Wedding Guest Attire 101

It is that time of year when you start getting thick cream-colored envelopes in your mailbox. 

You open them up to find a beautifully calligraphed or embossed letterpress invitation announcing an upcoming wedding.   Isn’t it great to be a wedding guest?  You get to have all the fun of being part of this meaningful celebration without the stress of having to plan and pay for the party!  

If you are like me, one of your first thoughts, after you send back that RSVP card, is “what should I wear to this important occasion?” You want to look nice and stylish, but you don’t want to outshine the couple-of-the-moment.   

The invitation itself can also dictate wedding attire

Often the invitation will include wording to suggest the type of dress you should adopt for this momentous occasion, so do check this.  

It will usually appear on the lower right-hand corner of the invitation or the response card.

Phrases such as “White Tie”, “Black Tie”, “Informal attire”,  or“Cocktail attire” can give you a hint as to what type of outfit is expected.  

The invitation itself can also dictate wedding guest attire:  a formal embossed invitation on heavy card stock says “dress up!” and an informal, fun invitation that the couple did themselves with their computer and color printer can mean “anything goes, as long as you are with us on our special day!”

White tie

If the invitation says “White Tie”, you can expect the fanciest of weddings.  You would, therefore, want to wear a long, formal gown, with your best jewelry, hair, and makeup.  For men, you would rent a long tuxedo with tails, and perhaps a white vest underneath. Top hat and gloves are appropriate.

Black tie

If the invitation says “Black Tie,” you can still expect a glamorous wedding but one step down from “White Tie.”  

Black Tie attire means a stylish cocktail dress or long gown but not a ball gown.  For men, a regular tuxedo (no tails), black bow tie and satin cummerbund would be correct attire.

The next step down would be “formal attire” or “black tie optional.”  A little less posh, but still fancy nonetheless.

For this, women can wear a nice suit, a cocktail dress or a midi-length dress.  For men, go with a simple tuxedo or dark suit and tie.