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Your Wedding Attire Guide

Clueless about what to wear to a wedding? Help is on the way

It’s officially wedding season! Not only are there tons of decisions that the bride and groom have to make before their big day, guests often have their fair share of choices to make as well — like what to wear.

Sometimes, figuring out the type of attire to wear to a wedding is the hardest part about the entire the day. But it’s important not to burden the to-wed couple before their big day.

Instead, take a look at their invitation or wedding website, which will likely list the type of wedding dress code the affair will be — from black tie formal affairs to the casual experiences. But what do all those terms mean? Find out here:

Black Tie
Typically for weddings held in the evening, black tie is the second most formal wedding attire suggestion.


Women: A long cocktail dress or evening gown. Like white tie, the dress should preferably be in a classic, neutral color such as black, beige, brown or navy blue.

“If you’re attending a black-tie wedding, it’s particularly important to go long and whatever you do, don’t wear a super short, leggy cocktail dress,” says Jamie Miles,’s assistant managing editor. “You don’t want to steal attention from the bride, or show too much skin in the formal photos.”

Men: A tuxedo including a black bow tie, cummerbund and black, patent leather shoes.

White Tie
The most formal of all weddings, white tie attire isn’t common among everyday brides and grooms. In fact, it’s typically the type of attire worn to state dinners or even the Oscars. However, it’s still important to know what to wear in case the occasion arises.


Men: A tuxedo including a long black jacket with tails, a white pique vest, a bow tie and optional white gloves for dancing. Shoes would be formal and black in color.

Women: A long ball gown, preferably in a classic, neutral color such as black, beige, brown or navy blue. Makeup, hair and jewelry should be glamorous and chic.

Formal/Black Tie Optional
This phrasing means the wedding is slightly more informal than black tie, but the latter’s attire can still be fitting.

Men: While a tuxedo isn’t required, it’s still appropriate to wear one if you’d like. If not, a formal dark suit and tie will work just fine.

Women: Options include a long formal dress, a formal cocktail-length dress or even an elegant suit.

Beach Formal
Beach weddings get a rep of being casual, so “beach formal” is usually used when the wedding is held on a beach or beach atmosphere, but is intended to be more formal (think sparkling sand, blue waters and charming sunsets).


Men: A summer suit with a linen shirt, linen pants or khakis and sandals. Ties are not required.

Women: A summer sundress or maxi dress with sandals or wedges. While dolling up hair and makeup is perfectly fine, women can also opt to wear their hair naturally, sans makeup.

While “casual” doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to break out the jeans and tank tops, it is the most informal of all wedding attire wording.


Men: Dress pants or khakis with a button-down shirt.

Women: A sundress, a casual blouse and skirt, or even nice fabric pants. For shoes, opt for dressy sandals or wedges.

Some other wedding attire rules to keep in mind:

  • Stay away from white. “Don’t take any chances wearing a white dress (no matter how casual it is), unless the bride specifically asks guests to wear white,” says Ivy Jacobson, an assistant editor at “Save it for another fabulous summer party!” Women should also avoid wearing anything close to white, like ivory, beige or champagne.
  • Keep it PG. Be wary of showing off too much skin. Think of it this way: If you’d wear it to a club, it’s probably not wedding appropriate.
    “[Your outfit] can have one sexy element like a plunging neckline, short hemline, cut out, low back, or a body con fit, but no more than one,” says Simone Hill,’s assistant editor. “It’s a different story if you’re hitting the club, but a wedding is not the club no matter how low you’re planning to get on the dance floor.”
  • Note the location. While wedding attire wording is the best way to determine what to wear, you should also take into account where the ceremony is being held for more clues. “If the ceremony is at a church, you’ll need a pashmina to tone down your barely-there backless dress,” says Lauren Kay, The Knot’s style editor.

Follow these helpful suggestions and you’ll look better than ever at your next wedding.


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