What to Wear to a Wedding in 2023: The Ultimate Guide to Formal Attire

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what is considered formal attire for a wedding

Typical Dress Codes for Weddings

Wedding dress codes can vary depending on the formality of the event and the preferences of the couple. However, there are some common dress codes that you may encounter when attending a wedding:

  • Casual: This dress code is usually reserved for daytime or outdoor weddings. Men can opt for khakis or dress pants with a button-down shirt, while women can wear sundresses or skirts with blouses.
  • Semi-formal: This dress code is appropriate for most weddings. Men should wear suits or dress pants with a button-down shirt and tie, while women can choose cocktail dresses or elegant separates.
  • Formal/Black tie optional: This dress code indicates a more formal affair. Men can wear tuxedos or dark suits, while women have the option of wearing long evening gowns or formal cocktail dresses.
  • Black tie: This is the most formal dress code for weddings. Men should wear tuxedos with formal accessories like bow ties and cummerbunds, while women can opt for floor-length gowns or sophisticated cocktail dresses.

Choosing the Right Dress Code

When deciding what to wear to a wedding, it’s important to consider the venue, time of day, and any specific instructions from the couple. If in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of being slightly overdressed rather than underdressed.

Tips for Decoding Dress Codes:

  • Read the invitation carefully: The couple may include specific instructions about attire on their wedding invitation.
  • Consider the venue and time of day: A beach wedding will have a different dress code than a formal church ceremony.
  • Ask for clarification: If you’re unsure about the dress code, don’t hesitate to reach out to the couple or a member of the wedding party for guidance.

Defining Formal Attire for a Wedding

Formal attire for a wedding typically refers to dress code requirements that are more elegant and sophisticated than casual or semi-formal attire. It is important to understand the specific guidelines set by the couple or the wedding venue when determining what constitutes formal attire for a wedding. Generally, formal attire for men includes a tuxedo or a dark suit paired with a dress shirt, tie, and formal shoes. For women, formal attire often involves wearing floor-length gowns, cocktail dresses, or dressy separates.

Understanding Dress Codes

When it comes to formal attire for weddings, there are different dress codes that may be specified on the invitation. These can include black tie, white tie, or even specific themes like vintage or black and white. It is essential to pay attention to these instructions as they provide valuable guidance on what is considered appropriate for the occasion.

Tips for Choosing Formal Attire

  • Select clothing made from high-quality fabrics such as silk, satin, or velvet.
  • Avoid overly revealing outfits and opt for more modest styles.
  • Consider the season and location of the wedding when choosing your attire.
  • Accessorize with tasteful jewelry and appropriate footwear.

Guidelines for Choosing Formal Attire for a Wedding

Choosing the right formal attire for a wedding can sometimes be challenging. However, following some guidelines can help ensure you look stylish and appropriate on this special day. Firstly, consider the time of day and location of the wedding as these factors can influence your outfit choice. For daytime weddings, lighter colors and fabrics may be more suitable while evening weddings often call for darker hues and more luxurious materials.

Matching the Dress Code

It is crucial to adhere to the specified dress code on the wedding invitation. If it states black tie, men should wear tuxedos and women should opt for floor-length gowns or elegant cocktail dresses. For a white tie dress code, men should wear tailcoats and women should choose formal ball gowns.

Personal Style Considerations

  • Choose an outfit that reflects your personal style while still adhering to the dress code.
  • Consider your body type and select a silhouette that flatters your figure.
  • Experiment with different colors and patterns to find what suits you best.

Options for Men’s Formal Attire at Weddings


One of the most popular options for men’s formal attire at weddings is a tuxedo. A classic black tuxedo with a white dress shirt and black bowtie is a timeless choice that exudes elegance and sophistication. Tuxedos are typically reserved for evening weddings or those with a black-tie dress code. They can be rented from formalwear shops or purchased for those who attend formal events frequently.


Another option for men’s formal attire at weddings is a suit. Suits come in various colors and styles, allowing men to express their personal style while still looking polished and appropriate for the occasion. Navy blue, charcoal gray, and black are common suit colors for weddings. It’s important to choose a well-fitted suit that complements the individual’s body shape.

Appropriate Formal Dresses for Women Attending a Wedding

Cocktail Dresses

Cocktail dresses are a popular choice for women attending formal weddings. These dresses typically fall just above or below the knee and come in various styles, colors, and fabrics. When choosing a cocktail dress, it’s essential to consider the wedding theme, venue, and time of day. Opting for elegant designs with tasteful embellishments can ensure an appropriate look.

Long Evening Gowns

For more extravagant or black-tie weddings, long evening gowns are an excellent choice. These floor-length dresses exude glamour and sophistication while adhering to the formality of the event. It’s important to choose a gown that flatters one’s body shape and complements the wedding color scheme if possible.

Avoiding Specific Colors or Patterns in Formal Attire for Weddings

Bright Neon Colors

When it comes to formal attire for weddings, it’s generally best to avoid bright neon colors. These vibrant hues can be distracting and may draw attention away from the couple getting married. Opting for more subdued and elegant colors such as navy blue, burgundy, or pastel shades is a safer choice.

Loud Patterns

Avoiding loud patterns is also advisable when selecting formal attire for weddings. While patterns can add visual interest to an outfit, it’s important to choose ones that are subtle and not overpowering. Simple prints like pinstripes or small floral designs can be tasteful options.

Is it Acceptable to Wear Black to a Formal Wedding?

Wearing black to a formal wedding has become widely accepted in recent years. Black exudes sophistication and elegance, making it a popular choice for both men and women attending formal events. However, it’s essential to consider the couple’s preferences and the overall theme of the wedding. If the couple has specified a dress code that excludes black, it’s best to respect their wishes and choose another color.

The Role of Minimalistic Accessories in Formal Wedding Attire

Minimalistic accessories play an important role in completing the look of formal wedding attire. For men, this may include a classic wristwatch, cufflinks, or a pocket square that adds a touch of refinement without being overly flashy. Women can opt for delicate jewelry pieces such as pearl earrings or a simple pendant necklace. The key is to choose accessories that enhance the overall outfit without overpowering it.

Cultural or Regional Variations in Formal Attire for Weddings

Kimonos in Japanese Weddings

In Japanese weddings, traditional attire often includes kimonos. The bride may wear a white kimono for the ceremony and change into a colorful kimono for the reception. Men may wear a kimono called a montsuki with hakama pants. These traditional garments reflect the cultural heritage of Japan and add a unique touch to formal wedding attire.

Kilts in Scottish Weddings

In Scottish weddings, men often wear kilts as part of their formal attire. Kilts are made from tartan fabric, which represents different clans or families. The groom and his groomsmen typically wear matching kilts, while female guests may opt for dresses in colors that complement the chosen tartan pattern. This cultural variation adds a sense of tradition and pride to Scottish weddings.

Striking the Right Balance Between Style and Formality in Wedding Attire

When it comes to wedding attire, striking the right balance between style and formality is crucial. While it’s important to adhere to any specified dress codes or guidelines, individuals can still incorporate their personal style into their outfits. For example, men can choose suits with unique textures or subtle patterns, while women can opt for dresses with interesting cuts or details. The key is to ensure that the overall look remains elegant and appropriate for the occasion.

In conclusion, formal attire for a wedding typically includes elegant and sophisticated clothing such as suits or tuxedos for men, and cocktail dresses or evening gowns for women. It is important to adhere to the dress code specified by the couple or follow traditional wedding etiquette to ensure appropriate and respectful attire for this special occasion.

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