Dress Codes Decoded: The Ultimate Wedding Attire Guide

Dress Codes Decoded:
The Ultimate Wedding Attire Guide

RSVP-ing yes to a wedding is easy, but saying yes to a dress that matches the dress code? Not so much. We’ve created the ultimate wedding attire guide to help you decode the invite and de-stress when it comes to what to wear. Even with the rise in creatively named dress codes (i.e. festive casual or summer formal), this guide will help you decipher the basics and find a
look that will work for your next wedding.

Plus, in true fashion form, we’ve tapped our stylists to provide the perfect look for each of these popular wedding attires. Ready to be the best dressed? Here’s every wedding guest dress code you need to know right now.


While a casual wedding dress code may seem self-explanatory, we don’t recommend you pull your favorite jeans out of your closet just yet. Reach for elevated casual pieces like a sundress or a chiffon jumpsuit with sandals that are dressier than flip-flops. For men, opt for khakis or a dress pant and a collared shirt - whether that be a button down or polo. Loafers or a dress shoe will complete his look. If the wedding attire specifies “smart casual,” add heels and statement jewelry to further dress up your wedding guest outfit. Alternatively, the invite may note “festive casual.” This creative dress code is gaining popularity and calls for styles with a little more flair. Seek out details like bright and colorful prints, playful embellishments, and bold accessories, to embrace this unique wedding dress code. For men, a printed tie and sport coat will add a festive touch. These casual wedding guest will fit your next wedding perfectly.


Headed to a destination wedding? Pay special attention to the wedding dress code as well as the climate of the destination. Tropical weddings located beachside call for lightweight fabrics and playful prints. As with the casual dress code, dressier is always better when it comes to wedding guest attire. Skip the mini dresses and opt for mid-length or maxi dresses that will look elevated and prevent any wardrobe malfunctions that can occur on breezy days. It may be tempting to opt for a white dress or a dress that has a white background with a light print, but unless the bride specifies that the color is ok, steer clear of this hue. For men, a printed button down and light colored slacks are the perfect choice. Here are some destination wedding guest looks for women we love.

Semi-Formal/Dressy Casual

When seeking out a semi formal dress or dressy casual look, it’s important to choose a style based on the time of day the wedding will take place. If the ceremony is slated to take place in the afternoon, opt for light or bright colors with minimal details or prints that are dressy but not overly so (i.e. skip beading). An evening ceremony calls for darker hues and richer fabrics. Seek out dresses or jumpsuits that pair well with high heels. Men should wear a dress shirt, slacks, and a tie. A suit jacket is an excellent addition for an evening wedding, but not required. Our stylists can’t get enough of these semiformal wedding guest dresses for women:


It’s not hard to see why cocktail is one of the most popular choices for wedding attire. Slightly more elevated than semi-formal without being over the top, this dress code offers a lot of flexibility for personal style. Women should select a wedding guest dress that has a short to tea-length hem and features fancy details from metallic embroidery to sequins and beading. Cocktail attire for men consists of a suit and tie - though they can play with color and trend details while still remaining appropriate. These are the looks you will love for your next wedding with a cocktail dress code.


While less formal than a black-tie affair, formal wedding attire calls for a floor-length gown, elevated cocktail dress (think styles big on detail), or a very dressy jumpsuit. For men, a suit and tie in dark colors is the most appropriate choice. If the wedding takes place in the evening or the ceremony is set in a church, ensure to bring a wrap or shawl to warm up the look and cover the shoulders in religious settings. Here are wedding guest dresses that are perfect for a formal dress code.


A step above formal, black-tie wedding attire calls for a formal dress that is suitable for evening wear. Evening gowns should be floor-length - short hems are not acceptable. Reach for wedding guest dresses in rich fabrications and details like velvet, organza, and silk. Embellishments are also appropriate including embroidery, beading, sequins, and lace accents. Jumpsuits are acceptable as long as they are crafted from elegant fabrics and boast dressy accents. For men, black-tie weddings call for tuxedos. Tails are not necessary, but formal shoes, bow ties, vests, and cumberbunds are recommended. While men can opt for a white dinner jacket and black tuxedo pants, it’s important to consult with the bride before doing so as the color is traditionally reserved for the bride and groom. These black-tie wedding guest dresses will shine at your next event.


The most formal of all the wedding dress codes, white-tie attire is as dressed up as it gets. Floor-length dresses and evening gowns are a must - short hems are not appropriate. All white-tie gowns are big on details and sophisticated in styling. White-tie attire for men consists of a tuxedo with tails, white shirt, vest, and formal footwear. A bow-tie is the appropriate tie choice for this wedding dress code. Often reserved for major government or royal events - this wedding attire calls for going all out. These dresses will shine for your next white-tie wedding.

Consider the dress code decoded! From black-tie weddings to casual wedding attire and every dress code in between, you are officially an expert. Ready to find your look? Shop Adrianna Papell’s collection of wedding guest dresses here. Still have questions? Email our team at
customerservice@adriannapapell.com and we’d be happy to help.

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