Etiquette Behind Wedding Attire: How Do You Know What to Wear?

Have you ever been invited to a wedding and wondered, “What should I wear?” You’re not alone. In fact, there is etiquette behind the answer. While it is obvious that you don’t want to show up dressed like the bride, we don’t want you to be stumped. Here is a guide to help you find the perfect outfit.


Casual weddings are based on a few factors. If you are confused based on the invitation alone, consider the couple. Are they the type to throw a formal event, or is their personality more suited to a casual get-together? Here are also a few giveaways that can help you prepare.

Morning weddings – typically weddings that take place early in the day provide a more casual setting. No need for cocktail dresses or stilettos. A pretty, and tasteful sundress with casual pumps or sandals are typically OK unless otherwise noted. Avoid flip flops, even in the most laid back of settings.

Outdoor weddings – An event taking place outside is likely to require clothing and shoes that make it easy to move on varying surfaces. Flip-flops are still out of the question but also avoid shoes that are difficult to maneuver on grass, cobblestone, or pavers with large gaps. This is also a time to find a dress or suit that will not expose too much bare skin if caught unexpectedly by the wind.

Beach weddings – While oceanfront weddings typically rank at the top of the causal wedding list, this is not the time for shorts, T-shirt, tanks and flip-flops. Remember, this is still an important celebration where your respect is a must. Pretty hats, sunglasses, flowing dresses that cannot accidentally expose too much skin are acceptable. This is also not a great time to show up in a fancy cocktail dress and pumps. You can also feel out of place when overdressed as you can underdressed.


Formal weddings typically occur later in the day or early evening. However, depending on the venue, there may be a few exceptions.  When in doubt, just ask. Here are a few factors that may be a sign that it is best to dress in your Sunday best.

Church weddings – What would your grandmother want you to wear to a church service? Consider that question when you are selecting your attire. The rule of thumb is to dress up more for weddings occurring in the late afternoon or early evening. Even church weddings that occur earlier in the day require semi-formal attire that is a little dressier than an early outdoor or beach event. If occurring over the warmer months, you can get away with dressy sandals early in the day.

Evening weddings – Evening weddings are typically the most formal, especially for sit-down dinner receptions. This is the time to show off that fancy cocktail dress, gorgeous new shoes and clutch you’ve been dying to pull out of the closet. As long as your dress is tasteful and doesn’t match the bride, wear it with pride.

Hosting a Morning After Breakfast

In case you were wondering, hosting a morning after breakfast is not necessary. Although, it can be a great way to say “thank you” one last time to your guests! Whether you prefer something casual, elegant, or chic, here are a few ideas for planning:

Casual Breakfast Buffet:

It is common for out of town wedding guests to stay in the same location under a room block. Select a hotel that offers a banquet room with plenty of space to cater a small breakfast buffet.  Offer tea and coffee, with pastries, omelets, an assortment of fruit, and bagels. This is an easy option for guests who want to grab a quick bite before heading home, plus they can spend an extra minute with the happy couple. Allow your guests a window of time to arrive, which will maintain a steady traffic flow and help you mingle with ease.  

Restaurant Style:

So maybe you have a favorite restaurant in the area you would like to show off to your friends and family.  Now is your chance!  Planning this type of event will require an RSVP list from your guests for seating accommodations.  To simplify the meal and allow for quicker service, pick a few of your favorite menu items and let your guests choose from a smaller list. If possible, arrange for pitchers of water, orange juice, and coffee to be left on the table. The newlyweds should leave their seats to say hello to guests in effort to keep traffic flow minimal. Keep in mind that round tables are easier for group conversation!

See the Sunshine:

Weather permitting, find an outdoor location with nice scenery and host your own picnic style breakfast. Perhaps a little sun light is healthy after a late-night party! Muffins, yogurt parfaits, and sliced fruit are easy and transportable options.  Punch bowls along with large pitchers of juice and water are also easy self-serving beverage options.  If children are present, this will allow them space to run and play and allow everyone the opportunity to mingle without space restrictions. 


Regardless of the breakfast style you choose, understand that it is not necessary to invite your entire wedding guest list!  Simply include the wedding party and out of town guests, or just an intimate list of chose family and friends.  Let this be your opportunity to reminisce over yesterday’s events with the ones you love…and then get to that amazing honeymoon destination already!