Wedding Dress Code: What to Wear

There’s little more exciting than receiving an invitation for something truly fabulous (and what’s more fabulous than a wedding?) that I can’t wait to attend, and little more nerve-wracking than feeling stuck as to what to wear. From the moment the intricate, embossed and fragrant, glittered or twine-tied invitation arrives, I’m all about the countdown (either painstakingly slow or earth-shatteringly fast depending on how well prepared I am).

When it comes to what to wear, though, for many events such as a wedding, it’s not just choosing the outfit, but deciphering the dress code, that can leave invitees angst-ridden.

Chasing Cait Style Blogger Wedding Attire

Black Tie, Formal, Cocktail, Loungewear, Casual, White Tie, Evening… What does it all mean?
Fortunately, my good friend and the always impeccably dressed Caitlin Taylor (above), personal stylist and fashion blogger at has helped us deal with this dilemma!

Caitlin: The wedding date is set, you know where the location is…..then you see the dress code and stress sets in! Never fear dear reader, I’m here to break down the most typical wedding dress codes for you (and your man) so you rock up to the wedding of the year looking the part!

Garden Party/Lounge Suit
This is usually for the laid-back, relaxed outdoor wedding (in fact, this was the dress code we suggested for my wedding).  This is the actual wording we used….

We want you to have fun on our big day so please make sure you dress the part – be pretty and comfortable ladies, there will be grass so fancy flats or wonderful wedges are fine. Gents, a jacket and tie would be lovely, but please feel free to take then off after the formalities.

Dress Code Wedding Garden Party

Girls, this generally means a dress (or top and skirt if you like) that is colourful,  maybe pattered and light. Nothing too fitted, black, or sequined – garden parties are not for clubwear.

Boys, this still means a suit, but generally you can go a lighter colour like blue, grey or even taupe or cream. Have fun with a colourful bow tie, or a printed shirt, but you really should still be wearing some sort of jacket and tie.

What NOT to wear: Jeans (under any circumstances), trainers, shorts (this generally goes for guys and girls).


[left]Cocktail is probably the dress code everyone thinks of when they think “wedding”. It’s a little bit fancy, but not so fancy as Black Tie/Formal (we’ll get to that in a bit).

Girls, cocktail attire usually means a knee-length frock (or shorter) but save the evening gown for black tie. Sequins, lace, and black are all appropriate and generally some great heels complete the look. (if you are not a huge fan of wearing heels, looks for some smaller heels, if you are wearing a knee-length hem any heel will make your leg look longer!)[/left]

[right] Dress Code Wedding Cocktail[/right]

Guys, generally cocktail for men means a black, or dark coloured suit and tie. You can totally play with colours in your shirt and tie, but if you aren’t sure, stick a black suit and tie with a white shirt, classic always looks great!

Black Tie/Formal


Black tie dress code is the biggie that most people struggle with.  If your gorgeous bride and groom have gone to the trouble to create an amazing formal affair, then do your bit and dress the part.

Girls – in the strictest sense, this means LONG evening dresses. This is where most people go wrong.  If the bride is wearing an amazing, ornate dress, and her ‘maids are decked out in floor-length gowns, your pretty sun dress isn’t going to cut it for black tie. A shorter, more glamorous dress is also fine as we are usually a little more relaxed here in New Zealand.


[right] Black tie Dress Code Wedding[/right]

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a heap of cash on a fancy dress, just find something simple, timeless and elegant (black is always a god option) that you can wear again for the next black tie wedding.

Fellas – OK, so again, technically, a black tie dress code means just that – Black suit, white dress shirt and a BLACK bow tie, but I think most bridal couples would be happy with a normal tie. Just make sure you shoes are shined, and your shirt is ironed and you’ll look sharp.

If you’re still stuck at the end of it all, take your cues from the bridal party. Ask the bride (or groom) what they have put the bridal party in and try and stick as closely to that as you can. Remember, it’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed – and most importantly, enjoy yourself!


Cait xoxo

The beautiful Caitlin is a personal stylist and everyday style fashion blogger at[/left]

[right]Dean&Caitlin_1194 [/right]

She’s just launched her first e-book, designed to help you kick-start your style in just 10 days (get it here)  and runs styling workshops and 1-on-1 personal styling sessions in Auckland. Get more info here:

Next time you’re invited to a wedding, why not help the bride out by buying her the perfect engagement gift: the little white book wedding organiser and diary.

free little white e-book