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If you’ve been invited to a wedding you might be wondering what to wear and how to make sure you’re following the dress code.  Or maybe you’re planning your own and you want your guests to follow a certain dress code. wedding Dress Codes

If it’s a more traditional wedding, the dress code will usually be detailed in the invitation but not always.  So what do you do if there’s nothing mentioned in the invite?

You don’t want to rock up in a sequinned evening dress for a boho wedding in the countryside for example.  You could ask the couple what type of wedding they’re having to help you gauge what you should be wearing.

If you’re not comfortable with this, maybe have a look at the wedding venue online as this may give you some pointers.  A few things I would always advise though – definitely no jeans, in fact no denim full stop.

For men, a suit and tie is always a good option – you can always take your tie and jacket off later if it’s a more relaxed event.  For women, a chic dress or skirt with a jacket or pashmina is always a great option.

Let’s have a look what different dress codes actually mean:

White Tie

If you’ve received a wedding invite with a white tie dress code then you should prepare for a very formal wedding.  For women this means a floor length ball gown and gloves won’t go amiss.

For men, it’s an evening tailcoat with a white bow tie and waistcoat.  Trousers should be high waisted and black worn with black leather shoes.  Top hats and white gloves can be added too but are not essential.


Black Tie

This is also a pretty formal dress code.  Sometimes a dress length such as floor length will be specified too.  But if not ladies can opt for a fitted cocktail dress (knee length, never shorter) a full length gown, or a formal jumpsuit or trouser suit.

Men will need a black dinner suit which usually have tapered trousers.  This should be paired with a white evening shirt and a bow tie (usually black.)


Black Tie Optional/Formal

This one sounds a bit confusing but it basically means men can wear a dinner jacket but it’s not obligatory.  A smart dark suit and tie can be worn instead.

For ladies, this is pretty similar to the black tie option really.  So avoid things like a maxi dress or skirt and top.


Morning Dress

This is another formal dress option for very traditional weddings.

So in this scenario men need to wear a black or grey morning coat.  This should be paired with striped or houndstooth trousers and a top hat is optional.  The outfit is completed with a shirt and tie with black shoes.

Women need to choose a fairly conservative outfit, so no spaghetti straps (unless you have a jacket and you keep it on!) or short dresses.


Man in smart suit and dress shirt


A few other dress code options:

Formal Beach Wedding – what on earth do you wear for this?  It’s difficult to look smart whilst also being ready for sun, sand, water & the sea breeze.  A good option for men is a linen suit or a shirt with linen trousers, no tie is needed.

Don’t wear shorts unless you have specifically checked and been told by the couple that this is okay.

For women, a maxi dress is a great option, but try to make it a slightly more formal one, not a beach style dress.  Flat or wedge sandals are good for walking on the sand.  Don’t assume you can go barefoot – if it’s very hot, the sand will burn your feet!

Casual Dress – still doesn’t mean jeans, denim is still a no no for weddings.  But a shirt, without a tie, and smart trousers is fine for the men.  And a pretty summer dress or matching skirt and top is good for women.

Cocktail Attire – this tends to be for evening weddings which we don’t really have lots of in the UK.  But just because it’s evening, doesn’t mean you can wear your nightclub outfit!  An elegant dress for women and a dark suit and tie for men is a good option here.


Woman in pretty pink dress

I hope this helps you to get it right.  It’s worth the effort to make sure you hit the right level as you don’t want to upset the couple by being inappropriately dressed.  You’ll also feel uncomfortable and stand out like a sore thumb on the wedding pictures.

You can find loads of wedding help on my blog if you need advice on any other aspect of wedding planning.


Louise Wearmouth, Founder of Your Fabulous Wedding