What to wear to a wedding: group of people smiling at the camera

You’ve received a wedding invitation, and you’re excited to RSVP for the wonderful occasion. The big question is: What do you wear?

If you’re looking for ideas on what to wear to a wedding, we have options. Discover top tips on how to decide what to wear on the happy couple’s big day along with some of our favorite go-to wedding guest outfit ideas and inspiration.

How to Decide What to Wear to a Wedding

Deciding on your wedding guest attire starts with the wedding dress code. From there you use your personal style to influence your final choice. Here’s how to approach deciding what to wear to a wedding.

Follow the Wedding Dress Code

What to wear to a wedding: Black Tie Only Invitation

Design: Jen Montgomery

The most important part of choosing an outfit is sticking to the wedding guest dress code. This will likely be indicated on the wedding invitation or wedding website. If the happy couple has used Greenvelope’s online invitations, you’ll likely find this in the details panel. If it’s not obvious, check with someone in the wedding party to confirm the dress code for the nuptials.

Once you know what the wedding dress code is, you can narrow down your outfit choices. Some dress codes call for formal attire like tailcoats or evening gowns, while others are more relaxed and khakis or sundresses are welcome.

Choose Colors You Love

While there are some wedding day faux pas you’ll want to avoid, like wearing white or the same color as the bridesmaids, most other colors are completely fine. Our advice here is to choose colors you like, look best in, or are excited to wear.

The same rules around dress code apply to colors, so be mindful of this too. Some dress codes call for specific colors — like crisp white shirts or dark suits. Outside of any color restrictions or dress code etiquette, go with what makes you feel good — even if it’s simply a hint of color in your cufflinks, hat, or socks.

Look for Inspiration Online

One of the best ways to figure out what to wear to a wedding is to find visual inspiration online. Once you know the dress code, run a search for “wedding guest attire” plus the dress code on a website like Pinterest to filter by looks that match the rules. You can also look for weddings that took place at the same venue or one that’s similar to get a feel for what others typically wear in that type of venue.

Match the Season

What to wear to a wedding: Soft Abstraction Invitation

Design: Maria Hilas Louie Design

While prime wedding season runs May through October, weddings can happen at any time of year. So it makes sense to match your attire to the season and the time of day.

For a spring wedding, pastels and florals are always a hit. Summer weddings may be more relaxed to allow for lighter fabrics and shorter dresses. For a fall wedding or winter wedding, consider darker jewel tones and whether you’ll need a jacket or coat to stay warm.

Add Accessories

Adding stylish accessories can be a fun way to give your ensemble more personality — especially if there’s a very formal dress code with little wiggle room on colors or silhouettes.

Make your wedding guest outfit feel more “you” with a pop of color or texture in a pocket square, your bow tie or tie, socks, cufflinks, hat, purse, earrings, necklace, or shawl. Depending on the dress code and venue, this could include bold colors, sequins, or striking patterns.

Be Practical

Last but definitely not least, although it’s a special occasion, you still need to be practical. Consider the wedding venue, the weather, and any other details — like how you’ll be traveling from the wedding to the reception venue.

If it’s an outdoor wedding or beach wedding, make sure you have the appropriate shoes and bring flats to change into during the reception if necessary. If it’s cold, bring a coat or warm jacket. If it’s likely to rain, have an umbrella handy. It’s likely the venue will be prepared too, but it doesn’t hurt to plan your outfit around the location, weather, and time of year.

What to Wear to a Wedding: Dress Code Examples

Newlyweds and their guests

We have a good idea on how to choose a wedding guest outfit now, but what does that look like in reality? Here are some go-to examples of what to wear to a wedding based on the dress code.

White Tie Wedding

White tie weddings are the most formal, so it’s essential to consider the dress code fully when planning your outfit. Weddings that are this formal tend to be very detail-oriented, and accidentally wearing the wrong type of suit or dress would be a major fashion faux pas.

A white tie dress code asks for those wearing traditional menswear to wear a black dress coat with tails, white vest, white formal shirt, and white bowtie. When it comes to traditional women’s wear, choose a floor-length gown that matches the tone of this very formal event.

For footwear, choose black patent shoes with laces (also known as court shoes or opera shoes) if wearing a suit. If you’re wearing a dress, heels are a great choice — just make sure they’re comfortable.

Black Tie Wedding

Man wearing a tux

Black tie weddings are still considered very formal, but the rules relax slightly from a white tie affair. There’s no need to wear a vest like there is with white tie, and floor-length gowns are no longer required (but definitely still a suitable choice.)

A dark-colored tuxedo, white dress shirt, bow tie, and cummerbund are the norm for black tie wedding dress codes. Your bow tie doesn’t need to be white, though, and for shoes, you can swap those opera shoes for traditional oxfords instead. If you’d prefer a dress, floor-length gowns or suitably formal cocktail dresses are now both an option.

Black Tie Optional (or Formal Wedding)

As we move down a tier in formality, black tie optional (also known as formal dress code) introduces even more flexibility for everyone. Gone is the requirement to wear a tuxedo, and a long dress is no longer expected — meaning you can happily wear that dressy pantsuit you love.

Dark suits are encouraged for a formal wedding, but you can still wear a tux if you prefer more sophisticated attire. Stick to a crisp button-down white shirt, but swap the bow tie for a formal tie if that’s more your style. Cocktail dresses are ideal here, but there’s also the flexibility to wear a more formal long gown or a stylish pantsuit if you choose.

Cocktail Attire (or Semi-Formal Wedding)

Guests drinking champagne

Cocktail attire is among the most popular wedding dress codes. It’s easier for guests to dress for but still maintains a look of formality.

While a dark-colored suit is always a great idea for a cocktail dress code, you can now consider other options too — like soft gray or blue. For a semi-formal look, stick with the white shirt. Dresses can now be more casual, with knee-length cocktail dresses still one of our top recommendations. If you don’t enjoy dresses, a jumpsuit or pantsuit is a great alternative.

Dressy Casual Wedding

Dressy casual sits between semi-formal and casual wedding dress codes, and it’s one we don’t see too often. It’s ideal for bringing in linens and lighter fabrics — for example, at a beach wedding or destination wedding.

A great outfit choice here is to pair formal pants with a crisp white shirt and a blazer. A cocktail dress, maxi dress, or trendy jumpsuit in a bright color or playful pattern is ideal, as this dress code allows you to have more fun with your attire.

Casual Wedding

Couple holding hands while walking

Casual weddings are the most relaxed regarding dress codes and etiquette. While we don’t recommend showing up in a T-shirt, gym shorts, and flip-flops, you likely won’t need to invest in a whole new outfit to look the part.

Instead of a formal suit, opt for relaxed pants, khakis, or tailored shorts — depending on the season and venue. White shirts always look great, but this is also an opportunity to sport a colorful or patterned shirt if you have one. 

Jumpsuits work well for a casual dress code, as do more relaxed dresses like a sundress or midi dress. Choose footwear that feels comfortable. No need for shiny oxfords or high heels — open-toe sandals, casual flats, boat shoes, and even dressy sneakers are an option.

Find the Perfect Wedding Guest Outfit

Choosing what to wear to a wedding is all about following the dress code, avoiding key wedding faux pas, and choosing an outfit that helps you feel comfortable and confident. For more helpful tips before the big day, follow these guidelines for wedding guest etiquette so you can enjoy every moment.