Guide to Deciding on a Wedding Dress Code

Planning a wedding comes with what feels like hundreds of small decisions that all go into the big picture of your wedding day! You’ve picked your dress, your fiancé has his outfit set, your wedding party has their dresses and suits, the only thing left is your guests! Your guests are looking for direction on what to wear. The more specific you can be, the better and we are here to help you unlock the wedding guest dress code!  Brides, here are three things to consider when crafting your wedding guest dress code: 

  1. Venue – Whether your venue is a rustic barn or an elegant ballroom, your venue is an influential piece of deciding on your wedding guest dress code! 
  2. Time of year/weather – Are you having an outdoor wedding in the heat of summer? Asking your guests to wear full tuxedos may not be the best idea. When deciding on a dress code, consider the weather and your guests’ comfort! 
  3. Desired aesthetic – You can’t completely control the attire choices your guests make, but you can give clear guidelines to help steer them in the right direction. Many of your guests will be in your wedding day photos, so they are ultimately a piece of the puzzle when it comes to achieving your desired aesthetic.
Photo: Ruby Olivia

Deciphering verbiage like “semi-formal,” “black tie optional,” or “dressy casual,” can truly feel like a code to crack to your guests. We have broken down a few commonly used dress codes for your guests below!


This is the tip-top of formal wedding attire. Women should always wear a formal floor-length gown with heels. Men should wear a tuxedo with tails, a formal shirt, vest, and bowtie, with dress shoes.


Women are expected to wear a formal floor-length gown and heels. Unless specifically listed, women may wear any color, including black. Men should wear a tuxedo with a black tie. For summer weddings, a white dinner jacket and black tuxedo trousers are also appropriate attire.  If you are requiring a black-tie dress code for your wedding guests, it is important that you, your partner, and your bridal party adhere to the dress code as well.

Black-Tie Optional or Formal

This is similar to black-tie, however slightly less strict. Women are encouraged to wear floor-length evening gowns or formal midi cocktail dresses. Men can wear a tuxedo or a dark-colored suit with a formal tie. For couples that are hosting a black-tie optional wedding, it is best if the bride, groom, and wedding party follow the black-tie dress code. 


This is one of the more popular dress codes for weddings, but one that can be extremely vague for guests. For cocktail attire, women should choose a knee-length or midi dress. Men should wear a suit and tie. 

Dressy Casual

For dressy casual, sometimes referred to as “semi-formal,” women should wear a less formal knee-length or midi dress. Take into account the time of the wedding. If the wedding is during the day, lighter colors are appropriate, and if the wedding is at night time, opt for darker colors. Also, take into consideration the venue. If you will be walking on dirt or grass, choose wedges instead of heels. Men should wear a dress shirt with slacks, tie optional. 


This indicates to guests that the attire is laid back. For women, a sundress or light t-shirt dress would be appropriate with wedges or a dressy sandal. Men should wear dress pants or khaki pants with a collared shirt or button-down. Steer clear of shorts, jeans, tank tops, sneakers, or flip-flops. 

Some less common, but fun dress codes for your guests are: 

  • Tropical Chic 
  • Festive
  • Garden Party 
Photo: Ruby Olivia

Remember, whatever your wedding dress code, be specific! Give your guests examples so they will feel comfortable knowing they are dressing appropriately.

Download my FREE wedding planning guide!

Not sure where to Start?