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If you are planning to attend a wedding for a friend or family member, you as the guest have the responsibility of dressing appropriately to show respect for the bride and groom. When you receive your invitation and knowing the bride or groom, you should have some idea of how formal the wedding will or will not be. One indication is the time of the wedding. Typically, a formal wedding would be held in the evening while an informal or semi-formal wedding usually takes place in the daytime. However, if you are not sure, ask.

Just imagine thinking your friends wedding was going to be informal. Therefore, you put on a nice summer dress and sandals. Running late, you hurry to the church and make your way to your seat. Only after being seated, you look around to discover that everyone else is dressed to the nine since the wedding is very formal. This type of things happens all the time so find out first before you dress.

Dressing up for a wedding is very different from dressing for any other occasion. Again, you can usually tell from the wording on the invitation regarding appropriate attire. For instance, you might see the words, festive dress, creative dress, or black tie. These words tell you exactly how you should dress. The key is to look nice but not so nice that you stand out and everyone notices you and not the bride. To help you make the right decision, the following guidelines will help:

Morning Weddings More and more, having weddings in the early to mid-morning are quite popular. This type of wedding allows a longer celebration, which is perfect when having many out-of-town guests. Keep in mind that even though the wedding is not formal, you should not necessarily dress down. For a morning wedding, a man should wear a suit or at least a nice shirt, dress slacks, and a sports coat. For a woman, a dress or skirt and blouse would be the right choice. Choose fabrics and colors that are season appropriate.

Afternoon Weddings This type of wedding can be a little more challenging to dress for in that it is neither informal nor formal. Therefore, if the invitation does not indicate what the dress code is, then dress semi-formal. The man can wear a suit and perhaps a tie, and the woman a modest dress, or skirt and nice blouse. A pantsuit would also be fine.

Evening Weddings This type of wedding is typically semi-formal. For this reason, unless th invitation says differently, you should dress as though you were going to a special social even. This would include wearing something chic and elegant. If the wedding is formal but not black tie, a man should wear a tuxedo and the woman, a tailored suit or designer-type dress. If the wedding is black tie, then again, a nice suit for the man and a long, formal gown for the woman.

The information below will help you decipher some of the wording that you might see on an invitation:
  • Black Tie Semiformal wedding where the men would wear a tuxedo and the woman, floor length dresses

  • White Tie This is a very formal wedding where the men need to wear tails and the women, elegant gowns

  • Black Tie Optional For this wedding, the bride and groom prefer that guests come as Black Tie. However, if guests do not own a tuxedo or gown, then formal dress should be worn, which would include navy blue or black suits for the men and elegant dresses for the women.

  • Cocktail Attire (Festive Dress) The dress for this type of wedding would be to dress in clothing that you would choose for a fancy cocktail party or dinner. The key work is sophistication in your choices.

  • Creative Dress This term is somewhat new but refers to dressing however you like as long as it is stylish and wedding appropriate

  • Casual Attire This usually refers to garden, beach, or other casual weddings. Typically, you would wear a nice summer dress and men could wear khaki slacks and a nice button down shirt.

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