What to Wear to a Wedding

If you've been invited to a wedding you might wonder what you should wear. How formal is too formal? How casual is too casual? Even members of the bridal party might be wondering this as many modern brides are no longer picking out their bridesmaids' dresses. No matter your situation, take your cues from the couple.


Today's bride often chooses the style and color of her bridesmaids' dresses but leaves it up to each individual attendant to choose a dress. If you are in this situation, be certain you understand the type of dress the bride expects. If you're unsure what the bride is looking for even after you've spoken to her, take some pictures of the dresses you like before making a purchase. Let the bride make the final decision.

Types of Weddings

Unfortunately, wedding guests do not have the option of running their attire past the bridal couple for approval. If you're a wedding guest, take your cue from the wedding invitation about the day's dress code. Many invitations will indicated the expected style of dress.

The following are the most common wedding dress codes.

  • Casual: Casual is perhaps the most confusing of wedding dress codes as the word "casual" can mean different things to different people. Casual does not mean you show up wearing your everyday clothes. For women it means wearing a nice skirt and blouse or a dress. For men it means wearing dress pants and a nice shirt with or without a tie.
  • Semi-formal/cocktail: This means dressing elegantly but not to the point that this style of clothing cannot be easily bought at the local department store. For women it means a knee-length cocktail dress. For men, it means dressing in suit and tie.
  • Black tie optional: This means women can choose to wear a formal gown and men a black tuxedo. For guests who decided not to wear black tie, they must dress as formally as possible. For women this means wearing at least a cocktail dress and for men it means wearing a dark suit.
  • Black tie: This means all guests must wear formal gowns and a tuxedo.
  • Theme: The couple may request guest come dressed a certain way or in costume. This is almost always optional because of the expense involved in buying a theme-appropriate outfit.

Remember, if all else fails, take into account how formal or casual the wedding invitation was and dress accordingly. The time of the wedding is also a good clue. Daytime weddings are more casual than evening weddings, but semi-formal attire is appropriate for both. Dark colors should be worn at night and lighter colors during the day.

Happy shopping.

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