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What to Wear - Wedding Dress Codes, What to Avoid, and Inspiration on What to Buy

While weddings are a time to celebrate, they can also be stressful when it comes to deciding what to wear. Most wedding invitations specify a dress code, and it's massively important to follow it to avoid feeling out of place or disrespectful to the couple.


Dress codes can range from casual to black-tie, and each code requires different attire. But let's be honest, finding something to wear can be a daunting task for everyday life, let alone for a wedding! But we have you covered.


Here's our breakdown of each category to help you know what you can and cannot wear in each category. Each category is linked to a Pinterest board so that you can explore options and photos of what fits the requirements.


We are covering:

  1. Black Tie

  2. Formal or Black Tie Optional

  3. Cocktail Attire

  4. Semi-Formal

  5. Festive

  6. Themed/Color Code

We also want to note that we are using men and women interchangeably for the organization and breakdown of each section but we always encourage anyone to where what best fits them and their style. Let's dive in!



For men, black tie attire typically means wearing a tuxedo that consists of a black jacket, black pants with a satin stripe on the side, a formal white dress shirt, a black bow tie, black dress shoes, and black socks.


For women, black tie attire usually means wearing a long formal gown or a dressy cocktail dress, with elegant accessories such as jewelry and high heels.


It's important to note that black tie attire is different from white tie attire, which is even more formal. White tie attire typically requires a tailcoat, white wing-collared shirt, white bow tie, black dress pants, black patent leather shoes, white gloves for men, and a full-length formal gown with long gloves for women.






This is a very similar attire to the black tie attire listed above. This attire is more lenient on men not having to wear a tux and gowns can be floor length or above. For men, a tuxedo or dark-colored suit with a tie or bowtie is typical. For women, mid-length or full-length hemlines for dresses or skirts is common.







For men, cocktail attire usually means wearing a dark suit, dress shirt, and dress shoes. A tie is also typically worn, although it can be optional depending on the specific event.


For women, cocktail attire usually means wearing a knee-length or midi-length dress, a dressy skirt and blouse, or dressy pants with a dressy top. The dress or outfit should be elegant and sophisticated, but not as formal as a full-length gown. Dressy high heels or dressy flats can be worn as well.







For men, semi-formal attire typically means wearing a suit and dress shirt, but without the tie or with a more relaxed tie, such as a bow tie. Dress shoes should also be worn.


For women, semi-formal attire usually means wearing a knee-length cocktail dress, dressy skirt and blouse, or dressy pants and a dressy top. The outfit should be elegant and sophisticated, but not as formal as a full-length gown.



Festive attire is unique to when the couple is getting married. Maybe it is a beach in Mexico so the theme Festive would likely encourage bright colors and patterns. Most of the time, festive themes are on invitations for tropical destination locations or for welcome parties that have a theme. The actual clothing can vary but sticking to cocktail attire "standards" in terms of formality and then you can find clothing pieces within the colors that work for the festive theme.


Themed/Color Code


A themed or color-code dress code for a wedding means that guests are expected to wear clothing that fits a specific theme or color scheme. For example, if the wedding is a destination wedding and has a tropical theme, guests might will be expected to wear clothing that is beachy or tropical, such as linen pants, bright floral prints or colors, etc.


The dress code could also recommend a color code, "all-white" or "all black" needs to be followed to avoid standing out amongst other guests.


Lastly, we can't recommend shopping with Nuuly enough! It's a great way to try on different options and shop for a wedding weekend, especially if you are attending multiple events! Use our link to receive $10 off your first shipment: Shop Nuuly




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