Most wedding invitations either state what style of dress is expected at the event, or they offer at least a hint. If you're in doubt, it is perfectly acceptable to ask.
There are many variables that will determine what you should wear to a wedding. However, there is one rule that applies to everyone. Since white is the traditional bridal color, never wear all white because you do not want to compete with the bride.
You also need to be cautious about wearing beige, cream, ecru, or any other shade of off-white, in case the bride chooses not to wear stark white. However, you may wear a white top with a skirt in a different color. The key is to not look like you're competing with the bride.
Morning and early afternoon weddings are typically more casual, so it is fine to wear a solid color or floral dress, or skirt-blouse-and-sweater combination. Men can wear a suit or slacks, shirt and blazer.
If you are attending a beach wedding, most of the time you may wear a more casual skirt and blouse, slacks and top, or maxi dress, unless otherwise stated on the invitation. Men can wear casual slacks (but not jeans) and a polo with a sport coat.
Evening or nighttime weddings may be more formal. You will want to wear a cocktail dress or suit. Men are expected to wear suits with ties.
If the invitation states that it's a black tie affair, that means the wedding is formal. Men should wear tuxes, and women are expected in floor-length gowns.
However, if it states that it is "black tie optional," men may wear a nice suit, and women may wear cocktail dresses.
Some brides and grooms may prefer to have a themed wedding, so follow the request on the invitation. If you are in doubt about whether or not your interpretation of expected attire is correct, don't hesitate to call the bride, groom, or someone else from the wedding party.
More Wedding Attire Tips
Here are some additional things to consider when deciding what to wear to a wedding:
- Don't show too much skin. If you wear a short dress, cover up the cleavage. If you want to show off your fabulous décolletage, go a little longer. Never wear a midriff revealing outfit to a wedding.
- Don't look like you were poured into your dress. If it's too tight, put it aside to wear to the club.
- Keep your underwear out of sight. A wedding is not the place to show off your sexy, lacy bra.
- Find out what the wedding colors will be and don't wear an exact match to the bridesmaids' gowns.
- Casual does not mean flip-flops and cut-offs. Consider a sundress and sandals during the summer and nice slacks and a blouse during the winter.
- Don't try to outshine the bride. This is supposed to be her day in the limelight, not yours, Go ahead and wear your favorite watches and jewelry but make sure they are not excessive and put the attention on you.
- Leave the wild prints at home. A subtle print or an animal print accessory is fine.
- Make sure your clothes fit and are comfortable for sitting, eating, walking around, and dancing. You don't want to be the person fidgeting with your clothing throughout the ceremony and reception.