Wedding Guest Etiquette: Dress Codes

June 6, 2014 | By | Comments (8)

As you read in one of our past guest etiquette posts, any well-mannered wedding guest takes special note of the wedding’s dress code and arrives outfitted appropriately. However, the prerequisite to adhering to the dress code is understanding the dress code, so that’s what we’re chatting about today! Along with a few outfits that would fit four of the most commonly requested dress codes, we’ve also included our advice for dressing for each one.

black tie dress code Wedding Guest Etiquette: Dress Codes

Carmen Marc Valvo dress via Rent the Runway, Schutz pumps, BHLDN earrings

Although technically not the most formal, black tie is the most commonly used formal dress code. Gents should dress in full tuxedos (possibly substituting a white dinner jacket in the warmer months), and the ladies should wear either elegant floor-length gowns or their most formal cocktail dresses. Since many of us don’t have closets full of evening gowns at our disposal, we love using Rent the Runway for these special occasions!

formal dress code Wedding Guest Etiquette: Dress Codes

Badgley Mischka dress via Rent the Runway, Kate Spade heels, Loren Hope necklace

A formal wedding is also referred to as black tie optional, and, as the name suggests, it allows a bit more flexibility than a black tie dress code. Men can wear tuxedos or formal dark suits, and women can wear anything from evening gowns to dressy cocktail attire. We love long dresses with a bit less structure and more color than a black tie wedding would require.

semiformal dress code Wedding Guest Etiquette: Dress Codes

LulaKate dress, alice+olivia pumps, Davie & Chiyo clutch

Semiformal is one of the most popular dress codes, and for good reason! It fits in with almost any wedding venue and is relatively easy for guests to abide by. A semiformal dress code calls for suits for the men and cocktail dresses for the ladies. Since many women have a favorite go-to cocktail dress, we love the idea of wearing the same dress for multiple events, paired with completely different accessories.

casual dress code Wedding Guest Etiquette: Dress Codes

Lilly Pulitzer dress, Jack Rogers wedges, Anthropologie hair clips

Going to a beach or farm wedding? There’s a good chance the dress code will be casual, but that doesn’t mean jeans and tank tops are acceptable (unless otherwise specified, of course). We suggest at least a dress shirt and dress pants or khakis for the gentlemen, and a pretty sundress and wedges or sandals for the ladies.

A few rules of thumb for all of the above dress codes? Avoid wearing anything that is more than 50 percent white (see this post for why), keep attire guidelines for ceremonies at houses of worship in mind, and when in doubt, always err on the side of overdressed.

Looking for more wedding etiquette tips? Visit us on Southern Weddings!


  1. rvtl skincare

    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people in this particular subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

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  7. Chris Thomas

    I see less and less people paying attention to attire. Both men and women are either not aware or don’t care about what the attire is. However, it definitely improves the feeling and style of a wedding when guests adorn themselves appropriately. Great article for the ladies. While most women say guys have it easier, not if they really care about how they look. An article talking about guys pocket squares, shoe color, sock choices and types of suits would be awesome.

    June 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm
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