A Cheat Sheet to Wedding Guest Attire

June 18, 2020
A Cheat Sheet to Wedding Guest Attire

Black tie, formal, semi-formal, cocktail, mountain chic, casual. With so many wedding styles out there, hitting the right note with attire can be confusing. To ensure you show up dressed to impress, or at least, in the right attire, we’re providing you with a little cheat sheet that explains what guest attire really means.

Where the Dress Code is Listed

Not sure how to dress for your high school friend’s backyard wedding or your college roommate’s mountaintop I do ceremony? While not every couple opts to specify dress code, if they do, there are three places you can typically find the information:

The bottom of the wedding invitation.

A separate details card (pictured below): an Aspen bride addressed the dress code and kid policy on a separate details card that accompanied the invitation.

On the wedding website.

If you can’t locate the dress code, chances are the couple isn’t putting a huge emphasis on what you wear. If you’re able to, reach out to a member of the bridal party for the answer.

Photo by: Rachel Havel 

Black Tie

Blacktie is the most formal of events you’ll see except for white tie which is very rarely done. Traditionally speaking, a black-tie dress code indicates a formal, evening occasion, where guests are meant to wear tuxedos and floor-length gowns.

Of course, times have changed and most people don’t follow the rules as strictly as they used to. If you opt-out of wearing a tuxedo, you should wear a dinner jacket paired with a tie and really nice shoes. And for women, if not in a floor-length gown, you should wear a cocktail dress that is at least below the knee. Not to damper your comfort, but heels are a plus as well (you can always change for the reception).

Note: Black tie does not mean you have to choose something black! Ladies, look for elegant fabrics and flattering cuts, nothing too skimpy or form-fitting. Classy and timeless gowns are always a great choice.

Photos by: KJ and Rob Crouch

Black Tie Preferred 

If you come across “black-tie attire preferred” on the invitation, it just means it’s less strict on the formality. This gives men the option of wearing a dark formal suit instead of a tux and women the option to wear a cocktail dress.


While formal and cocktail used to bare different meanings. In the modern wedding world, formal and cocktail have meshed to mean the same thing. What does this mean for guests? If you see formal OR cocktail attire on the invite, men can opt for a nice dress shirt and suit pants with ties and jackets being optional. Women should wear a cocktail dress of some sort that can vary in length. Opt for dresses that adorn elegant material, sparkles, and, of course, glam accessories are always welcome.

Pictured below are some great choices for formal/cocktail attire! This reception was held at The 10th on Vail Mountain. 

Photos by: Melissa Brielle Photography

Mountain Chic

This is a new popular term, especially here in the Rockies, used to describe an elegant event that is in the mountains, and most likely the ceremony is on the grass. This lets guests know to dress appropriately for the mountain climate while still staying elegant. For guys, think dark denim and boots with a nice button-up. Add a bolo tie if you’re feeling fancy! For the ladies, consider a summer cocktail dress with boots. If you’re looking for a fun accessory, consider a Gigi Pip hat.

Tip: opt for block heels, flats, or boots instead of pointy heels and it’s never a bad idea to pack a jacket for the cooler summer nights!


Casual these days means come as you are! Okay, well maybe not in your Lululemon leggings. Wear what is comfortable while still appropriate for the time and place. This can mean adding a jean jacket for the reception or opting for a jumpsuit instead of a dress.

Pictured below are a few of the Rocky Mountain Bride girls rocking the casual mountain wedding look perfectly at our New Mexico and Colorado Editor’s wedding! See more of Brit’s wedding featured in the Breckenridge Wedding Guide

Photos by: Cassie Rosch Photography

Don’t Wear White

Whatever you do, don’t wear white!

Unless the wedding is indicated as having an all-white dress code (yes, that is a thing) don’t wear white! That means you should also avoid shades of ivory. While this may be an old tradition, we can guarantee the bride will be much happier being the only one in white, after all, it is her day. Let her shine!

Looking for more wedding planning resources, guides and checklists?
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