Suitable for the Occasion

People see weddings as an opportunity to dress up and look their very best. Guests’ clothing should be appropriate to an occasion that is, at its heart, a serious ceremony, and also often one that takes place in a house of worship.

The wedding invitation and the time of the wedding will be your best guide to its formality. Other factors will influence your dress choice:

  • The nature of the service: Is it secular or religious? Does the religion or the culture of the bridal couple require head coverings? Would bare shoulders and arms or open-toed shoes be offensive?
  • Local custom: Some parts of the country are more conservative than others.

Here is a breakdown of what kind of attire is expected for men and women and for different levels of formality:

Formal

Daytime

Women*: Cocktail or dressy afternoon dress.

Men: Dark suit; conservative shirt and tie.

Evening

Women*: Depending on local customs, long evening dress or dressy cocktail dress; gloves optional.

Men: Tuxedo (required if invitation states “Black tie”) or dark suit.

Semiformal

Daytime

Women*: Dressy afternoon dress, suit, or pantsuit.

Men: Dark suit; Blazer, grey flannels, tie.

Evening

Women: Cocktail dress, dressy pantsuit.

Men: Dark suit.

Informal

Daytime

Women*: Afternoon dress; dressy skirt or pants and blouse.

Men: Sports jacket or blazer, slacks, tie optional.

Evening

Women*: Afternoon or cocktail dress.

Men: Blazer, grey flannel or slacks, tie optional.

*Hats or head coverings optional (unless required).