What Do You Wear to a Wedding?

Caucasian couple walking in vineyard
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You got the invitation for your friends' wedding and found the perfect wedding gift when suddenly it hits you. What are you going to wear?

The etiquette for proper wedding guest attire varies greatly depending on the style of the wedding. You'll have to do a little sleuthing but fear not. Even if a dress code (black tie, casual, etc.) isn't blatantly written on the invitation, there are clues everywhere.

Determine the Wedding Style

Start with the invitation. Is it in flowing engraved black script on a heavy cream paper with formal language? Odds are the wedding will be similarly formal. Does it cheekily ask you to come to see them get hitched? Don a somewhat casual outfit and you'll fit right in.

Where is the wedding set? If the ceremony will be held outdoors, avoid anything that will get caught in the wind. Avoid high heels that will sink into sand and grass. If it's being held in a hot location, avoid a heavy suit and dark colors and go with linens to help you keep your cool. Will it take place indoors at a swanky country club or restaurant? Make your outfit slightly more tailored and dressy.

Some wedding guests may prefer to rent their wedding attire, and there are a variety of rental options available. For women, Rent the Runway is worth considering as they have a variety of options for different formal occasions. For men, check out Men's Warehouse for formal tuxedo rentals. You can choose to customize your look or rent any of their pre-styled looks.

What to Wear to a Daytime Wedding

Daytime weddings are always less formal than evening events. While you won't want to be utterly informal (unless the wedding couple is clear that that's their preference), you won't want to wear a gown or tuxedo. In summer choose light-colored clothing and anything that makes you look like you're ready to go to work; in winter, wool is always an appropriate choice.

For Her

  • A pretty floral dress
  • A skirt and a sweater set
  • Heels, sandals or slingbacks
  • A beautiful hat that coordinates with your outfit

For Him

  • A light-colored suit, especially in linen or seersucker
  • If it's cool outside, a wool suit, a sweater, and tie underneath a blazer
  • A navy blazer with charcoal pants
  • A button-up shirt, tie and pants dressed up with a blazer
  • A dark suit *tuxedos are not appropriate before 6 p.m.)

What to Wear to an Evening Black-Tie Optional Wedding

Evening weddings are typically formal events. In some cases, they are very formal, with women in gowns and men in tuxedos. For optional black-tie events, women should avoid beads, sequins, and sparkles; black is appropriate but white is not (as it may be seen as competition for the bride's wedding dress).

For Her

  • A conservative cocktail dress; choose moderate or floor length
  • A dressy suit or a cocktail suit 
  • Dark, sophisticated colors

For Him

  • A dark suit 
  • If casual or semi-formal, a blazer and slacks with a nice tie
  • A tuxedo

Attire for an Evening Black-Tie Wedding

Black tie weddings are very formal, and you'll need to rent or invest inappropriate clothing for the event. If you don't have a tux or formal gown, there are many rental services available, both in shops and online. Remember that you'll be dancing, so avoid very tight dresses or shoes that are uncomfortable.

For Her

  • A formal dress, usually floor-length
  • Accessories such as beaded purses, fancy wraps, and formal jewelry

For Him

  • A tuxedo 

What Not to Wear

While there are few absolute rules about what you should wear to a wedding, there are few "unwritten" rules of wedding-wear that should always be followed.

  • Avoid wearing white. This rule has relaxed some, and you can get away with wearing a printed dress with a white background and some cream-colored clothing, but it's still better to be safe than sorry, so choose a different color.
  • Never wear jeans, no matter how casual the wedding.
  • Avoid wearing black to a daytime wedding.
  • Say no to anything too sexy or revealing.
  • Never wear anything torn, with holes, stained, too big or too small.
  • Don't wear anything sleeveless or strapless to a religious wedding. Bring a wrap or jacket to cover your shoulders.