The Finer Points of Dress Code for Guests


A guest wore a white t-shirt with dirty jeans and boots to my black tie wedding. Safe to say I was a little unhappy. But, while most people know that kind of outfit isn’t the best attire for any type of wedding, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what to wear. We’ve got some great rules to follow for each type of wedding to ensure you don’t underdress, overdress, or have other guests staring at you in judgement.

White Tie

A white tie wedding is as formal as you can get. It’s like prom on steroids. Men should rent a tuxedo and wear formal dress black shoes. It might even be appropriate to wear white gloves—look like a Disney Prince basically.

Ladies should wear a formal ball gown, one that’s long without cut-outs or a high slit, and hair should be done as if you were attending the Oscars. It’s all about feeling like a glam 1920s movie star.

Black Tie

Black tie tuxedo

A black tie wedding is not as formal as white tie. Men should still wear a tuxedo or a very nice suit, and a tie is a must along with patent leather black shoes. Feel free to ditch the white gloves.

Women should wear a nice cocktail dress or an evening gown. Lovely jewelry is a must with this type of wedding to bring the entire ensemble together.


Don’t let the word “formal” stress you out. Formal simply means you don’t need to dress for prom, but you also don’t need to dress like you’re going to a picnic at the park. Women can pick out a cocktail dress or flirty, fun, pretty dress. These are both perfect for a formal affair. Men should break out a nice suit with spiffy shoes. If it’s a summer wedding men can wear a white evening jacket with black tuxedo pants.


A semi-formal wedding is basically a dressy casual event. The trick here is to look at the time of the wedding to determine your attire. If the wedding is at night, wear darker colors instead of the light, bright colors; reserve those colors for a daytime wedding. Men will be perfect in a suit and tie with everyday dress shoes. Women should go with a cute knee length or cocktail dress. A skirt and top is also great for this type of wedding.

Beach Formal

Beach wedding

Beach attire just makes you think of relaxation and fun all rolled into one. A beach formal wedding means you still need to look nice, but not like you’re going to a movie premiere on the beach. The perfect attire would be something you would wear for a nice night out. Light colors are perfectly acceptable. Men should wear a cotton or linen lightweight button up shirt with khakis or beach pants. Sandals are also just fine, as they’re much easier to walk in than dress shoes or heels on the sand. Women should wear a pretty sundress or knee length dress.

Beach Casual

Beach casual doesn’t mean you show up to the wedding in your bikini. The sand, sun, and water give you many excuses to wear flowing dresses, sandals, and natural hair, but don’t go overboard. Beach casual for men means wearing khakis, even if he wears khaki shorts or lightweight linen pants. Women can go for a short sundress or lightweight dress. Just be careful not to go too short in those sundresses. And no matter how casual a beach wedding is, never wear rubber flip flops. Keep the attire classy, yet laid back just like the ocean.


Casual wedding

A casual wedding invitation makes you breathe a sigh of relief. This means almost anything goes. With that said, it still doesn’t mean a white t-shirt and jeans are acceptable. Casual attire means what you would might wear to work. Be on the safe side by going conservative. Men should wear nice dress pants with a polo or button down shirt. Women should wear business casual attire like a flowing sundress or a dressy shirt with a skirt.

Cardinal Sins of Attire

There are rules you must follow for every type of wedding. For example, never wear white! It is the color of the bride even if she’s not wearing it, so it always comes off as tacky, like you’re trying to overshadow her. If you’re wearing white, how does everyone know you’re not the bride? To some it seems silly, but just don’t do it.

Also, don’t wear a revealing cocktail dress with plunging necklines, low backs, and cutouts. Guests will be busy staring at you instead of staring at the star of the show. Always dress more conservatively than you think you need to if you aren’t sure.

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