Get traditional ideas for what to wear based on formality, no matter your event's time of day or style.
Photography: Britt Chudleigh - Chudleigh Weddings
Even the most modern brides and grooms often find themselves in classic ensembles not so different from those worn by their counterparts generations ago. That's because, when choosing wedding clothes, many couples are guided not only by fashion, but also by convention and a dose of decorum befitting the event. If you're wondering what to wear to your wedding and want to keep with tradition, turn to these attire etiquette tips.
Before we get started, we'll cover a couple of foundational points. First, what you wear will depend on when you're having your event. A daytime celebration (typically less formal) is held before 6 p.m., while an evening wedding (typically more formal) is held after 6 p.m. or begins a bit before and continues well into the night. Second, your dress code will depend on your wedding's style. For example, an evening event in a grand ballroom with a seated multi-course dinner and an orchestra calls for equally impressive attire: for the groom, full dress or white tie; for the bride, perhaps a silk or satin gown with a voluminous skirt and long veil. For an afternoon wedding outdoors with pots of wildflowers, food fresh off the grill, and a lively bluegrass band, a smart suit for him and white sundress for her would be charming. In between, there are countless variations.
Use these "rules" as a starting point to help you decipher your event's formality. But, remember, it's not a single detail that gives a wedding its vibe—it's all of the elements combined. In the end, it's also your big day and you can wear whatever your hearts desire.
Photography: Lauren Jonas
Most wedding dresses could correctly be called formal, but ball gowns paired with cathedral-length veils are generally considered the fanciest. Silk, satin, tulle, or lace are all acceptable fabric options. The distinction between day and evening attire is usually subtle and subjective: Jeweled accents, for example, often lend an evening feel, but just a sprinkling of sparkle may be fine for daytime. Strapless necklines are typically considered best for evening, rather than daytime, events.
Photography: Abby Jiu Photography
At a formal evening wedding, white tie was once the only proper choice; this dashing ensemble, which includes a black tailcoat and trousers worn with a white shirt, waistcoat, and bow tie, is still wonderfully elegant. Later on, gentlemen embraced a more casual alternative: the tuxedo, with its black dinner jacket, trousers, bow tie, and white shirt. Technically referred to as semiformal, the tuxedo, also known as "black tie," has come to be known as the appropriate choice for formal evening weddings. A white dinner jacket can be worn in place of a black one for a wedding in the summer or in a hot climate.
In the daytime, the most formal wedding calls for a morning suit, which includes a gray or black cutaway jacket, gray waistcoat, white shirt, gray-and-black striped trousers, and a striped four-in-hand tie or ascot. Nowadays, though, tuxedos are most common.
Photography: Edward Winter / READYLUCK
A ball gown with a chapel or sweep train and complementary veil is also appropriate for a somewhat less formal event, as are other silhouettes, such as the A-line, empire, and sheath. Elaborate detailing such as beadwork or embroidery can make any gown more (or less) formal, though.
For semiformal to informal events, simply styled dresses in traditional silhouettes worn with short veils or none at all are appropriate. Modern designs, such as halter and slip dresses, and dresses in colors that are far from white usually fall into the same category (though they're occasionally more formal). In the daytime, you can even get away with a shorter dress, depending on its style.
Photography: Nina and Wes Photography
A tuxedo is appropriate for all but the most informal of affairs. That being said, a suit will do, especially for a daytime event.
Swipe here for next slide
Photography: Erich McVey
Whether your informal wedding takes place in the daytime or evening, your outfit is entirely up to you. You might choose a long dress in a fabric such as cotton (we like piqué or Swiss dot) or jersey, or you may wear a chic suit or short dress. Whatever you decide, just make sure that the dress matches the style of the event. You don't want to be overdressed at your own party.
Photography: Kyle John Photography
For an informal wedding, the groom may wear a suit; black and dark colors are more appropriate for evening (and winter) events. Classic ensembles such as a navy blazer and gray flannel or white linen trousers are also popular and stylish. Don't be afraid of fun accessorizes, either. A floral tie, worn with a tan cotton-rayon suit, is a cheerful accent for an outdoor wedding.