Wedding Dress Codes and How to Abide

When you receive an invitation to a wedding the chances are it will include a dress code and possibly two different dress codes for the main event and for the evening reception so it’s important that you know what they mean and how to follow them.

Wedding Dress Codes and How to Abide

Not every wedding will have a dress code so it’s always worth checking with the groom what his expectations are for guests who will be attending as it’s also possible the groom won’t understand what the dress codes really mean.

For this post we asked the team behind Dobell – an online source of fashionable menswear; and they gave us an easy guide to what the wedding dress codes mean and how to abide by them:

Smart casual
Smart casual means the wedding is going to be a fairly relaxed event and provides you with a broad range of clothing choices however for men it doesn’t mean jeans but more like chino trousers with a smart shirt and an optional jacket. Don’t wear trainers either, go for brogues or loafers with your smart casual outfit.

Cocktail dress code
Cocktail dress code is semi-formal and can be fun and creative but is more formal than a smart casual dress code. For men it means wearing a suit, generally a dark colour such as navy or charcoal, with a white or single colour shirt and tie.

An evening wedding certainly needs a dark suit and muted shirt, whereas an afternoon wedding could give more leeway when it comes to colours and patterns but if you have any doubt as to what’s appropriate, check with the groom.

Jacket and tie dress code
This is another code for a semi-formal wedding and requires men to wear a suit jacket with a tie, as the name implies. It can either be a matching suit or, in this situation a smart blazer and tie, teamed with a pair of smart chinos would also be acceptable.

Lounge suit dress code
This one can be confusing for men but it just means a formal suit with waistcoat, shirt and tie so is a step above jacket and tie dress code in the formality stakes. It’s a dress code which applies mainly to day time weddings.

Morning suit
A very formal daytime event might require the guests to wear morning suits in which case you need to don a full tailcoat, waistcoat and trousers. This would be a very formal dress code and the wedding would need to be taking place before 4.30pm for this to apply.

Formal dress code
A formal dress code requires men to wear a traditional dark coloured suit, conservative tie and white shirt. For an evening event a tuxedo can be appropriate as well. It’s another way of saying black tie optional meaning guests need to be formal but not necessarily full black tie.

Black tie
Black tie is the most formal dress code for an evening wedding and requires men to wear a black tuxedo with a bow tie.

White tie
This is quite an unusual dress code but is also known as full evening dress. With this dress code a man needs to wear trousers with satin sides, an evening tailcoat which is double-breasted, a white waistcoat and bow tie.

Clothing optional

This unusual dress code is generally reserved for nudist weddings so that non-nudist guests can decide if they feel comfortable naked or would rather wear clothes. There is no guidance as to what kind of clothes can be worn so it might be worth checking with the groom.

No dress code

Sometimes you might be invited to a wedding which doesn’t have a dress code at all and in some ways this makes deciding what to wear even more challenging. In this case perhaps seek some advice from the groom about expectations and then go for an outfit which you think is appropriate. However casual the event might be, it’s always better to err on the side of formal as you can always remove a jacket and tie, but it’s harder to dress up jeans and a t-shirt if you get it badly wrong.


Following a wedding dress code is important for the bride and groom as it means all their guests will look smart in the photographs and everyone will fit in with their chosen theme. There might also be guidance from their venue as to what type of clothing people are permitted to wear so bear in mind it might not be the bride and groom dictating the dress code, but the wedding reception venue.

As long as you abide by the dress code, which should be easy now you have our quick and easy guide, you will be fine and will be able to work out what to wear to every type of wedding event and venue without any difficulties at all.