white or cream-colored dinner jacket is a great option. For something modern and elegant, you might choose a burgundy dinner jacket. Or, if you want to get really creative, you could go with velvet or something patterned.
You can also get creative with your accessories. For instance, you could wear bright socks or a personalized pocket square. Play around with different colors, textures, and patterns until you find what works for you.
Try not to go overboard with your choices, though – one or two creative touches should be enough.
4. Cocktail Attire / Semi-Formal
Men’s wedding cocktail attire is a great balance between elegance and comfort. It’s not as formal as any of the black tie dress codes, but it is still very stylish and sophisticated.
This dress code is most popular at outdoor or evening events with a festive or slightly more relaxed feel. The standard wedding attire includes:
A dark suit, solid color shirt, necktie, pocket square, and a pair of black, brown, or oxblood leather shoes
In terms of the suit, you can’t really go wrong with a dark color like navy blue. However, you should never wear the more formal black suit. Depending on the wedding and venue, you might be able to get away with a boldly patterned tie or colorful socks.
If you want to make a statement, consider swapping out the suit and tie for a sport coat and dress pants. Go with dark, solid colors, especially for evening events. Feel free to wear something textured or patterned, as long as it’s not too overt.
5. Dressy Casual
If you’ve been invited to a wedding with a dressy casual dress code, it might seem like a bit of an oxymoron. But when it comes to weddings, dressy casual doesn’t mean T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. At the bare minimum, you should wear the following:
Sport coat, dress shirt, nice dress pants or chinos, lace-up shoes or loafers, a pocket square, and an optional tie
Essentially, go for a more business casual style. You can add a few creative touches, such as patterns or colors, but the ultimate ensemble should lean more towards semi-formal than casual.
6. Tropical / Beach
It’s not uncommon to find a tropical or beach dress code for summertime or warm weather weddings. When it comes to these types of events, there are two big things to keep in mind regarding your wedding attire.
FURTHER READING: How To Dress for a Summer Wedding (City Edition)
Firstly, opt for lighter colors. This means tan, khaki, white, cream, or royal blue.
Secondly, never underestimate the importance of fabric choice. Chances are, a tropical or beach wedding is going to be hot. So, you’re going to want a fabric that’s light and breathable. Cotton, seersucker, fresco, and linen are all great choices.
Although there are a few more options with these weddings, here are some ideas to help you get started:
– Linen pants and a light-colored dress shirt with flat shoes
– Summer suit with an optional tie (for daytime weddings)
– Tuxedo in the right fabric (for evening weddings)
The rustic wedding dress code is quite popular at backyard weddings, outdoor weddings, and certain themed weddings. If you’re lucky, the invitation will clearly indicate what you’re expected to wear at a rustic or other themed wedding. If not, there are a few things to consider when choosing your outfit.
In general, the word “rustic” does imply a more casual style, as well as one with a slightly rugged feel. So, as with the tropical or beach dress code, you’ll want to dress to match the environment.
For example, you could wear a blazer with a dress shirt, dark denim, and boots to a casual rustic wedding. This ensemble isn’t recommended for most weddings, but it can work nicely here.
Another option is to dress in more formal wedding attire. You could still wear a suit, but play into the rustic vibes with your choice of fabric. For instance, if the event takes place on a cool evening in the fall, choose a tweed or flannel suit. Or wear a tweed sport coat with flannel pants.
8. White tie
And finally, there’s the white tie wedding dress code. Chances are, this is the most formal type of event you’ll ever attend. These weddings are very rare in the modern era, but if there’s a chance of being invited to one, you need to be prepared.
White does not simply mean wearing a white bow tie with your tuxedo. For a proper white tie outfit, you should have the following:
Tailcoat suit or tuxedo: This is different from a regular tuxedo jacket as it’s more formal and expected at white tie events. It should be tailored to your specification.
Wing collar formal shirt: The shirt should be crisp, white, and have a high collar that conceals most of the neck. It should also have cufflinks.
Pants: The best pants are black, high-waisted, and custom-fitted.
Special white waistcoat: You should always wear a full-dress waistcoat. If desired, you can pair it with a dark dress coat.
White tie: A white bow tie is a must, but avoid clip-on ties.
Shoes: For the shoes, go with leather loafers or laced-up shoes with a pair of long black socks.
Dressing for a wedding with no dress code
Although it’s unlikely, there’s a chance that the wedding you’re about to attend won’t mention a dress code. It could be an oversight, but it’s more likely to be a choice on the bride and groom’s part.
If there is no dress code, or if the invitation says “come as you are,” always err on the side of semi-formal. This means a pair of dress pants and a button-down shirt. Go with lighter colors for summer weddings and darker colors for winter weddings.
Although there are plenty more wedding dress codes out there, each with its own nuances, you should now have a good idea of what to wear for most occasions. Whether you’re attending a formal event or a themed one, start with the basics and go from there. And, as a last resort, ask the bride or groom to clarify what they want their guests to wear.