Wedding Guest Attire

Finding the perfect dress or outfit to wear to a wedding is a fun part of the build-up to the big day, but it can also be tricky! Figuring out the right style and tone to go with might feel like an exercise in reading between the lines. That’s why in this article we are going to demystify the most common dress codes you will see on a wedding invitation. We will also provide some tips for bridesmaid dresses and mother of the bride outfits, as well as offer some general advice for wedding guests when choosing a dress or outfit for any style of wedding.

Dress codes explained


Black tie is the most formal of wedding dress codes you are likely to encounter.  Black tie weddings generally take place in the late afternoon or evening, and they require formal outfits. Expect to see tuxedos with black dickie bows, or simple long black ties, complete with vests or cummerbunds. For the ladies, formal gowns are also expected, and should touch the ground or the top of the shoes. Black-tie attire is one of the stricter wedding dress codes, with little room for interpretation. 


Formal or Black tie optional is slightly less formal than a black-tie wedding, and it typically tends to have fewer precise specifications. For wedding guests, an elegant cocktail dress or full-length dress combined with beautiful sparkling accessories would work well here, or perhaps a sleek pantsuit. For men, there is less pressure to wear a tuxedo. A dark neutral coloured suit along with a crisp white shirt and possibly a flair of colour with the tie would be appropriate.

If you’re still unsure what formal wedding attire looks like, you can never be too overdressed. Erring on the side of caution with a more elegant look is always a reliable choice.


Semi-Formal/Dressy Casual. Okay, so these two dress codes aren’t quite the same, but there is a fair amount of overlap here. This grey area between formal and casual may seem like one of the trickiest wedding dress codes to pin down. Some examples of what to wear to a semi-formal event include a midi dress, a chic jumpsuit or a wrap dress. If it’s daytime, then a sundress would be suitable. Fabrics like cotton or knits are perfectly fine here if the overall style of dress is correct. If it’s evening, then opt for cocktail attire in darker, richer colours, and fabrics like silk or satin in a casual length and cut. Make it dressy with more accessories. A suit and tie are still appropriate, although separates could be a less formal option.


Bridesmaids Dresses

Given the exceptionally high volume of weddings taking place this year, it is hardly surprising that guests are looking to reuse their outfits, and this includes bridesmaids’ dresses. As a result, we see a slight move away from traditional chiffon gowns in favour of more contemporary styles with wear-again ability, and even mix-and-match styles between bridesmaids for greater versatility. Seasonal colours for bridesmaids’ dresses this year revolve around cool, fresh summer hues of green and blue; such as mint, aqua and olive.


Mother of the Bride

Mother of the bride can be a daunting role to fill. You may feel conscious of the many eyes and camera lenses on you, that’s why it’s so important to choose an outfit that fits comfortably and feels right for you. In general, we would advise against white, black or red as main colours for your outfit. Navy and blush shades are timeless classics, although typically the mother of the bride outfit should complement the bridal party colours. It may also be a good idea to compare notes with the mother of your new inlaws to arrange complementary colours for wedding photos.


General Advice for Wedding Guests:

  • If your wedding invitation doesn’t specify a dress code, you may still be able to glean some ideas from the design, font and colours used on the invitation card itself. Does it suggest a formal event? Or something more relaxed and intimate? If you’re still in doubt, don’t be afraid to simply ask a member of the bridal party for some guidelines!

  • Be Seasonal / Consider the time of day. We’ve already touched on this idea in the previous sections, but it bears repeating. Generally, summer weddings revolve around bright airy colours with floral or organic patterns and designs, while winter and festive weddings will focus on darker, richer hues featuring sequins and sparkling jewellery. Daytime weddings tend to be more casual, while evenings are more formal. But again, these are guidelines rather than strict rules. Remember; you can always err on the side of elegant!

  • Think of the practicalities around the setting/venue. If the ceremony is in a church or religious setting, you may need a shawl or cardigan to cover bare shoulders. Is the reception outdoors? If so, a stiletto heel will be liable to sink into the ground. How hot or cold is it likely to be? This should influence your choice of fabrics. Considering the practicalities will ensure your dress or outfit FEELS comfortable as well as looks beautiful, so you can enjoy the day to the full. 

  • And perhaps this is an obvious one for some, but NO ALL-WHITE OUTFITS! We would even advise caution with wearing any off-whites or light pale pastels; anything that might come out looking white in a photograph. It might seem like an old fashioned tradition, but you don’t want to appear to be competing with the wedding dress! You can still have splashes of white in your outfit, just not as the main colour. Try to exercise your best judgement here.