What to wear to weddings

Rachel Cessna

When it comes to weddings, sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what to wear. Invitations can be vague and it can be difficult to understand the meaning of different dress codes. Here are a few of the most common dress themes and what they mean:

White tie

White tie is the fanciest dress code. It calls for more traditional and conservative attire. Men will typically wear a tuxedo and long jacket with tails. A white bow tie with formal black shoes is preferred. Women will normally wear a floor-length evening gown that doesn’t have sequins or cutouts.

Black tie

Black tie is also very formal, but not as much as white tie. Men still typically wear a tuxedo but can sometimes get by with a black suit. A tie is still required. Women will wear either a formal floor-length dress or a shorter fashionable dress. Cutouts, fancy jewelry and accents are acceptable. It’s perfectly fine to have fun with the dress choice.

Formal or black tie optional

For this event, a tuxedo isn’t required but it is acceptable to wear one. It simply means to dress it down slightly. A dress shirt and tie is still necessary. Women should wear either a long formal dress or a formal cocktail dress.

Cocktail or semiformal

For this theme, men do not have to wear a tuxedo, but a jacket is a must. Usually a tie is a good idea, unless the rest of the outfit is fashionable enough on its own. Women typically do not wear long dresses, but shorter formfitting ones. Remember, a lot of dancing is going to take place, so wear what is comfortable. The lighter the accessories, the better.

Festive attire

This theme is less popular, but it can be confusing, so it’s good to know what it means. It is similar to cocktail attire but with brighter colors and patterns and fun accessories. Men still wear suits, but a bright dress shirt or uniquely patterned tie completes the look. Women should wear boldly colored cocktail dresses and flashy jewelry.


Beach weddings can be fun to dress up for. Men can wear light-colored suits without a tie or sometimes a nice shirt with khakis. Women wear a nice sundress, short or long, with summery accessories that aren’t too flashy. Wedges are always a good choice for the beach.


It’s hard to decipher exactly what the term “casual” means, but one can assume that it’s always safe to go with business casual. Men should wear nice pants and a dress shirt, but no tie or jacket is needed. Women have a variety of options from which to choose. A dress isn’t entirely necessary. A jumpsuit made with a silken material and accessorized with unique jewelry works just as well. Chances are the outfit you need is already in your closet. Just make sure to accessorize well and the look should work well. If you’re unsure what to wear with this theme, it might be best to ask the bride and groom.