A Complete Breakdown of Wedding Dress Code Options

By Published On: April 1, 2024

Most wedding invitations come with a preferred dress code by the bride and groom. Sometimes it can be hard to decipher what some of them mean. Black tie optional can be confusing, along with semi-formal and even concept/themes, like a garden party and tropical. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back with a complete breakdown of wedding dress code options.


This is the most formal type of wedding. Think of royal events or White House dinners. Women should be in floor-length gowns, absolutely no exceptions, wearing heels, jewelry and a chic clutch. Men are required to wear tuxedos with tails with a formal white shirt, vest, bow tie, grey or white gloves and formal footwear.


Black-tie is still a formal wedding but a step down from a white-tie wedding. Women should still wear floor-length gowns but can get away with pantsuits, jumpsuits or even a sophisticated midi-length or cocktail dress. For men, tuxedos are still a must. Bow tie, vest or cummerbund with dress shoes are recommended.

Black-Tie Optional

Slightly less formal than a black-tie wedding, this dress code primarily affects the men. Women still should wear a floor-length gown, a cocktail dress, a dressy jumpsuit, etc. However, for men, a tuxedo is not required but still preferred. Men can also wear a dark formal suit, a white shirt and tie.


Cocktail attire is a step above semi-formal and it is an extremely popular dress code for weddings. It is a nice juxtaposition between sophisticated and comfy and pared-back. Women should wear tea-length, knee-length or midi-length dresses. Jumpsuits are also acceptable. Men don’t need to worry about tuxedos for a cocktail dress code, they are now required to wear just a suit and tie.

Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual

For this dress code, it is important to pay attention to when the ceremony is taking place. For example, if it is an evening event, darker and more formal colors are recommended. Think jewel tones and dark neutrals. And if the event is taking place in the daytime, light colors and airy fabrics work the best. Women can choose from different styles of dresses/looks including slip dresses, below-the-knee dresses, a dressy top and skirt or an elegant jumpsuit or pantsuit. Men can opt for a dress shirt and trousers with a tie being optional. With a dress code being semi-formal, it gives you the freedom to dress more comfortably — but make sure not to dress too casually.


A festive dress code is somewhat new and can leave you feeling confused about how to dress. This attire allows you to play around and have fun with your outfit. Cocktail party dresses in fun, bright colors are encouraged for women. Playful accessories can also be added. For men, they can wear a textured or patterned shirt with a bright tie and/or pocket square.


When a wedding dress code says “Casual,” it usually means the wedding is being held outdoors or even on a beach, meaning the event is more laid back. However, it is important to point out that jeans, shorts, flip-flops and sneakers are not appropriate unless the couple specifies. Women can wear summer sundresses or mini dresses with dressy sandals. Men can wear dress pants or khakis with a collared shirt. They can also dress it up with a tie or sports coat.

Tropical or Destination

For tropical destination weddings, the weather is usually hot and humid so you will want to wear lightweight and airy fabrics. It’s always good to go on the dressier side but check with the bride if you are not sure.  Women can wear sun dresses with dressier sandals. Even a hat is okay to wear if it’s super hot. For men, a Mexican wedding shirt works well for tropical destinations. Linen dresses, shirts and pants are fabulous for hot climates but they do wrinkle easily in transit, so make sure you have some way to get the wrinkles out when you reach the destination.

Concept Style or Theme

The dress code is exactly as it sounds. Guests should dress according to the theme. Look for inspiration from TV, films, online, Pinterest, etc.

Come As You Are

This is where the couple asks the guests to come as they see fit. While this dress code allows you some freedom, take into consideration the location and time of the wedding. If you look great and feel confident that you are not over or under-dressed, you should be good.

What if There is No Dress Code

If there is no dress code on the wedding invitation, use clues on the invitation to help decide what to wear. Use the formality of the invitation, the venue, the time of day of the ceremony, season and religion. When in doubt, a dark suit for men and a knee-length cocktail dress for women will work.



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