What is the definition of formal attire for wedding guests?

Updated February 21, 2017

Weddings are formal occasions, but not every wedding requires guests to dress formally. When the bride and groom include a note on the invitation that the wedding is formal, it is a clue to wedding guests that they are meant to dress up. Since there are different types of formal dress codes for weddings, it is important to understand what the definition is for formal attire so you do not arrive underdressed.

Formal Men's Attire

Formal men's attire for a wedding implies that men should wears some kind of a suit. If the wedding is advertised as black or white tie, men must wear black tuxedos. White tie affairs are the most formal of the two, suggesting that men wear tuxedos with tails as well as white gloves when they are dancing. For black tie optional weddings, men should wear dark suits in black, navy or charcoal. A formal wedding that does not indicate a specific dress code means men should dress in a suit but not necessarily in a dark colour.

Formal Women's Attire

If the invitation announces a white tie wedding, women must wear floor-length ball gowns. A black tie wedding allows women to dress in fancy cocktail dresses or long evening gowns. If you see the words "formal" or "black tie optional" on the invitation, women should wear a long dress, a cocktail dress or a dressy suit. Jewellery is the standard accessory for women when it comes to formal attire for a wedding.

Formal Children's Attire

Children have to follow wedding dress codes, too. Formal wedding attire for the kids include suits for the boys and dresses for the girls. For a white or black tie affair, little boys may be dressed in tuxedos while the girls wear princess-like dresses.

Cultural Formal Attire

Consider the culture of the bride and groom getting married and if their culture mandates a specific type of formal attire. For instance, in certain cultures, the word "formal" on the invitation may mean women or men must dress in clothing that is traditional to their culture and not standar suits and evening gowns. For instance, in East Indian culture, it is formal for the brides to wear saris.

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About the Author

Kyra Sheahan has been a writer for various publications since 2008. Her work has been featured in "The Desert Leaf" and "Kentucky Doc Magazine," covering health and wellness, environmental conservatism and DIY crafts. Sheahan holds an M.B.A. with an emphasis in finance.