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Wedspiration > Advice > Wedding Dress Codes: What To Wear And When To Wear It
Wedding Dress Codes: What To Wear And When To Wear It
Have you ever received a wedding invitation and wondered WTF you’re supposed to wear when the dress code says ‘smart casual’ or ‘seasonal’. Here are your answers.
Words by Karina Lowndes
12 November 2020

Got a vision of your wedding day vibe and not sure what dress code it lands under?  Or have you ever received a wedding invitation and wondered WTAF you’re supposed to wear when the dress code says ‘formal’ or ‘semi-formal’ or ‘casual’ or ‘smart casual’? It can be so confusing. Aren’t ‘black tie’ and ‘formal’ the same thing? And does ‘seasonal’ mean you can’t wear long sleeves in summer?

Choosing a dress code is an important decision, and once you have decided on one (and your invites are out), it’s locked in. As guests we’ve been stumped more than a few times too, so we decided to tackle this confusing topic head on. And hey, we’ll jump at the chance to drool over some potential new wardrobe buys and guys in suits any day.

Scroll down to the bottom for some solid advice from our team.

Dress code: BLACK TIE
Things will be very sophisticated and fancy. Brush your teeth (twice).
Women should wear: A full length gown and heels.
Men should wear: A black tuxedo, bow tie and patent leather shoes.

Wedding dress code black tie
Wedding dress code black tie gown


Dress code: FORMAL
Translation: Still sophisticated and fancy but you’d probably be forgiven for saying g’day instead of good evening.
Women should wear: A full length gown, classy separates, midi-length cocktail dresses, formal jumpsuits and heels.
Men should wear: A black tuxedo or suit and tie/bow tie.

Wedding dress code formal
Wedding dress code formal dress


Dress code: COCKTAIL
Translation: Dress for a good time but keep it classy.
Women should wear: An elegant dress, separates or jumpsuit and heels.
Men should wear:
A suit and in most instances, a tie. Smart trousers and a blazer are also acceptable.

Wedding cocktail attire
Cocktail wedding suit


Dress code: SMART CASUAL
Translation: Things will be a little more relaxed so almost anything goes but use an iron and don’t dress like a porn star.
Women should wear:
Skirts, dresses, trousers and blouses. Flat shoes are okay.
Men should wear:
A collar, trousers and a jacket or sweater.

Smart casual wedding dress code
Smart casual wedding dress code


Translation: It’s time to get glam and enjoy the good life.
Women should wear:
Luxury resort wear such as floaty dresses, linen, feminine two-pieces etc.
Men should wear:
Linen shirts, shorts, chinos, boat shoes.

Destination wedding attire
Destination wedding dress code


Dress code: CASUAL
Translation: You’re there for a good time, not a long time so wear whatever you’re comfortable in (sans track pants and thongs, we’re a civilised species).
Women should wear: Casual dresses, skirts, blouses, trousers, jumpsuits etc. Flat shoes are fine.
Men should wear: Short-sleeve shirts, chinos, boat shoes.

Casual wedding dress code
Casual wedding dress attire


Dress code: SEASONAL
Translation: Wear something weather appropriate and comfortable.
Women should wear:
Something floral in spring and light fabrics like linen in summer. It’s also okay to show a little more skin. In autumn and winter, something warm and neutral toned. 
Men should wear:
Floral/patterned shirts and shorts in spring, light-coloured linen shirts in summer, pants, jackets, hats and scarves in the cooler months.

Spring wedding attire
Spring wedding dress ideas

Here are some of our hot tips:

  • You will be standing for hours, so for this one think about practicality and the type of wedding you are attending. e.g. if the wedding is outdoors on grass, opt for a wedge or block heel instead of a stiletto.
  • Most weddings will not allow dancing without your shoes on due to the risk of injury, so consider this when deciding on your comfort levels too. If you decide because, farrrshion, that 10cm heels are a must, why not chuck a pair of flats in your bag? It’s the worst when you have to cut your DF time short due to painful feet.
If you’re the couple:
  • Make sure you don’t choose a dress code that is too specific that would require your guests to buy an entirely new outfit or for them to hunt for an obscure item. A fab guide is best.
  • Consider the time of year you’re getting hitched in when deciding on your dress code (for both yourselves and your guests). e.g. If you’re planning on getting married in the height of summer, black tie and tuxedos aren’t the best mix for a 35 degree day.
If you’re the mother-of-the-bride or mother-of-the-groom:
  • Don’t wear anything that looks like a wedding dress!
  • Consider what the other mother might be wearing.
  • Consider what the bridal party is wearing if you want to wear something complimentary.
If you’re a guest:
  • As a general rule, don’t wear white unless asked.
  • If you’re on a budget or just have a string of weddings over a month or two (hello late twenties) consider hiring a dress or suit instead of buying something new. Check out dress hire companies like Glamcorner and The Volte where you can hire designer dresses for a quarter of the price of buying brand new.
  • Find out what the bridesmaids are wearing – with so many mainstream fashion labels doing bridesmaid-worthy dresses, we’ve seen a lot of awkward double-ups.
  • Respect the dress code. Eg. If the invite says ‘black tie’ don’t wear a tight mini dress.


Hero image by Lucie Weddings.


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