The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Codes

You received the wedding invitation and can’t wait for the festivities. However, aside from knowing better than arriving in a white dress, you’re unsure what to wear.

How should a wedding guest dress for a black-tie event?

What does casual attire at a wedding even mean?

We get it! We’re pros at this and are here to help, showcasing the top trending wedding themes and cracking the code — the dress code — for each one.



Formal and fancy, the black-tie dress code showcases tuxedos and gowns. So for a black-tie wedding, pretend you’re an Oscar nominee. What would you wear?

Don’t be afraid to accessorize. Pay attention to hair and makeup. Also, for black-tie weddings, your dress should be full-length and grand.

There are exceptions, of course. For instance, you can choose a shorter hemline if you prefer that to a floor-length dress.

Those wearing a tux shouldn’t forget their black bow tie and cufflinks.

Bella Bridesmaids has hundreds of dress options from top designers. Discover the perfect bridesmaid dress styles to match your dress code!


A white-tie event is the crème de la crème, as fancy as it gets. It’s black-tie with extra ‘ooh la la.’ Like you’re dressing for a ball at some royal palace.

Since it’s formal wedding attire at its finest, always opt for a floor-length gown, and accessorize with your finest, sparkliest jewelry.

Those wearing tuxedos mustn’t forget: it needs a white bow tie, tailcoat, and white vest or cummerbund.

White-tie attire sounds intimidating, but it really isn’t. Have some fun with it. Go all out.

Top hat? Gloves? Yes!

You’re about to undergo an experience, an exquisite high-end formal event. Plus, who doesn’t want to swap jeans for evening dress attire every once in a while?

Semi-Formal Wedding

Most weddings have a semi-formal dress code, and if you’ve been to one before, you’ve seen it. Not everyone is decked out to the nines; more like sixes to sevens. People clad in their version of dressy.

Reserve the ball gown for the white-tie affairs, and instead select something dressy yet comfortable. Think cocktail attire.

Not a fan of skirts or dresses? Mix it up. Wear a jumpsuit or suit and tie!

If it’s an outdoor wedding, be mindful of the weather and time of day; bring extra layers just in case.

Casual Wedding

If you see casual attire on the invite, it doesn’t mean your finest high-rise yoga pants. A casual dress code means dressy casual, like Beyoncé meets Blake Lively.

Think sundress and sandals. Or a cute pencil skirt, khakis, or dress

pants paired with a blazer, white T-shirt, or button-down shirt.

It’s a fun, fresh mix of both casual and formal attire.

Discover some of our other outfit-inspired posts:

Groom & Groomsmen | Female Usher | Mother of the Bride | Mother of the Groom | Father of the Bride

Barn Wedding


Barn weddings don’t equal black-tie attire, but you don’t want to go full cowboy, either.

Barn weddings mean dancing, gravel, grass, and wide-planked wood floors that may have gaps. Of course, you know what this means: no stilettos!

Choose dress shoes with a wider heel that supports your full dancefloor repertoire.

Dresses with floral patterns, lace, and other details are perfect. Generally, the length of the dress is up to you. It can be knee-length, midi or floor-length, depending on the season.

Bring extra layers if it’s an evening wedding, just in case it gets drafty after sunset.

Cocktail Wedding

You’re in for a treat if the wedding invite says cocktail attire. Who doesn’t love a cocktail... dress or aperitif?

While still a formal dress code, pass on the evening gown. Cocktail dresses with midi and knee-length hems are perfect.

Accessorize with cute heels, jewelry, a bold lip, and va-va-voom. You’re ready.

If you’re not in the mood to wear a dress, no worries. A pantsuit and a light or dark suit look just as sharp.

Beach Wedding

Who doesn’t want to be a wedding guest for beach nuptials? Sun warming your shoulders, toes burrowed in the warm sand. Waves crest and fall and then advance and retreat, leaving a gleaming glassy surface in their wake.

Beach weddings are inherently semi-formal. So even if it’s a summer wedding, don’t forget to plan your outfit according to the region — Waikiki Beach, Hawaii or Reynisfjara, Iceland?

Sundresses and rompers are excellent choices. Don’t shy away from bright colors, and choose light, low-maintenance natural fabrics.

If you can’t resist the feeling of the ocean swirling around your ankles, wear something that frees you up to indulge.

Dress pants and a white shirt or dress shirt are also totally acceptable. And if you don’t want to go shoeless — really show off that pedicure — you can always wear sandals or loafers.

Destination Wedding


A destination wedding is another word for vacation! Whether national or international, destination weddings are a chance for new experiences and memories.

Now, you don’t want your memories to be miserable. Imagine yourself shivering in Ashford Castle, Ireland, all because you didn’t properly research.

You must know what the weather will be like where you’re going, and if that weather is unpredictable, bring options.

Also, if you can, tuck your wedding outfit in your carry-on just in case your luggage doesn’t arrive at the destination along with you.

If the wedding party is happening somewhere tropical, loose, breathable natural fiber fabric will help keep you comfy. Cooler climates mean layers and long sleeves.

Depending on where you’re going, don’t forget scarves and sunscreen. Some places require both.

Check this out for more outfit inspiration that covers different climates and locations.

Non-Traditional Wedding

Some people choose to celebrate their own way, opting for a circus or Star Wars theme. If you’re in doubt about the appropriate wedding guest attire, check the wedding website if they have one.

Still not clear? Don’t hesitate to ask.

The same applies if you receive an invitation to a wedding from a different religion or culture. Most are happy to just have you present as a guest.

However, don’t be afraid to ask for the appropriate wedding dress code. For example, if it's a Hindu wedding, women are encouraged to choose bright, joyous colors and usually wear a saree or pantsuit.

Feeling inspired? Awesome!

We want to leave you with one last quick takeaway:

Dressing for the occasion is important, but it’s not everything.

Being together to celebrate love is what matters. You received an invite because you’re special. The bride and groom cherish you and want you to be part of their wedding day. That’s what matters most.

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