Photo by Blane Marable

With weddings varying in the level of formality, it can sometimes be hard to navigate what to wear. Check out these tips and tricks when figuring out what to wear to a wedding based on the formality written on the invitation. When it comes to the difference between black-tie weddings, black-tie optional weddings, semi-formal, and casual weddings there are a few rules that you, as a guest, should be sure to follow.


Photo by Blane Marable

What to wear to a black-tie wedding? With a black-tie wedding, you can expect the women to be dressed in full-length dresses while the men wear tuxedos, typically with a black bow tie and cumberbund. In addition, formal cocktail dresses are also appropriate for women to wear. This type of wedding in the evening requires the best attire. Ladies, be careful and avoid anything that you might think would upstage the bride on her big day. Adding a pop of elegant jewelry, nice heels, and a handbag will complete the look as a guest to a black-tie wedding.

Black-Tie Optional or Formal

A wedding that specifically says, “black-tie optional” or “formal” on the invitation follows most of the same rules as a black-tie wedding. However, it is acceptable for men to wear more formal suits instead of a tuxedo while the same rules of a black-tie wedding apply to the ladies. Women can wear formal cocktail dresses and long evening dresses.


If the invitation indicates a semi-formal dress code, men should wear a suit and tie while women should wear cocktail dresses or a more formal skirt.


Photo by Blane Marable

As far as casual weddings go, it is smart to follow a business casual attire. Sundresses, casual dresses, and skirts with nice tops are acceptable for women while dress pants and a button-down or polo shirt are appropriate for men to wear.

When deciding what to wear to any of these weddings with different levels of formality, be sure to take the time of day and the season into consideration. Evening weddings tend to require darker, richer colors, while the morning is lighter, brighter colors. The same applies to darker colors in the fall and winter and pastel colors in the spring and summer. If you are still unsure of what to wear, you can ask the bride or a bridesmaid! 

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