The Wedding Guest’s Complete Guide to the Most Common Dress Codes 


Upon receiving a wedding invitation, most guests would ask themselves, “What shall I wear?” 

Since valuable time and effort are poured into wedding planning, following the prescribed dress code is an important way to fully participate in the event and make the day more special.  

Now, it might be tricky to determine what to wear when faced with a dress code prompt. While some couples are thorough and include a mood board and color palette, you may be faced with an invitation that simply indicates a “black tie” dress code. 

To get you started, here is a list of dress codes and some corresponding outfit ideas. 

A Complete Guide to Wedding Dress Codes

1. Black Tie

Second only to the supremely formal and uncommon White Tie dress code, a Black Tie dress code is the most compatible with traditional types of formal dress, such as those found in grand church weddings and opulent ballroom receptions. 

Men are expected to wear well-tailored tuxedos with a formal shirt, and a tie or bowtie. Dress shoes are required, and should not be substituted with sneakers. 

For women, gowns should not rise above the ankles. Additional features include formal clutches, jewelry, and sophisticated hair and makeup. 

2. Formal or Black Tie Optional

While the Black Tie Optional code maintains plenty of similarities to the Black Tie customs, this manner of attire allows more flexibility. In an expressly Black Tie event, the dress code is strict. In a Black Tie optional event, however, guests are encouraged to stick to the code, but may also incorporate Cocktail Attire elements, which are a step down. 

Women may wear slightly shorter dresses and inject some personality into their accessories.  Men can skip shiny dress shoes and opt for warm-toned oxfords, and swap black suits for blue or dark gray. The key is to make sure that the outfit still registers as formal as a whole, and that the prescribed color scheme is still followed. 

3. Cocktail Attire 

This dress code is currently the most popular of all. While it still incorporates a level of dressiness, it is more adaptive and personality-filled. 

For the Cocktail dress code, men can swap out tuxedos for suits in different shades, and, depending on the couple’s preference, even pair suits with sneakers for cool contrast. 

As for women, shorter dresses in various cuts are now allowed, and there are more liberties to be taken with prints, the showing of skin, and accessorizing. 

4. Destination Attire (Beach or Garden) 

This code typically refers to beach or garden weddings, or all weddings that primarily take place outdoors. Given the exposure to the elements and fickle weather, this style prioritizes comfort and movement more than other dress codes would. In the summer, men can go sans blazers, or go for suits in lighter fabrics, and maybe even chinos and crisp shirts. 

READ ALSO: 11 Fresh Guest Outfits for a Beach Wedding

Women could come in flowy jumpsuits, or breezy garments like eyelet dresses. Matte ornamentation such as embroidery and crocheted details also suit the occasion. 

READ NEXT: 11 Unique and Stylish Guest Outfits for a Garden Wedding

Couples could specify a fabric theme, such as linens or cotton. Guests can also expect color schemes that lean earthy or pastel, instead of deeper jewel hues traditionally associated with Black Tie nuptials. Tropical or destination weddings might also encourage springtime prints and similar motifs to match the lush outdoors. 

5. Casual or Informal 

When faced with this dress code, simply prioritize your ability to comfortably enjoy yourself on the wedding reception dance floor. Pick something dressy you have in your closet, but don’t breach formal territory—for men, a crisp shirt, slacks, and jacket would do, finished off with a sleek pair of sneakers or loafers. Ladies could reach for heeled boots as opposed to rhinestone-studded stilettos, and wear chic jumpsuits, easy dresses, or colorful coordinates. 

6. Themed or Cultural Attire  

Creative couples looking to break tradition could specify a themed dress code. Now, this one is particular to what the couple dictates. It could be a funky ‘70s-themed event, a roaring ‘20s fete, or a masked ball. They can also request for guests to honor the couple’s cultural backgrounds. 

Research key pieces or elements that could anchor your outfit in the theme, such as retro patterns, flared silhouettes, feather headpieces, or bejeweled masks, for instance. 

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Photo from instagram.com/pashajansenphotography

In the event that you’re still unsure about the dress code, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to the couple to make sure that you’ve got it down pat. After all, it’s their wedding, so it’s safe to follow their rules. 


To explore the latest trends, expert advice, and breathtaking inspiration in the world of weddings, don’t miss out on the Get Wedded in Australia 2023-2024 digital magazine! Whether you’re a bride-to-be or a wedding enthusiast, this magazine is a must-read.

Below, browse and read your free copy of the Get Wedded in Australia 2023-2024 digital magazine today.

Posted in Advice, Fashion, Pre-wedding, Weddings by wedded wonderland


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