What to Wear to Your Next Wedding: Dress Codes Decoded and Avoiding Faux Pas

Receiving an invitation to an upcoming wedding is always exciting however many guests will be left pondering upon reading their invite ‘what do I wear’ or ‘what does that mean’.  Decoding the difference between each dress code is never really as straight forward as it might seem. To make sure you’re dressed appropriately we’re providing you with our fool proof guide to avoiding any dreaded wedding day faux pas.

wedding style

Paying attention to the wedding invitation is the first step and probably the most important. Bridal couples usually illustrate the formality of their big day through the style of invitation they send. If the dress code is not specifically stated or requested take note of the invitations design, font style and the weddings details. The location of the wedding and the time of day it is being held are all clues to help you to decipher the dress code.

While some people will never ever wear black to a wedding it has become more socially accepted of late for guests to don this non-traditional wedding colour especially at evening weddings. Wearing black is ok however try to break it up a little with some colour or opt for something that doesn’t look too heavy and like you are attending a funeral.  Opting for soft fabrics will help with this.

A wedding is not the occasion to sport plunging necklines or ultra mini skirts and dresses. Not that you need to be ultra conservative and covered up but it is considered inappropriate to have a large amount of flesh on show at a wedding. Therefore it is best to save any daring or slightly risqué outfits for another occasion.

Wearing white to a wedding has always been off limits through the notion of upstaging the bride or stealing her limelight. While some brides will still deem it disrespectful to wear white on their big day as with black this is also gradually becoming more acceptable. If you do want to wear white it is always wise to run this by the bride first to avoid stepping on any toes.

No denim ever, simply put jeans are a big no-no for weddings, no exceptions. The same goes for thongs and runners. The bridal couple will have gone to great lengths to put on their special day so it is essential that you pay the wedding and the couple respect by dressing appropriately.

As a general rule for all weddings and special events if in doubt it is always better to overdress than underdress.

wedding guests dress codes

What the Dress Codes Mean

Black tie

Is the most popular formal dress code requested for evening weddings and befits lavish affairs. Oozing elegance black tie weddings request guests to wear their absolute best.

Women:  floor length gowns or elegant cocktail dresses usually in luxe fabrics.

Men: Black tuxedo, bow ties and white shirts.


Suggests somewhere between formal and semi-formal attire for an evening wedding. Couples may also list ‘black tie optional’ which means that it is less formal than black tie however that type of attire would not be out of place.

Women: Knee length dresses, skirts, pant suits or dressy jumpsuits are acceptable.

Men: Black dinner suit paired with a tie

Lounge Suit

Normally refers to semi- formal attire for day/afternoon weddings, think lighter colours and fabrics.

Women: knee length dress

Men: Generally suits in navy, grey or lighter tones are accepted

Smart Casual

Is generally used for informal weddings and can be either day or night, it is slightly more formal than merely requesting ‘casual’ attire.

Women: A sweet dress, skirt or trousers works well. For day weddings flats and wedges are fine.

Men: Collared shirt with trousers or casual slacks, this means no jeans and a jacket or tie is optional.

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