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Jan, 24 2024

Types of Wedding Dress Codes for Guests, Explained

A black suit on a mannequin

As a wedding guest, your presence alone enhances the celebration. But you should also fit in by choosing the right clothing style.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What should I wear to a wedding?” The answer depends on the dress code, which is usually indicated on the invitation. For example, black-tie and white-tie events call for formal attire, whereas cocktail or casual apparel is less formal.

Browse suits and tuxedo collections to find the perfect outfit for your event.

Various dress code types you may need to follow at a wedding will be the topic of this article. We’ll tell you the key elements of different types of attire to help you pull off a mesmerizing look.

White Tie

The first wedding dress code men can wear is also the most formal. This dress style is characterized by a full tuxedo and, you guessed it, a white bow tie. Any deviation from this rule clashes with the requested attire. White tie is so formal that it’s typically appropriate for royal weddings and similar high-end celebrations.

Key Elements

Here are the garments that make up a white-tie outfit:

  • Black tailcoat – Your tailcoat should have two swallowtails, and the front should reach your waist. Make sure the garment also has satin-embellished buttons and lapels.
  • White waistcoat – Since cummerbunds are reserved for musicians, you need a white waistcoat for this occasion. Plus, it’s more comfortable, allowing you to move freely. A standard waistcoat has elegant buttons, a lapel, and a satin strap on the back that lets you adjust the garment.
  • White shirt – A traditional white-tie shirt has impeccable white studs, single-folded cuffs, and a wing collar.
  • White bow tie – As previously discussed, a white tie is the trademark of every white-tie wedding. Tie it firmly so that it doesn’t fall off in the middle of the party.
  • Black trousers – Your trousers should match the color and material of your tailcoat. Fit-wise, the legs should be straight and slightly loose (not adhere to your legs like skinny jeans). On no condition should you wear a belt because white-tie trousers should fit you properly without one.
  • Braces - If your trousers are sagging and you can’t find another model, consider white braces. They secure your pants and hide underneath the tailcoat, making them inconspicuous.
  • Opera pumps – Featuring elevated heels, opera pumps can be uncomfortable, especially if this is your first white-tie wedding. However, they’re a staple of any white-tie apparel. The only acceptable alternative is black Oxford lace-ups.


  • Extremely formal weddings
  • State dinners
  • Balls

Black Tie

A man in a black suit sitting at a piano

Since there’s a white-tie dress code, you’re probably thinking, “There must also be a black-tie outfit among all those attire names.” You’re absolutely right.

Black tie is a dress code style that’s slightly less formal than white tie. As the name suggests, the distinguishing feature of this apparel is a black bow tie. Tuxedos are obligatory too.

Therefore, the answer to your question, “Can you wear a tuxedo to a wedding?” is a resounding yes. It’s not only possible, but it’s usually mandatory if you’re attending a black-tie or white-tie celebration.

Key Elements

To make sure you’re dressed suitably for a black-tie wedding, be sure your outfit contains the following elements:

  • Black tuxedo jacket – Like white-tie tailcoats, black tuxedo jackets should have satin pockets, lapels, and buttons for a touch of class.
  • Black waistcoat – The waistcoat is optional, but it can help you create a more cohesive appearance. Just make sure not to wear them with cummerbunds since they’re inappropriate for wedding guests.
  • White dress shirt – Traditionally, guests of black-tie weddings wear white double-cuffed dress shirts with a turned-down collar and cufflinks.
  • Black bow tie – Colorful bow ties aren’t allowed. The only acceptable color for your bow tie is black.
  • Black trousers – Likewise, you shouldn’t experiment with checkered trousers. Stick to a formal black garment with a tapered fit. You can also add a braid on the outside or some satin for extra elegance.
  • Braces (optional) – Since your trousers should be a perfect fit, belts aren’t allowed at black-tie events. Still, you can replace a belt with braces if you simply can’t find a suitable garment.
  • Black patent leather shoes – Shoes are, of course, an essential part of any apparel. Few have said it better than Christian Louboutin: “Shoes transform your body language and attitude. They lift you physically and emotionally. For that reason, only consider the crème de la crème of footwear for this occasion. Black patent leather shoes are perfect due to their sophisticated, durable design.
Looking for the perfect outfit?

If you need a better idea of appropriate black-tie apparel, check out Elliot Grainge’s apparel at his wedding. All the elements are harmonized with one another, and it’s clear that the groom feels at home in his attire. This proves that just because an outfit is formal doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable.


  • Very formal weddings
  • Evening events

Black Tie Optional

Continuing our list of dress codes is black tie optional. At a glance, it may seem like there are no differences between black tie and black tie optional, except for the fact that the latter isn’t mandatory.

However, the reality is slightly different. A black-tie event is somewhat less formal than black-tie celebrations. If you attend a black tie optional wedding, you can express your personal style with a few details.

Key Elements

This is the traditional checklist when choosing garments for black tie optional events:

  • Single-breasted charcoal jacket – Black-tie tuxedo jackets are typically double-breasted. The single-breasted alternative is less formal. Likewise, charcoal is a tad brighter than dark, offering a relatively relaxed look.
  • White dress shirt – When it comes to the shirt, white is the only choice for black tie optional attire.
  • Black or red tie – A tie replaces a bow tie for even more relaxation. Color-wise, red and black are the two most beloved options.
  • White pocket square – Whether you go for a red or black tie, a white pocket square complements the accessory.
  • Charcoal trousers – The trousers should be the same color as the jacket to avoid discrepancies.
  • Charcoal Oxford shoes – Likewise, opt for charcoal Oxford shoes to get a uniform appearance from top to bottom.

Alternatively, you can dress the same as you would for a black-tie wedding. Black tie optional is on the formal side, meaning you can never overdress for this occasion (white tie is still too formal for these events).


  • Formal weddings
  • Evening events

Business Formal

Many people believe business formal weddings are a smidgeon more formal than black-tie or white-tie occasions, but that’s not the case. This clothing style is a slightly relaxed dress code that usually features dark suits and is meant for professional celebrations, not just weddings.

Key Elements

Although business formal is less formal than the first three clothing styles, you still want to ensure you blend in by selecting the following garments:

  • Black, gray, or navy blue suit – These three colors are the safest picks for your suit jacket and trousers.
  • White dress shirt – A white shirt matches any of the three colors of your suit.
  • Black or navy blue tie – Avoid white ties since they’re too formal.
  • Black loafers or Oxford shoes – Both loafers and Oxfords are acceptable for business formal attire.


  • Formal daytime weddings
  • Corporate events

Cocktail Attire

A man in a navy suit walking out of a record store

You must have heard about cocktail dresses a million times, but did you know that the cocktail style can apply to men as well? However, what is cocktail attire for men?

Cocktail attire is the middle ground between formal and casual. If this is the dress code you need to follow, always wear a full suit. However, the fact that no waistcoats, tailcoats, or bow ties are required makes this style less formal than black-tie and white-tie occasions.

Key Elements

While you have some leeway when selecting cocktail attire for men, you still need to follow certain guidelines. In general, a standard cocktail outfit has these elements:

  • Full suit – A full suit consists of a jacket and trousers. Several colors are optional, including black, gray, and navy blue.
  • Dress shirt – After choosing your suit, you should find a matching shirt. White is the standard choice, but feel free to experiment here with patterns and textures since the dress code isn’t too formal.
  • Tie and pocket square – These two accessories are part and parcel of most cocktail wedding outfits for men.
  • Shoes – Both loafers and Oxford shoes are perfectly fine.


  • Evening weddings
  • Cocktail parties

Semi-Formal Attire

Next up on our list of different types of dress codes are semi-formal outfits. There are different versions of semi-casual wedding attire male guests can wear, but let’s start with the definition of this style.

Semi-formal apparel is a tad more formal than cocktail attire and lets you express your style to a greater extent.

Key Elements

The semi-formal dress code is relatively common all year long. It’s a versatile clothing style that works brilliantly well for both indoor and outdoor celebrations. If the couple has taken this alley, wear these elements to honor their wish:

  • Full suit – A full suit is required for semi-formal weddings, but the color variety is greater. Tan, emerald green and burgundy are all viable picks.
  • Dress shirt and tie – Here are a few striking combinations: white shirt/red or green tie, light blue shirt/navy blue tie, pink shirt/navy blue tie.
  • Black or brown shoes – You can wear many different styles (e.g., Oxfords, loafers, brogues) as long as it’s black.


  • Less formal weddings
  • Evening events

Business Casual

 A man in a navy suit

Business casual apparel for men features a suit without a tie or bow tie.

Key Elements

Even after learning the definition, it may be hard to distinguish business formal from business casual. No worries – the most common elements of the business casual dress code will help you distinguish one from the other:

  • Jacket or blazer – Black is the standard pick, but you can also don a green, blue, or gray jacket or blazer.
  • Shirt – Since there’s no tie, feel free to undo the top button to reflect the slightly casual theme.
  • Trousers – The trousers should match the color of the jacket/blazer.
  • Oxfords or loafers – Either works just fine for this occasion.


  • Less formal daytime events
  • Corporate events

Smart Casual

Smart casual falls in the relaxed realm of clothing, but it’s not the same as other casual dress code types. This apparel is typically characterized by sports jackets, patterned dress shirts, dress pants, and professional yet comfortable footwear.

Key Elements

The smart casual dress code is a forgiving style. So, yes, in case you were wondering, “Is there such a thing as a no-tie wedding?” there is. The smart casual style lets you avoid an accessory if you’re not fond of it.

Multiple fashion choices are acceptable, but here are the most popular garments:

  • Blazer or sports jacket (optional) – If you want to blur the lines between casual and formal, go for a sports jacket or blazer.
  • Patterned dress shirt – You can choose any patterned dress shirt here, including checkered garments.
  • Dress pants or chinos – These two are your main options. Jeans might be a bit too informal for this look.
  • Brogue shoes – Brogues work great for smart casual apparel.


  • Relatively casual weddings
  • Rehearsal dinners

Casual Dress Code

A man tying his brown dress shoes

White tie and black tie weddings are super-formal, but what are the different types of dress codes that let you relax your clothing style? The good old casual dress code is the most popular option.

A casual dress code lets you wear a variety of garments. You can dress down, meaning there’s no need to don a suit.

Key Elements

Male guests of a casual wedding generally wear the following clothes to the occasion:

  • Jacket (optional) – Tan and navy blue is the most popular colors for casual jackets.
  • Shirt or T-shirt – That’s right. You can swap out a shirt for a clean, neat T-shirt if you’re attending a casual wedding.
  • Chinos or jeans – Trousers are too formal for this dress code, making chinos and jeans superior.
  • Slip-on or loafers - Likewise, Oxford shoes rarely belong at a casual celebration.


  • Beach weddings
  • Outdoor weddings
  • Daytime events

Dressy Casual

Dressy casual dress codes require you to combine formal and casual in one outfit.

Key Elements

If you want to create a lasting impression with your dressy casual garments, the key elements of your apparel should include:

  • Suit jacket – Whether you pick a plain or patterned jacket, you won’t look out of place.
  • Shirt – You can choose from a myriad of colors, not just black, white, and navy blue.
  • Jeans – This style allows you to replace traditional trousers with jeans for the all-important casual element.
  • Slip-ons or Oxfords – You can choose either, depending on whether you want to emphasize the formal or casual side of your apparel.


  • Trendy weddings
  • Cocktail hours

Festive Attire

Festive attire for men is a clothing style characterized by colorful designs and eye-catching textures. This makes it less formal than white tie and black tie.

Key Elements

Festive attire is another forgiving dress code that lets you emphasize your personal style. Male guests normally do so with the following outfit:

  • Suit jacket and trousers – Any color that comes to mind is appropriate. You can even go for a two-tone jacket and trousers.
  • Dress shirt and bow tie – Again, feel free to experiment here with non-standard colors, like yellow, orange, and pink.
  • Shoes – Any shoe style is allowed, but unlike with previous garments, you should keep your footwear black to contrast other elements.


  • Themed weddings
  • Holiday parties

Outdoor Wedding

The final apparel occasion is unlike other dress code names on this list. No specific term is associated with this apparel. Instead, the venue of the wedding tells you what you should wear.

An outdoor wedding outfit depends on the season. If it’s a summer wedding, the tone is completely relaxed, eliminating the need to wear a suit. If it’s a winter wedding, men traditionally wear suits.

Key Elements

Say your friend, who’s only recently learned the intricacies of wedding styles for grooms, has opted for an outdoor event. This is what you should don for the occasion if it’s summer:

  • Linen shirt – This material is known for its incredible breathability, making it ideal for warmer days. There’s no dress code that dictates the appropriate color, so let your style shine in its full glory.
  • Tan or white pants – Men typically go for bright colors, such as tan and white.
  • Slip-ons – Again, slip-ons are recommended for their breathable design.

By contrast, apparel for an outdoor winter wedding usually looks like this:

  • Navy blue jacket – This is one of the most versatile colors for jackets and isn’t as formal as black.
  • White or black dress shirt – Navy blue works brilliantly well with white and black dress shirts.
  • Navy blue tie and trousers – To ensure a harmonized look, your tie and trousers should be the same color as the jacket.
  • Black Oxford shoes – You can’t go wrong with black Oxfords. They’re a match made in heaven for various events, including outdoor weddings.


  • Beach weddings
  • Garden weddings

Need a Stunning Tuxedo or Suit Without Breaking the Bank?

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Knowing the nuances of various dress code types you might need to follow at a wedding increases your confidence. Understanding the elements allows you to choose the appropriate outfit, regardless of what the invitation says.

The only question now is, where do you find suits or tuxedos to help you execute different dress code options? Look no further than Generation Tux.

Head to our website, and you’ll find a wide range of tuxedo and suit rentals for weddings. Each garment is made of top-quality materials to keep you comfortable throughout the celebration. The suits are also tastefully designed and are available with countless accessories to give you a finished look.

Best of all, you don’t have to buy a single product. By renting a suit or tux, you get to wear the most amazing outfits at a fraction of the price.

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