When you hear the news that a loved one is about to say “I do” and receive a script-written invitation in the mail, you may think, “well, I don’t know what to wear.”
Even with the sparkling array of satiny wedding guest dresses and flattering cocktail dresses — oh, and we can’t forget about tailored suits and bow ties — there may still be confusion: what do I wear to a black tie wedding? What’s semi-formal? What colors can’t I wear?!
“Dress codes can vary depending on a couple’s personal style, cultural background and overall wedding location, venue and vibe,” Dorothy Silver, senior director of sales and merchandising at Kleinfeld Bridal, told the New York Post. “The wedding invitation typically gives you all the information you need, and it never hurts to compare notes with fellow guests attending.”
Julie Sabatino, founder of The Stylish Bride and professional bridal stylist, also agrees with this sentiment and etiquette.
“First and foremost, as the host of the wedding, it’s your job to make your guests feel comfortable,” she told The Post. “If they feel out of place in their attire they will automatically feel uncomfortable and unhappy. Your wedding invitation is certainly a great placement to indicate the attire.”
Ahead, we turned to our team of wedding experts to put together an all-in-one wedding dress code guide — so you never have to worry once that invitation comes in the mail. More, we rounded up some of our favorite styles for every single dress code.
Click to jump to a specific wedding dress code:
Black Tie Wedding Dress Code
What it means:
“Black tie is formal, so usually longer gowns and either tuxedos or dark suits are appropriate attire,” Silver recommends. “Dressing appropriately to honor the occasion and hosts is the most critical consideration.”
While less popular, white tie is the most formal dress code for an event (differing from black tie) which means a black tailcoat, white bowtie and waistcoat. “Black patent leather shoes with matching socks and throw in a top hat or white gloves to complete this look,” she adds.
For women, dresses are to be full-length and typically with intricate detailing and lots of room for accessorizing with gloves, tiaras and evening purses, too.
For men, “a white French cuffed shirt (worn with elegant cufflinks) and a black bow tie” are standard alongside their tuxedo, per Sabatino.
1. Windsor Nahla Formal Satin Mermaid Gown
Windsor is one of our favorite destinations for flattering, formal-leaning occasions, and its Nahla Formal Satin Mermaid Gown simply hugs in all the right places. Even better, it’s less than $70, has an eye-catching mermaid silhouette and will keep you comfortable from wedding start to wedding end.
Shop more Windsor dresses.
2. Pronto Uomo Platinum Modern Fit Suit Separates Tuxedo Coat
Most people are intimidated to buy a tux (think about it: you’ll likely wear one every now and then, but not ultra-often). However, Men’s Wearhouse has a put-together look by Pronto Uomo that’s less than $350 for your one-time purchase. Classic, handsome and a one-time purchase.
Shop more Men’s Wearhouse tuxedos.
3. Calvin Klein Men’s Slim Fit Non-Iron French Cuff Shirt
When wearing a tux, proper etiquette is to also sport a French cuff shirt. There’s no better option than the Calvin Klein Men’s Slim Fit Non-Iron French Cuff Shirt — an affordable option that’s breathable, looks great and is offered in a multitude of colors (though white is ever-classic). Not to mention, its 100% cotton material is oh-so-comfortable.
4. Mac Duggal Embellished Illusion Cape Sleeve Trumpet Gown
Though a splurge, the Mac Duggal Embellished Illusion Cape Sleeve Trumpet Gown will turn heads. Our wedding experts recommend dazzling your wedding crowd with something embellished or sequined, and this draped-over gown is both elegant and unique.
Shop more Mac Duggal gowns here.
5. iWISH Golden Glitter Clutch Purse
The iWISH Golden Glitter Clutch Purse has racked up more than 1,000 positive reviews on Amazon — and for a good reason. It’s versatile, has an elevated yet minimalist design and can fit your essentials. For less than $25, it’s surely worth that add-to-cart motion.
6. Dannyshi Men’s Stainless Steel Initial Cufflinks
For an affordable yet personalized cufflinks option, the Dannyshi Men’s Stainless Steel Initial Cufflinks is your best bet. Not only will they come in speedy time (thanks, Prime!) but they’re ideal for those one-off occasions when superior formal attire is required.
7. Nordstrom Men’s Dax Plain Toe Derby Dress Shoes
Our experts recommend a black patent leather dress shoe, and the Nordstrom Men’s Dax Plain Toe Derby Dress Shoes have a signature look and feel to them that’s worth your $100 spend. Namely, its rubber sole ensures you’ll be comfortable and intact, while its glossy exterior is undeniably attractive.
Formal Wedding Dress Code
What it means:
“Formal typically means classic tuxedo with a formal dress shirt, tie or bowtie with matching shoes and accessories,” Silver explains. “Anything goes when it comes to dresses — longer gowns, shorter cocktail or pantsuits all work well. Whatever fits your personal style. As a rule of thumb, avoid anything too casual when the dress code is formal.”
Additionally, a formal dress code could also mean “a classic dark suit for men” or “a beautiful pantsuit” for women, per Sabatino.
1. J.M. Haggar Men’s Premium Stretch Classic Fit Suit Separate Jacket
For formal attire, you can get away with a dark-wash suit. The J.M. Haggar Men’s Premium Stretch Classic Fit Suit Separate Jacket is both classic and breathable, available in multiple of colors to take your from your wedding night to another event in no time.
Shop more JCPenney suits.
2. Van Heusen Men’s Regular Fit Poplin Dress Shirt
To pair with your suit, the Van Heusen Men’s Regular Fit Poplin Dress Shirt is a trusty find on Amazon for less than $40 that’s available in plenty of colors and won’t let you down. Not to mention, it looks handsome with your favorite belt.
3. Reformation Frankie Silk Dress
Reformation, oh how we love you. Its Frankie Silk Dress is both on-trend and feminine — the perfect twist on your little black dress for formal wear. With your favorite designer clutch and affordable fine jewelry, you’re golden.
Shop more Reformation dresses.
4. Petal & Pup Cyprus Dress
Truth be told, Petal & Pup takes up much real estate in our closets (trust us, with one browse through its site, you’ll be hooked). One of its signature styles is the Cyprus Dress — a contoured bodycon option in the dreamiest satin material available. Not to mention, it’s fairly priced — as far as cocktail dresses go.
Shop more Petal & Pup dresses.
5. Ann Taylor Double Knit Straight Pant
Ready to turn heads in a pantsuit? Our experts love the look of them, and Ann Taylor has some of the most beautiful options on the market. Even better, the matching set doubles as your finest blazer and work pants post-wedding. Win-win.
Shop more Ann Taylor pantsuits.
Semi-Formal & Cocktail Wedding Dress Codes
What it means:
While “semi-formal dress is surprisingly less formal than cocktail attire,” per Sabatino, there isn’t too much of a difference.
“Semi-formal is pretty much the same as cocktail,” Silver adds. “You can leave the tux at home and opt for a tailored suit in a dark color. Dresses remain the same — long, midi or short all are fantastic options for a semi-formal look.”
Men should be wearing a jacket or blazer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a suit. Uniquely, there’s more wiggle room to sport a more interesting fabric and a tie.
“Women can wear less formal tea-length dresses with fun details,” Sabatino notes. “Jeans are still a no-no here.”
1. Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer
Take your wedding in pure class with the Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer. With the matching chinos, you’ll feel both sophisticated and put-together, thanks to the brand’s finest materials. Though a collective splurge, you’ll be glad you invested in the crème de la crème.
Shop more Bonobos suits.
2. Tie Bar Freesia Floral Navy Tie
Shop the Tie Bar Freesia Floral Navy Tie for an elevated approach to your otherwise solid-toned tie. Just shy of $25, it’s one of our favorite destinations for men’s ties, too, thanks to its bounty of options and quality that’s designed to last.
Shop more Tie Bar men’s ties.
3. Lulus Peak Party Vibe Satin Tiered Tie-Back Midi Dress
Hello, flattering color. We’re convinced the Lulus Peak Party Vibe Satin Tiered Tie-Back Midi Dress is apt for any skin tone — and its tiered structure is simply a delight. With your most comfortable heels and accessories, consider yourself one of the best-dressed at the wedding (guaranteed).
Shop more Lulus dresses.
4. Journee Collection Harpr Sandal
For a pair of shoes you’ll wear on repeat, the Journee Collection Harpr Sandal is a fairly priced option with some of the most unique strapped detailing we’ve seen. With a block heel to top things off, you’ll be able to dance, party and celebrate in pure comfort.
For more options, check out our guide to the best nude heels.
Casual Wedding Dress Code
What it means:
“Beautiful dresses and pantsuits with fantastic accessories for women,” Sabatino notes. “Long-sleeved button-down shirts, blazers and dress pants for men. Khakis are acceptable as long as they fit you properly and look nice.”
Additionally, casual wedding dress codes call for apparel pieces and accessories that are versatile; in most cases, you can style the same pieces to your workplace, for a date night and for another event on your calendar. Whether you’re attending a beach wedding or even a backyard-style venue, these outfits are the way to go.
1. PRETTYGARDEN Floral Casual Boho Dress
Gear up for a more toned-down affair (think: backyard weddings) with one of our favorite Amazon clothing brands: PRETTYGARDEN. Its Floral Casual Boho Dress comes in a classic catalog of colors, doubles as a pretty work dress and will make you feel flounce-y and cute, for sure.
For more options, check out our guide to the best Amazon dresses we reviewed.
2. Kelly & Katie Glimmer Wedge Sandal
You can’t take a casual wedding dress code in style without a pair of feel-good wedges. One of our favorite brands is, without a doubt, Kelly & Katie. Its Glimmer Wedge Sandal is a match-all, perfectly elevated option that’ll keep your toes and heel comfortable all night (or day) long.
3. Amazon Essentials Slim Fit Casual Stretch Khaki Pant
As mentioned, khakis can slide for a casual wedding dress code — so long as they fit well. We’ve been raving about the Amazon Essentials Slim Fit Casual Stretch Khaki Pant nonstop, thanks to its affordable price tag, slimming design and near-23,000 exceptional reviews for its top-tier quality.
Check out the New York Post Shopping section for more content.