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Wedding Attire, Wedding Tips

Understanding Wedding Dress Codes

Choosing your wedding dress or wedding suit is one of the more stressful tasks when it comes to wedding planning, and believe it or not, it can be just as stressful for your guests to find that perfect ensemble for the big day as well!

That’s why setting a wedding dress code is so important. Yet it can also be a little intimidating, as you’re never quite sure if your guests will understand the dress code you give.

That’s why we’re here! To help your guests understand wedding dress codes and help you decide which is best for your wedding!

wedding gown and neutral bridesmaids dresses hanging on wall hooks

Wedding Dress Codes Explained

First things first, let’s break down the most common wedding dress codes you’ll see on invitations and what each one of them means.

Black Tie

One of the more formal wedding dress codes, and one of the more common for your typical Saturday evening affair. For men, this translates to a tuxedo with a black tie or bowtie, and for women, a formal evening gown or long, elegant dress.

If you want your wedding to resemble the Oscars red carpet, black tie is your vibe.

Note: a tuxedo is not the same as a formal suit.

Black Tie Optional

Men are welcome to don a tuxedo, but are also free to wear a dark suit and tie. Women can opt for a simpler cocktail dress if they choose.

White Tie

Also known as formal, it’s the fanciest and strictest of dress codes.

Reserved for only the most extravagant and traditional affairs, men should wear a black tailcoat, black trousers, a white wing-collared shirt, a white bowtie, and black patent leather shoes. Women should wear full-length formal gowns and high heels.

This one won’t come up on too many invitations.

Cocktail Attire

Here we have a balance between formal and casual. Men should opt for a suit and tie, but you can have more pop of color and patterns. Women can wear knee-length or tea-length dresses, dressy separates, or a stylish jumpsuit.

This is where your staple LBD hanging in the closet comes in handy.


Perfect for an outdoor wedding celebration, a casual dress code is one that feels relaxed (without looking like streetwear). Think sundresses and dressy sandals for women and casual suits or polos and khakis for men.

Semi Formal or Dressy Casual

This is where we start splitting hairs a bit. Think of dressy casual as a relaxed version of cocktail attire but a step up from casual.

Themed Dress Code

If your friends are having a Halloween themed wedding, you might be invited to dress in costume. If you’re the ones planning to have a themed dress code, just be sure it’s something attainable for your guests and also make it clear how “required” it is.

Your guests might not have a problem with a western-themed dress code (cowboy hats aren’t hard to come by), but a Roaring ‘20s flapper dress might be asking a little too much of everyone.

Beach or Destination Wedding

This calls for lightweight and breathable clothing. Linen suits or khakis for men and sundresses for women would suit the bill just fine.

If you’re on the beach, flip flops might be appropriate, just double check with the bride and groom. If they aren’t, avoid the stilettos and opt for dressy flats or wedges.

The bride and groom make their exit with the bride wearing a simple but elegant reception dress.

How to Choose Your Wedding Dress Code

Your wedding venue and wedding date will be the main factors in deciding on your wedding dress code. The venue sets the tone for the whole affair (formal attire doesn’t match a rustic barn, after all) and the date will determine your guests’ comfort level in various fabrics.

For venues that are more of a blank slate waiting to be decorated to your heart’s desire—like Kendall Point—let your wedding décor influence your dress code. If you’re opting for classic, elegant table settings with black and white accents throughout, it sounds like black tie or black tie optional is what you’re leaning toward.

As for the wedding date, a winter wedding is a perfect affair for a black tie or formal dress code because the clothing materials are heavier and you don’t have to worry about your guests overheating.

A summer wedding meanwhile, whether it’s on the beach or not, is a great time for cocktail attire and dressy casual, as the shorter dress lengths and lighter suit fabrics will be more appealing to your guests.

The time of day is another important factor. Evening affairs typically scream formal or cocktail attire while daytime weddings are more casual. Finally, you’ll want to think about how much time you’ll be spending indoors vs. outdoors.

When deciding on your dress code, think first about what your bridal party will be wearing and go from there. The suits and dresses chosen for your groomsmen and bridesmaids should reflect the wedding dress code.

You’ll also want to think about how formal your wedding gown is and what your groom will be wearing. Of course you want to be the ones standing out, but if your groom won’t be wearing a tux, you might not want to ask your guests to.

While it may seem like too many things factor in to make this an easy decision, there’s no reason to overcomplicate things. Let your wedding planner or even your venue coordinator guide you, and remember, the only wrong wedding dress code is no dress code at all.

Bride throws her bouquet during her Friday wedding reception at Kendall Point.


What Not to Wear to a Wedding

We all know wearing white to a wedding—whether it’s a dress or jumpsuit—is not appropriate. White, off-white, pearl, ivory, nothing in that family.

Following the dress code is the first step in deciding what to wear to a wedding. If the invitation says black tie, don’t pack the sundress or the brown suit.

You also don’t want to match the bridal party, so for women, don’t go with anything that resembles a classic bridesmaid dress (or an old bridesmaid dress you’re still holding onto). The invitation or wedding website colors should give you some idea on the color palette for the big day, so try to avoid matching that.

A newer trend you might have noticed, on celebrities at least, is super revealing wedding guest attire. This is a no because you’re taking attention away from the happy couple. Of course you look amazing, but this is not your time to shine.

Finally, even when the invitation says “casual,” always err on the dressier end of the spectrum. This isn’t everyday casual; it’s wedding casual.

If you’re not sure if your chosen outfit is appropriate, ask the couple! And if you’re the one getting married and want to make things a little easier on your guests, add a note on your wedding website about what color and style the bridal party will be in.

And don’t forget to tell your guests if you’re planning to switch into a reception dress or more comfortable shoes for the reception (so they know they can too).

And if you’re a bride planning to wear a wedding dress not in the white family, definitely let your guests know so they don’t show up in the same color!

bride and groom having a private dance on the outdoor terrace under string lights

Let Kendall Point Be Your Guide

Other than your partner, you can’t really choose your dress code—or anything wedding-related—until you’ve locked down the venue.

Enter Kendall Point in Boerne, Texas.

Our stunning venue is just waiting to be transformed for your dream wedding. Our elegant ballroom can be dressed up or down to match your wedding dress code, and we’re the perfect setting for a wedding in any season.

Schedule your in-person or virtual tour today.


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