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Ever received a wedding invitation and felt totally clueless about the dress code required? Us too! From black tie to black tie optional, white tie, cocktail and casual - the dos and don'ts of each wedding guest dress code can be tricky to decipher. There's nothing worse than showing up overdressed or, if not worse, underdressed! 

If you're unsure of the difference between things like "semi-formal" and "formal", we're here to help you tackle the meaning of all the most popular wedding guest dress codes. While Black Tie is undoubtedly the most popular choice for couples taking a trip to the alter, there are so many things to consider when selecting the perfect, appropriate wedding guest attire based on the theme or dress code set by the wedded pair-to-be. 

Elements like the destination, venue, and season will all influence the dress code for wedding guests. If the couple has snagged a stunning castle to tie the knot, such as the Recommended Ashridge House in Hertfordshire or Cluny Castle in Aberdeenshire - you might find the most formal dress code on the invitation: white tie! On the other hand, destination weddings, beach venues, or smaller ceremonies may call for something more laid-back.

So, if wedding guest dress codes or formalities have you feeling a little stressed, we're here to help! Our handy guide to all the dress codes you'll likely encounter will ensure you arrive appropriately and stylishly every single time - just in time for wedding season.

Black Tie Wedding Guest Dress Code

Black tie is one of the more formal wedding dress codes for guests. While it's a common misconception that black tie means you exclusively have to wear black, that's definitely not the case! The black-tie dress code typically requires men to wear tuxedos and women to wear floor-length gowns. However, formal jumpsuits and women's tuxedos are also great options. Men, in most cases, should stick to a black bowtie, vest and patent leather shoes with a white shirt, while women can choose from various rich, elegant hues (think sumptuous glossy and silky fabrics, too) to make a stylish statement.

Black Tie Dress Code Outfit Idea for women

Black tie wedding guest dress idea from Coast - red satin maxi gown with bardot neckline

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Black Tie Dress Code Outfit Idea for men

Black tie wedding guest black tuxedo from Moss for men

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Black Tie Optional Wedding Guest Dress Code 

With a black tie optional dress code, there’s flexibility around the formality of traditional black tie attire. This approach acknowledges that not all guests can afford black tie outfits, offering a way to encourage elevated outfits without the pressure of renting or buying a tuxedo or gown. While black tie optional still requires sophisticated ensembles, there’s some leeway. Men can choose a darker suit instead of a tux, and women can opt for cocktail-style dresses alongside the preferred floor-length gowns - yes, showing some ankle is perfectly acceptable in this case!

Black Tie Optional Dress Code Outfit Idea for women

Black tie optional dress code outfit idea from Club L London - black bardot bow neckline maxi dress with thigh split

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Black Tie Optional Dress Code Outfit Idea for men

Men's black tie optional outfit idea from Charles Tyrwhitt - dark navy dinner jacket suit

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White Tie Wedding Guest Dress Code 

White tie is the most formal of all wedding dress codes! So, if you've always dreamt of being the bell of the ball - now is your time to shine. When it comes to white tie, think royal wedding vibes! Men will need to wear white bow ties and black tailcoats, while women should opt for full-length evening or ball gowns, accessorised with glamorous jewellery and maybe even some elbow-length gloves. While bare shoulders are totally acceptable throughout the wedding, have an elegant shawl on hand to cover them for dinner. Fancy, right?

White Tie Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women

formal/ white tie wedding guest outfit idea from Club L London for women - black maxi gown with open back and large white bow

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White Tie Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men

White tie wedding guest outfit idea for men - moss-hire-REGULAR FIT WHITE TIE TAILS

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Cocktail Wedding Guest Dress Code 

The cocktail dress code strikes the perfect balance between day and night. If you want your guests to dress up for your wedding without the formality of black tie, the cocktail dress code is ideal! This dress code adds a fun, party vibe to weddings, where you can start experimenting with shorter lengths. Typically, cocktail dresses are knee-length or midi, often featuring sparkles or statement designs. For men, cocktail attire means a suit and tie - smart, but not quite as fancy as black tie.

Cocktail Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women

Cocktail dress outfit idea for weddings in sage tone from Never Fully Dressed

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Cocktail Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men 

Cocktail outfit idea for men from Next - pale blue suit for weddings

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Casual Wedding Guest Dress Code 

So, you've received a wedding invitation with a casual dress code and are wondering if your trusty jeans and nice top combo work for the occasion. Unfortunately, not! Even with a casual dress code, jeans, trainers, shorts, or anything similar are a big no. After all, it's still a wedding. While a casual dress code means the event isn't formal, it still calls for a polished look. Women can opt for a classic slip dress or a cute floral mini dress, while men can choose a crisp shirt and trousers without a jacket or tie, or a laid-back linen suit with a fresh white t-shirt underneath.

Casual Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women 

Casual wedding guest outfit idea from New Look - Pale blue midaxi slip dress

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Casual Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men

Casual wedding guest outfit idea for men from Jacamo - casual linen suit in khaki green

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Garden/ Outdoor Wedding Guest Dress Code 

Garden and outdoor wedding dress codes embody the essence of spring and summer celebrations. Picture gorgeous florals, elevated sundresses, vibrant shades, beautiful pastels, and light-coloured suits! A garden party dress code is typically semi-formal and fairly flexible - perfect if you enjoy experimenting with colour and print to showcase your style cheerfully and elegantly.

Garden/ Outdoor Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women

Garden/ outdoor wedding guest outfit idea for women - floral ruffle summer wedding guest dress from Forever New

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Garden/ Outdoor Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men

Garden/ outdoor wedding guest outfit idea for men from Moss - Linen suit in Oatmeal colour

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Beach Wedding Guest Dress Code

Beach wedding dress codes capture the relaxed and breezy vibe attached to seaside celebrations. Think flowing maxi dresses, light linens, and airy fabrics in soft, tropical colours for women. Men can opt for smart casual attire like lightweight suits or crisp shirts paired with trousers or tailored shorts. Footwear should be practical yet stylish, with sandals or espadrilles being popular choices. When in doubt, beach weddings make for the perfect opportunity to embrace the casual elegance of the coastal setting while keeping comfort and coolness in mind.

Beach Dress Code Outfit Ideas for Women 

Beach wedding dress guest code outfit idea from karen millen - tropical print dress

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Beach Dress Code Outfit Ideas for Men 

Beach wedding guest dress code outfit idea for men from Suit Supply - lightweight linen shirt and shorts

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Festive Wedding Guest Dress Code 

Festive wedding dress codes invite guests to embrace the celebratory spirit with vibrant and joyful attire fit for the festive months. You can't go wrong with bold colours, sequins, and fun patterns that exude party vibes. For women, cocktail dresses with playful embellishments or chic separates with some sparkle work perfectly in warm, dark tones like reds, burgundy, maroon and emerald. Men can opt for stylish suits in rich colours or festive blazers paired with dress trousers. Accessories like statement jewellery or a fun tie can add to the festive feel. This dress code is about having fun with your outfit and reflecting the joyous period often attached to December weddings.

Festive Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women

Festive wedding dress code outfit idea for women from Goddiva - velvet sequin maxi dress with bardot neckline

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Festive Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men

Festive wedding guest dress code idea for men from Hawes and Curtis - burgundy velvet suit

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Themed Wedding Guest Dress Code

Themed wedding dress codes invite guests to get creative and fully immerse themselves in the wedding’s setting and vibe. Take a Bridgerton-themed wedding, for example - a popular choice for couples obsessed with the series. Women can channel their inner Regency-era elegance with empire-waist gowns, delicate lace details, and romantic accessories like gloves and tiaras. Men can embrace the period style with tailored waistcoats, cravats, and frock coats. Themed wedding dress codes allow everyone to play a part in bringing the wedding theme to life for memorable and visually cohesive occasions. Some common themes you might see are vintage glam, boho-esque, masquerade or even Disney! 

Themed Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women

Bridgerton themed wedding dress code outfit idea for women from Cider - Sweetheart Floral Knotted Corset Tulle Maxi Dress

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Themed Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men

Bridgerton themed wedding dress code outfit idea for men from Charles Tyrwhitt - Morning-suit-tail-coat-black-herringbone

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Cultural/ Traditional Wedding Guest Dress Code

Cultural or traditional dress codes are a beautiful way to honour heritage and celebrate diverse customs and cultures. Guests are encouraged to wear attire that reflects the couple's cultural background. For example, at an Indian wedding, women might wear vibrant sarees or lehengas, while men don elegant sherwanis or kurta-pajama sets. If you're unsure where to purchase traditional dress for a wedding, it's always worth checking with the couple as they might be able to recommend a small, local business you can support for authentic garments. If price and accessibility are a factor for guests, the high street is a great place to search, too - South Asian brands like Kanya London are stocked at ASOS.

Cultural/ Traditional Dress Code Outfit Idea for Women

Cultural/ traditional wedding guest dress code idea for Indian Weddings from Asos - kanya-london-saree-co-ord-set-in-black.jpg

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Cultural/ Traditional Dress Code Outfit Idea for Men

Cultural/ traditional wedding guest dress code outfit idea for men going to an indian wedding - diyaonline-mens-black-jacquard-embroidered-kurta-set.jpg

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How to Choose Your Outfit by Wedding Guest Dress Code

While dressing in line with the couple's wedding guest dress code and wishes should be your first and foremost priority, there are so many ways to dress stylishly and appropriately in a way that also feels comfortable for you! For even more inspo, check out our edit of the best wedding guest dresses for all seasons and occasions and the best summer wedding guest dresses - perfect for ceremonies in the warmer months or garden, outdoor and beach affairs.   

Shona Ezimogho-Moran

Written by Shona Ezimogho-Moran

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