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  • Writer's pictureEm Megan

Em Megan for Park and Fifth, shot by Thomas Bullock

When I first started planning our wedding, I thought that it would be a breeze: I LOVE planning events, I’m relatively organized, I have a weird love of colour coding and creating tables, and I love finding thematic decor. Planning itself is great, but wording has got to be the biggest headache of all of this! The wording on invitations, signage, how to ask someone, formalities, seniority, maintaining elegance and tradition, walking the fine line of modernism without offending elders. Language is an art, and the use of language in relation to weddings is incredibly particular. All of a sudden new worries flooded my mind: who knew I could have nightmares about the fear of offending someone with improper address?

And on the thought of ad-dress...Enter dress code. When writing the wedding invitation, I was adamant that we had to include the dress code because I wanted to make sure my wedding guests arrived aesthetically appropriate for the occasion and location. After extensive research (creeping strangers’ weddings), I noticed that the general understanding of wedding guest dress code language was incredibly varied; this inspired me to write this post to help all those of you who need to find an outfit as wedding season approaches.

General sites that tend to have a variety of appropriate attire include (and are not limited to):

Glam for Various Occasions:

Budget Friendly:


When it says: WHITE-TIE

From L-R: Marchesa, Mac Duggal, Alfred Sung

Decoded: The most formal attire possible. For those that like visual cues, think Oscars or meeting the The Queen and the monarchy.


Couture. Floor length formal evening gown - NO ifs, ands, or buts! Upgrade your outfit even further with glamorous jewelry and an elegant clutch.


Required to wear a tuxedo with tails, a formal white shirt, white vest and bow tie, white or grey gloves, formal footwear (this reminds me of Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music)


When it says: BLACK-TIE

From L-R: ASOS, Sabina Musayev, ASOS

Decoded: Evening dress code, with requirements. Think prom or graduation.


Floor length formal evening gown or a dressy cocktail dress. If dresses aren’t your thing, you can wear formal pant suits! Upgrade your outfit even further with glamorous jewelry and an elegant clutch.


Men must wear a tuxedo. A black bow tie, black vest, patent shoes. For summer weddings, white dinner jackets and black tuxedo trousers are also approved.



From L-R: Park and Fifth, Park and Fifth, Zara, Park and Fifth

Decoded: Evening dress code, with flexibility. Doesn’t have to be a long gown or fancy cocktail dress. What you would wear to a Gala. Consider your crowd! This is the wording that I used for my wedding: I want my friends to have fun with their outfits, dress in a way that makes them feel beautiful. It’s not often that you get to glam up, make a night of it!


Floor length formal evening gown or a dressy cocktail dress. If dresses aren’t your thing, you can wear formal pant suits! Upgrade your outfit even further with glamorous jewelry and an elegant clutch.


The option is really only relevant for men. Men have the option of wearing a tuxedo like stated above, or a dark formal suit, white shirt and tie.



From L-R: ASOS, Shona Joy, Lovers + Friends

Decoded: Cocktail dress.


A cocktail dress or dressy skirt-top combination would do. Think about a colour scheme and material that would be appropriate for the season (ie. light and linen or silk for summer, dark and velvet or suede for winter).


A suit and tie, colour can be dark or light depending on the season.


When it says: CASUAL

From L-R: Aritzia, ASOS, Reformation

Decoded: Likely an outdoor forest or beach wedding, laid back vibes.


Even though it’s laid back vibes, jeans, shorts, and tank tops are never acceptable attire for weddings. Sundresses are appropriate, wedges or dressy sandals are great for outdoor weddings, and super comfortable, too!


Even though it’s laid back vibes, jeans, shorts, and tank tops are NEVER acceptable attire for weddings. Dress pants or khaki pants with a collared shirt are recommended. Sports jackets or sweaters are also appropriate ways to add to your outfit if it’s chilly. For footwear, stick to ** tennis shoes and sneakers are not not appropriate.



From L-R: Tobi, Reformation, Lulus

Decoded: The wedding location is likely hot or humid! Dress with caution, if you don’t think it’s dressy enough take your outfit up a notch. Research the climate of the location as well as the actual place the wedding will take place --are there any cultural differences that you need to make note of?


Because of the destination, look for dresses that are cotton or linen but in a fancy silhouette.


Short sleeved button down shirts are appropriate (and on trend). Pair it with dress shorts or khaki shorts and boat shoes.




Okay, this one is controversial. Personally as a bride, it wouldn’t be a complete bridezilla if someone arrived at my wedding wearing a white dress because to me, a white dress doesn’t equate to a wedding dress (you know your girl is gonna be a little extra!). HOWEVER, if someone chose to arrive at my wedding wearing the dress they wore to their wedding, that would be a different story. But for the purpose of this general blog post about what to wear/not wear for a wedding, I can imagine that many brides would not want their guest to wear white on their big day. Yet at the same time, as a guest at my friends’ weddings, I have gotten defensive for the bride (my friend) when guests wore cream or white because I interpreted it as an attempt to “steal their thunder”.

General rule: it’s the bride and groom’s day, if you have to think about whether or not it’s appropriate, it’s probably not.


I know that many people will say this: black does not belong at weddings. HOWEVER, I personally disagree. As you can see, I have shown options for wedding outfits that are black. I think that there are different types of black outfits that are classy, appropriate, and festive! I think black sequins or velvet are luxurious for an evening wedding in the fall or winter months. There are so many variations that can happen, and I would not be irritated if a guest showed up in a black outfit at my wedding. Just as long as it was cool and trendy ;)

Missing the Mark.

I was inspired to write this blog post because I had seen some wedding guests wear JEANS and SNEAKERS to weddings. To me, that would be considered unacceptable considering our venues. Under-dressing is worse than over-dressing. In my mind, weddings are a celebration, not just a dinner party. You dress up to celebrate the bride and the groom.

Another way to miss the mark is to dress like you are ready for the after-party. Yes, in the prior paragraph I wrote that it is a celebration, but you have to be considerate about the type of celebration that it is. Personally, for our wedding, we are going to be going to a club after for the after party, but I hope that doesn’t mean that our guests will be wearing their sequins and minis for the evening event. I’ve attended a wedding where the guest of guests have worn dresses that are more appropriate for Vegas, and it was awkward. When choosing a dress for a wedding event, always err on the side of caution.


To reiterate this message again: it’s the bride and groom’s day. Look good, but don’t steal their thunder. Consider the venue, consider the occasion, and consider the outcome when selecting an outfit. If the outfit can be considered attention-screaming, perhaps save that outfit for future event when it’s more appropriate for all eyes to be on you.


At the end of the day, the most important part of the wedding is the couple that is getting married! As someone currently planning a wedding, the guest list is cutthroat! Remember, you are invited because you are valued to the couple, and honestly, they will likely prefer you to be comfortable and feeling good about yourself, as you celebrate their big day.

(Disclaimer: This post is just a guide for those that want some shopping direction; it can be overwhelming!)


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