Wedding Guest Style Guide

Modern Urban Fremont Foundry Seattle Wedding

What to Wear

Wedding season is fully upon us here in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s time to dig up your box of shorts, tanks, and sandals.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!  It’s also time to take a look at all the wedding invitations you have on your fridge and check a few things.

  1. Is the date checked off on your calendar and RSVP’d?
  2. Did you get them a gift?
  3. What are you wearing???

Deciphering wedding attire code isn’t all that complicated, but it is important to get it right.  No one wants to show up too over or underdressed on someone else’s big day.  There will be a photographer, and you will be in at least one photo.  Taking a moment to make sure you are going with the right clothes will be appreciated by the wedding couple, and by you when you don’t stand out like a sore thumb.


“Ready for brunch?”

Bailey and Danes Lairmont Manor Wedding. Bellingham Weddin Photographer

Lucky you, you probably already have something in your closet for this one.  This wedding couple isn’t going to anything too over the top and is putting comfort and ease above pomp and circumstance.  Ladies, go for a nice skirt or pants, a blouse or a low-key sweater dress.  Style your hair and do your makeup as usual.  Men, a pair of clean, pressed khaki or gray pants with a button-up or collared shirt works fine.  I like to think of this one as what you’d wear to brunch or church.  Nice, polished, and not over the top.


Semiformal or Dressy Casual

“Drinks at a nice bar.”

I think this is the one women get caught up on.  What is semiformal to you may not be semiformal to another person. Ladies think cocktail dresses, pantsuits, nicer than everyday skirts and tops.  I like to look at fabrics here for guidance.  Cotton is great, but it’s pretty much the definition of casual.  Look for fabrics with a little lace or sparkle, something you’d wear to a nice dinner out with your love.  If you have a cotton dress you love, great, wear it, but jazz it up a little with your accessories or shoes.  Gents, a suit (lighter for daytime, darker for the evening) is what you are looking at here.  Ties are optional if you do choose to wear one, keep it simple and modest.

Destination Wedding/Beach Formal/Island

“Breezy and weather appropriate.”

Our Wedding Day

There are a lot of weddings up here in the PNW that rely on the beautiful surroundings of the mountains and islands for their backdrop.  If your wedding invite includes: destination, beach, or island, then you are going to want to work with the surroundings, not fight against them.  Now, what the heck does that mean?  Ladies should look for formal tea/knee length summer dresses and sensible shoes.  Sandals are your best friend; heels are just going to cause problems and dig into the grass or sand.  Keep your hair and makeup nice but not over the top.  The goal here isn’t to be flashy, instead, rock your inner bohemian goddess.  Just make sure she doesn’t go too crazy.  Men, a light suit or light pants with a crisp button-up is what you are looking for.  Think linen or khaki, fabric that is light and moves well.

Black Tie Optional

“Sophisticated and Seductive”

B. Jones Photography

Now it’s time to get a little fancier.  Black tie optional still gives you a little wiggle room in what you pick.  Ladies, you should be looking for formal cocktail dresses, full-length dresses, or a nice pant suit.  Make-up and jewelry should be a little bolder than before.  That’s the optional part for ladies.  Once you have hit black tie optional, you are expected to wear dark, neutral tones.  Look for dark blue, brown, gray, black or even metallic. Choose a rich color says that you are dressed to impress.  That in mind, if you do choose a full-length dress, a lighter shade can be chosen if the dress is still sophisticated and elegant. Gentlemen, you’re wearing a tie from here on out.  It is also the last time you get to consider a suit instead of a tuxedo.  Either way, you’ll be going dark, too.  You can still wear dark blue or dark gray, but it should be on the very dark side. Two things when picking your attire:

  1.   If you look at your dress and think, maybe it’s a little casual, then it is.
  2. Will this dress stand up against a room full of tuxedos, and possibly ball gowns?

Black Tie

Classic and Formal

For ladies, there isn’t a whole lot of change between this and black tie optional.  You’re still looking for a cocktail or long dresses.  Men, you get to wear the whole works! I’m talking tuxedo, black bow tie, cummerbund or vest, and patent leather shoes.  If it’s the first time wearing a tuxedo since your senior prom, it may feel a little over the top, but you’re going to fit right in.  Besides, how often do you really get to dress to the “nines”?  Embrace it and channel your inner GQ model.  I suggest checking out wedding tuxes here for inspiration and guidance in choosing your tux. 

White Tie Formal

Regal and Overstated

It doesn’t get any fancier than a wedding with a white tie formal dress code.  No cocktail dresses for you ladies, bring out the ball gowns.  White tie formals are few and far between, but if you get invited to one, it’s time to pull out all the stops.  Your hair should be formal and polished, make-up is glamourous and jewelry appropriate to the dress.  It’s hard to go over the top here, but stick true to both your style and the dress code, and you’ll look fantastic.  Gentlemen, along with your tuxedo, you should now be wearing a long jacket complete with tails, a bow tie, white piqued vest and formal shoes.  You have to stand up amongst a room of beautiful ball gowns and not be overshadowed!