wedding attire and dress codesFirst of all, if you have doubts or questions about wedding guest clothing etiquette, ask, but not the bride or groom! The happy couple have so much going on that it’s only decent not to trouble them with your queries – instead, talk to other guests, or the bride’s or groom’s parents, to get the necessary information.

Here are some broad outlines for dress codes you might see on your invitation:

Casual Wedding Dress Code

A dress or pretty (shoulder- and cleavage-covering) top and skirt for women, for men a short or long-sleeved shirt, tie optional, and trousers or at very least, chinos – no jeans! No flip-flops, sunglasses or T-shirts for either gender.

Theme Wedding Dress Code

This can be colour, clothing style or era. Usually with a theme wedding, there will be some suggestions accompanying the invitation, covering how to dress, either as part of the Hen and Stag celebrations or via a book to read or film to watch. If not, style sites like will have sets of clothing around the suggested theme that you can browse for tips.

Dress Codes for Park, Garden or Beach Wedding

The venue will help you to decide the clothing: for a real beach or garden wedding women can wear a structured cotton dress, alternatively casual maxi dresses look fabulous or a linen shirt with summer coloured skirt and toning pumps will look good. Men can go all out for a dazzling Hawaiian shirt, or a smart polo-shirt with chinos or linen trousers. Shorts may also be acceptable for both genders if it’s a truly summer wedding. Sandals are pretty well obligatory, swimwear under your outfit is not! Amazingly some people do turn up with their swimsuits on…

Semi-Formal Dress Etiquette

For women this means a dress of elegant fabric: satin, chiffon or silk for summer, velvet works for winter. In either case, expect to wear cocktail style (knee length) or a little longer, but not full length. For men it’s a suit and tie, dark suits for winter weddings but a lighter suit in both colour and weight is acceptable for summer weddings. Dressy jewellery and updos or hats for ladies will be standard.

Formal Wedding Guest Clothing Etiquette

For women it’s an elegant cocktail dress and wrap or unstructured but dressy jacket, for men a tuxedo or navy or black suit, white shirt and a dark tie. Dramatic jewellery is encouraged and gloves, fascinators and high heels are usually factored into the outfit.

Black Tie Wedding Dress Etiquette

Women should wear a floor length dress. There may be exceptions: handkerchief hems and fishtail gowns both count, but strictly, the hemline should reach the ankle to be black tie. Upswept hair, fascinators and/or jewelled hair decorations are also expected. Men must wear a dark tuxedo, waistcoat and cummerbund and a black tie, obviously. Cultural dress such as kilts, kurtas, saris etc are entirely acceptable as long as the clothing is the formal standard for that culture, so kurtas and saris should be silk or brocade and embroidery is expected.

White Tie Wedding Dress Etiquette

For ladies this is quite restrictive: floor-length, formal evening attire, in ‘neutral or dark colour’, so nothing too bright or too light. The dress shape should be structured (nothing too drapey or off the shoulder) and gloves (white), wraps, jewels etc are once again de rigueur, as is a formal hairstyle. For gentlemen, required clothing is a tailcoat with white waistcoat, white shirt, and tie with either white or grey gloves, and black shoes. It used to be required that shoes were slip-ons (male pumps) or Oxfords but this rule is not so strictly observed now. The White Tie equivalent of cultural dress is full Highland attire rather than just a kilt, a heavyweight kurta with embroidery, a brocade salwar with an embroidered headscarf, a gold-embroidered sari and full gold jewellery etc.

black tie wedding dress code

Photo above: black tie wedding dress code