Do’s and Don’ts for What to Wear to a Wedding

The Classic "Little Black Dress" is a great choice for most wedding guests.
The Classic "Little Black Dress" is a great choice for most wedding guests.
The Classic “Little Black Dress” is a great choice for most wedding guests.

The Best Dressed Wedding Guest

Why do we use the color red to highlight text, for stop signs, and for emergency or hazard lights?  Easy answer: to get attention.  Since the bride should be the center of attention, wearing bright red to a wedding is the #1 wedding guest attire no-no.  But, what are some other do (s) and don’t (s) for wedding guests when it comes to what to wear to a wedding?   Well, to avoid being viewed as a wedding hazard, please read on.

Do (s)

  • Dress conservatively, avoiding outfits that would raise an eyebrow or two. If you have to ask if it is appropriate, it probably isn’t.
  • Dress for the formality of the event.  Use the information given to you to judge the formality level of the event: formality of the invitation, venue, time of day, and what you know of the couple.  If in doubt ask.
  • Pay special attention to the quality of your clothing.  Does it appear newish?  Is it clean?  How about your shoes?



  • Wear black if the mood grabs you.  It’s no longer a wedding no-no.
  • Take extra care with makeup, hair, and accessories, especially for formal events.
  • Do take off gloves to eat or drink.
  • A hat can be worn the entire time if not too large.  Large hats obscure others’ sight.


little black dress wedding


  • Please shave.
  • Learn the difference between a suit and a sport coat with slacks. Close, but not the same.
  • Wear a dark suit and tie for evening weddings if invitation doesn’t specify “formal attire”.
  • Wear a tuxedo only after 5 PM.


wedding attire guests

Don’t (s)

  • Wear jeans, shorts, or beach wear unless instructed to do so.


  • Wear all white, red or any other bright color.
  • Wear sequins during the day.
  • Show too much skin. This isn’t Hooters! (again with the attention)
  • Wear nylons with open toed shoes.
  • Wear opera-length gloves with gowns with sleeves.


  • Be careful experimenting with the tuxedo. The classic black tux, white shirt, and black bow tie is a perfect choice.  If the invitation uses an odd word when requesting formal attire (ex: creative formal), it might be best, and less embarrassing, to go with a tux paired with a trendy black shirt with no tie. Consider the venue, region, and couple when making these choices.
  • Wear a tux during the daytime.


Wedding Guest Attire

Ladies’ Attire

  • Informal Daytime: Street length dress, separates, or business attire for daytime weddings
  • Informal Evening: Attire appropriate for a nice restaurant
  • Semi-Formal Daytime: Street length dress/nice separates or suit
  • Semi-formal Evening: Cocktail dress (little black dress or its equivalent)
  • Formal Daytime: Daytime appropriate cocktail dress or suit. Hats and gloves are optional.
  • Formal Evening or Black-Tie: Long or dressy short cocktail (beading and sequins with dressier accessories)
  • Ultra-formal or White Tie: Long gown and top notch, very high quality accessories (jewelry, gloves, expensive looking wraps)


wedding guest dress

Men’s Attire

  • Informal Daytime: Dress shirt and pants, preferably add a sports jacket
  • Informal Evening: Suit or sport jacket paired with slacks if very informal
  • Semi-Formal Daytime: Suit
  • Semi-Formal Evening: Dark suit and tie
  • Formal Daytime: Dark suit and tie
  • Formal Evening: if invitation states “black tie or formal” wear a tuxedo; wear a dark suit if not
  • Ultra-formal Evening or White Tie: Black tailcoat, striped trousers, white plain stiff-front shirt with detachable (preferably) wing collar, white bow tie and white waistcoat


wedding mens suit

Cheat Sheet: When in doubt about what to wear to a wedding, most always, the little black dress or its equivalent is perfect for women, while a dark suit is perfect for men.  For more informal events, attire worn to a very nice restaurant (for evening) or to church (for daytime) would work well.

By Rebecca Black of Etiquette Now

Have questions? Head over to Pop the Questions to ask about Wedding Guest Attire Questions answered by experts — fast!


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