What is formal attire for a wedding?

Updated February 21, 2017

If you've been invited to a wedding and the dress is formal attire, then this is typically indicated on the wedding invitation. If you're not familiar with the proper attire etiquette for formal wedding attire, it may be time to get up to speed on what it is appropriate and what may not be appropriate.

Time Frame

One of the primary indicators on what you can wear to a formal attire wedding depends on the time of day the wedding is taking place. Formal attire obviously differs between men and women, but it also varies according to whether it is an afternoon or evening wedding.

Day for Her

For a formal wedding that takes place in the morning or afternoon, women can wear a short length dress or a suit. Pantsuits, as well as skirt suits, are acceptable for women. As accessories, hats and gloves are also appropriate attire for a formal daytime wedding. Short gloves, rather than long, opera-length gloves, are worn during formal daytime weddings.

Night for Her

For an evening wedding or a wedding whose invitation indicates black-tie attire, long dresses are typically worn. Short cocktail dresses can also be worn, but these are usual more ornate (with beads, rhinestones or other details). A wrap as an accessory is also appropriate. Ultra-formal evening weddings can warrant furs, diamonds and large jewel accents as part of a formal ensemble.

Day for Him

For a formal daytime wedding, men should wear a dark suit and a tie. For wedding invitations that indicate the dress is black tie, men should dress in a tuxedo. However, afternoon weddings or weddings that take place earlier in the day do not typically require wearing a tuxedo.

Night for Him

Evening weddings that require formal attire require a tuxedo. Generally, black tuxedos are considered the most appropriate colour, but you men may opt for other tuxedo colours as well. For ultra-formal weddings, men can choose a black tuxedo with a white tie, matching white vest and white shirt.


When dressing children in formal attire, tuxedos are generally not appropriate for young boys. A boy's suit or tuxedo-style suit with shorts in lieu of trousers is more appropriate. Longer dresses are appropriate style dresses for younger girl wedding guests.

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About the Author

Kristie Lorette started writing professionally in 1996. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and multinational business from Florida State University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. Her work has appeared online at Bill Savings, Money Smart Life and Mortgage Loan.