January 11, 2022

What to Wear to My Best Friend’s Wedding

Oh, the dreaded, but what do I wear question. Honestly, anytime I get invited to any sort of event (even as simple as dinner out with friends), my mind instantly starts scanning my closet and putting together possible outfits. But when it comes to a wedding, someone else’s big day, I can sometimes get so stressed about what to wear that I find myself sitting in the bottom of my closet with a box of tissues and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. In a search to help myself come out of my closet funk; I’ve gone down the deep dark internet search hole. To keep you from going down into the pit with me, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. So take a trip into the depths of Google, and my closet with me, your friendly Amative Creative blogger Katie.


What’s the dress code

It’s important to know the wedding dress code when trying to decide what to wear. Usually, if the bride and groom have a specific dress code, they’ll include it in the invitation. However, if you’re confused, it never hurts to ask.

There are a few (okay 8) popular dress codes I’ll quickly cover below.


Absolutely the most formal of any dress code option. Guests at a white-tie wedding should be in floor-length gowns (girl, sparkle it up!) and heels. According to Brides.com, “Men are required to wear a tuxedo with tails, a formal white shirt, white vest and bow tie, white or gray gloves, and formal footwear, such as derby shoes or oxfords.”


While not as formal as white-tie, a black-tie wedding is still rather formal (you’ll notice there’s still a formal option below it). Women may wear either a floor-length gown or an elegant suit (ankles should not be seen). Men are required to wear a tuxedo with black underpinnings (rather than the white of white-tie).

Formal (or Black-Tie Optional)

For a formal ceremony the biggest difference is with male attire, nothing really changes for the women (from black-tie). Men may now wear a tuxedo or a formal suit (ties required).


Cocktail attire isn’t nearly as formal as black-tie (hello ladies, your ankles are now fair game). Men will still be required to wear a suit and tie. However, women will want to opt for a shorter dress (think knee-length). It is important for a cocktail ceremony that the guests not pull focus from the bride and groom. (So maybe five sequins rather than five hundred).

Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual

With this dress code, the time of day comes into play with what to wear. For an evening wedding, you want to opt for darker colors while you’ll wear lighter colors for a daytime wedding. We’ve also now switched from gowns being required to gowns being an inappropriate choice. Select a below-the-knee dress, a skirt and top, a pantsuit, or a jumpsuit. Men should wear dress slacks, a dress shirt, and a jacket, but a tie will be optional.


Most casual weddings are in outdoor settings so take your cues from nature (see below about weather and venue). Women can wear sundresses and more casual footwear (dressy sandals, wedges, flats). Men will want to wear dress pants or khakis and a collared shirt. A jacket and tie are not required. T-shirts, shorts, jeans, and flip-flops are not appropriate for a casual wedding unless the invitation specifies them as acceptable.


Destination weddings often have a theme based on the location, take your cues from the invitation and the bride and groom on this one. Some couples will even provide their guests with a packing list.

Come As You Are

One of my favorite weddings I ever attended was a come as you are wedding. The couple got married on the top of a hill on a crisp autumn day and their guests wore jeans and sweaters and jackets. It was quaint, intimate, and beautiful. If the wedding is come as you are the invitation will clearly specify.

Thanks to brides.com for their help on the dress code musts and must nots.


I know miss manners says that no one should show up looking like they are trying to be a member of the wedding party. However, I usually try to take my wardrobe cues from the wedding invitation and venue (see below for tips about the venue). If I can pull a color (or color family) from the wedding invitation for my outfit, I feel like I’m dressing for the occasion.

While this isn’t super important for just any ole guest, it can be really helpful if you know you’ll be in any pictures with the bride and groom. Refer back to our “Tips for Taking the Best Family Photos at Your Wedding” blog. By being in the same color family as the rest of the wedding party (and please I beg you do not match the bridesmaid’s dresses or groomsmen’s suits exactly – that is a no-no) you won’t stand out in the family or group photo.



I hate to be the one to say it, but I’ll just say it… no one wants to be the girl whose tatas fall out when they’re talking to the priest. Yes, that happened to me at a wedding. I was having a Julia Roberts ringing the bell moment and… whoopsie, I was mortified. So, don’t be like me and make sure everything that needs to be covered is (and that it’s covered well).

It may also be helpful to do a little investigating to see if the family of the couple has any personal thoughts on modesty to make sure you don’t feel out of place (you know, cocktail mini in front of Grandma Susie at a church wedding with all the kneeling).


For the practical among us, it’s important to be mindful of the weather when deciding what to wear to a wedding. I once went to an outdoor wedding on Mother’s Day wearing a little sundress and almost froze. Just a quick look at my weather app would have saved me from shivering on the dance floor.

It’s also important to keep the time of year in mind. Summer & winter weddings are a bit easier since you can anticipate hot/cold, but the transitional seasons of fall and spring can be a little more difficult. For those seasons, anticipate layers and styles that can easily adapt to hotter or colder temperatures than you expected. And if it’s an outdoor wedding (especially if you’re as pale as I am), don’t forget that you’re never fully dressed without your sunscreen.



Just like the weather, the venue can also play a role in helping me decide what to wear. No one (and I mean no one) wants to be the wedding guest who spends the whole night pulling their stiletto heels out of the grass. For grassy (outdoor) weddings, consider wedges, flats, or wider heels to both help you stay comfortable and not turn you into a lawn decoration. For a beach wedding, it may be best to opt for going barefoot and wearing a shorter dress that won’t drag in the sand. If the wedding is indoors, you may want to bring a shawl to help you stay warm if the air conditioning gets too intense.  It should be easy to see what other guests have worn to weddings at the venue with a quick social media or Google search.

No matter what you wear to the wedding, I’m sure the couple will just be glad to have you there. And remember, just like Annie says, you’re never fully dressed without a smile.

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