Cracking the Wedding Dress Code What to wear to different kinds of weddings

So you’ve reached a “certain age” and you find yourself flooded with wedding invitations. If you find yourself at a loss when you get to the dress code, look no further. Our comprehensive guide breaks down exactly what to wear, no matter the formality of the event.

Dress Codes



What it means: While this dress code is the easiest to dress for, it can also be the easiest to take too far. Jeans are still an absolute no. Instead, think along the lines of your business casual attire. This dress code is likely if the venue is outdoors or at the beach. Maintain more formal wares but wear it in a lighter fabric like seersucker or linen. 

What to wear: Light colored suits, button ups, chinos, brown dress shoes or derby shoes

Dress it up: Add formality in the shoes and add a tie. These two touches will go a long way in making you look more put together.

Dress it down: Proceed with caution, as this is already the least formal attire. A linen suit with no tie is your best bet for looking dapper but still feeling comfortable. Loafers are also a great go-to for a less formal event.

Semi-formal or Dressy Casual


What it means: This is by far the most confusing (and most common) dress code. Before we get into the details, we’ll be upfront with our opinion — it’s always better to be overdressed than under dressed. A nice suit and shoes will get you compliments, while khakis and a standard button up might attract some side eye stares. 

What to wear: A dark or light suit, standard tie, black or brown shoes

Dress it up: Keep it more formal with the dark suit (black, navy, bottle green, etc.) and black shoes. With this getup, you’ll definitely be on the “Best Dressed” list at the end of the night.

Dress it down: If the event is during the day or at a less formal venue, go ahead and go with a lighter fabric or a colored suit with your brown dress shoes. We suggest sticking with the three-piece if you’re going with a lighter color. If you get too warm on the dance floor, you’ll still look put together with a light vest on.

Formal or Black Tie “Optional”


What this means: With this attire, there’s some ambiguity, but not a lot. This attire will likely be called for if you’re attending a ceremony at a nicer venue, and still requires a more dapper ensemble than what you would wear to your 9-to-5. 

What to wear: A dark suit, bow tie, standard tie, black dress shoes

Dress it up: Go with the bow tie instead of the standard. It will up your style game in the most subtle way.

Dress it down: If you feel more comfortable with formal than black tie, try an unconventional suit color like bottle green or burgundy to get away from the penguin look. If you’re wearing a three-piece suit (and you should be wearing a three-piece suit), taking the jacket off can also dress down your look. 

Black Tie


What this means: The most standard for a formal affair, black tie is a step up from your usual wedding garb. Expect to see this for evening ceremonies or at particularly nice venues. Your clothing should be well taken care of and well fitting. If it seems likely you’ll get invited to quite a few ceremonies with this dress code, and you aren’t up for a tuxedo, we suggest investing in a bespoke suit

What to wear: A tuxedo, a dark suit, bow tie, black dress shoes

Dress it up: Go with the tuxedo instead of the suit. Yes, you’ll be committed to being one of the more dressed-up people in the room, but the invite specifically called for formality.

Dress it down: One way to go a little less dressy is swapping out the bow tie for something standard. If you know the couple well and think they would approve of it, you can lessen the formality with a navy suit as opposed to traditional black.

White Tie


What this means: This is the most formal of dress codes, so unless you’re friends with royalty it’s pretty unlikely you’ll see this attire on any invites. This is also the most structured dress code, with specific rules on what is and is not appropriate for a man to be wearing. 

What to wear: A tuxedo, a black jacket with tails, white vest, bow tie, black dress shoes

Dress it up: The only way to dress this look up is with a monocle.

Dress it down: Dressing it down isn’t really an option with white tie attire. If you do find yourself at a royal wedding, stick to to our recommendation. 

Keep In Mind

Avoid the colors on the invitation

The last thing you want to do is show up to the ceremony looking like a member of the wedding party. If the font is lavender, this may not be the day to pull out your matching tie.

Mind the venue

This is the biggest give away of how formal you should go on those messy labels like semi-formal or dressy casual. If it’s held at a country club with a two year waiting list, you probably need to be in a three-piece suit. On the other hand, if it’s held in an arts district or other up-and-coming area, there’s some room for creativity in your dress.

Mind the couple

You’ve been invited to this wedding because you probably know these people pretty well. If your buddy’s fiancée will have a meltdown because you’re wearing navy instead of black, step up your style game. If the couple is more laid back, your wedding wardrobe can be as well