BE Group Productions | Wedding Dress Codes and What They Really Mean
Guest Etiquette

Wedding Dress Codes and What They Really Mean

So you’ve got an invitation to a wedding and are excited to celebrate. You scan the invitation and mentally lock in the important details – date, location, RSVP and… dress code? You wouldn’t be the first person to reach this particular item and wonder exactly what it means and what you are going to wear.

Let us take away the confusion by listing the various dress codes commonly used for weddings and exactly what they mean. You’ll be prepped to nail the outfit brief every time!

Black Tie

A commonly used dress code, black tie is one that most of us have heard of. It refers to a formal dressing style, where women are traditionally expected to wear floor-length gowns and men a complete tuxedo. In modern times, cocktail dresses or a sophisticated pantsuit may also be acceptable for women if the event is deemed on the slightly less formal side. Men can also choose to wear a black bowtie and vest or a white dinner jacket.

White Tie

White tie is at the top of formal dressing (even above black tie) – nothing gets fancier than this. Floor-length evening gowns are a must and should be complemented by elegant heels and jewelery. For men, the expectation is a tuxedo with tails, paired with a bow tie, vest and white shirt. There’s no overdressing when it comes to white tie!


In case black-tie versus white tie wasn’t confusing enough, let’s add ‘formal’ into the mix! While both of the previous dress codes are considered formal dressing, there is a category for formal all on its own. This dress code is actually the least formal of the formal dress codes – think dressy, but with flexibility. Floor-length gown? Absolutely. Fun, short cocktail dress? No problem. Elegant, tailored pantsuit? Go for it! Men can wear a tuxedo or a standard suit, and will fit in seamlessly either way.


Semi-formal, or dressy casual, is a little more flexible when it comes to wedding dressing. In a nutshell, you still want to look nice and make an effort, but there are no strict rules you have to adhere to. Floor-length, midi, cocktail – the choice is yours! Stiletto, wedges, a chic pair of flats – whatever you’re most comfortable in! For the men, you also have some flexibility. Jacket, no jacket. Long tie, bow tie, no tie. It’s up to you! As long as you don’t go too casual, the possibilities are endless.


One of the most popular, if not the most popular, dress codes for weddings is cocktail. It’s the ultimate balance between fun and classy, offering the perfect option for day to night dressing. Guests have the opportunity to dress up while still being comfortable. Women are typically expected to wear shorter frocks, either knee-length or midi, while men will need to wear a suit and tie. Cocktail is the perfect way to cover all bases, making it a great option for couples having a ceremony in the day and a reception at night.

Come As You Are

Clear dress codes can be confusing at the best of times, but ‘come as you are’ takes the cake. Many people are unsure where they should even begin, and for good reason. Come as you are straight out of bed? Come as you are following a session at the gym? Come as you are from a day at the office? Couples who use this dress code usually don’t want their guests to be inconvenienced. They’re trying to communicate that there’s no need to buy a new fancy suit or dress or shoes, all they want is your presence! However, their act of kindness can quickly cause more stress than simply dictating dressing expectations.

We’re here to remind you that while come as you are can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Take into consideration the type of wedding (a beach wedding is likely to be more casual than one held in a church or fancy venue) and the clothes that you will feel most comfortable in. These factors will guide you in your outfit selection so you can get it right and enjoy the celebrations.


Got any outfit tips for other wedding guests? Seen a dress code that we’ve missed here? Let us know in the comments below!

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