How to Dress for a Wedding in The UK


Long gone are the days when everyone knew what to wear to a wedding – There are now so many options in terms of venue and style of ceremony that the dress options too have inevitably expanded. After all, what is the difference between formal and black tie? What on earth is white tie? The most important piece of advice though is that if you’re in doubt, check it out – If the invitation doesn’t make the dress code clear then simply ask the hosts or even fellow guests what to wear. Having said that, there are some general rules that you should familiarise yourself with.

Black/ White tie 

For ladies, there is no real difference between black and white tie. Both require some form of elegant gown or classy cocktail length dress. For men, it is a little more complicated. White tie is just about as formal as you will get and means that you should be wearing tails with a white shirt and bow tie. Black tie means wearing a regular tuxedo with black bow tie. However, things can get complicated for men if the invitation states “formal.” This can be interpreted as a black tie event, but at the very least wear a dark suit and tie.

Lounge/ Cocktail

Men should opt for a suit and shirt, but feel free to choose whether you prefer a light or dark suit. It’s a good idea to be guided by the time of day and the season. Dark colours are generally more suited to evening and winter weddings while a lighter colour is usually a good choice for an afternoon or summer occasion. Ladies are expected to wear a cocktail dress or formal suit for a lounge or cocktail wedding. Again, colours are dependent on the context. A sundress for example is a great option or the summer. There are some really stunning evening dresses for mature women available online.

Garden/ Beach formal

With so many great venues out there, garden and especially beach weddings are increasingly popular. There is a real temptation to dress casually when you receive an invitation to one of these events. However, think twice before you dress down. Just because the happy couple are getting married outdoors doesn’t mean that they want their guests to turn up in thongs. In fact, footwear is a serious business for ladies on these occasions. Think carefully about what will be comfortable on grass or in the sand while still looking classy – Stilettos on the beach are more trouble than they’re worth! Men may still need to wear a suit on the beach, but you can usually dispense with the tie. Choose something light if possible.


Resist the urge to wear your favourite jeans (even if they’re your best pair). A casual dress code is not an invitation to wear whatever you want – This is still a wedding after all. Think of it more as a smart casual dress code. For men, this most likely means dress pants with a button down or polo shirt. Smart trousers are also appropriate for women too in addition to a skirt and top combination. If unsure, it is always advisable to over dress rather than under dress.

In addition to these broad guidelines, you should always be aware of religious dress codes if the couple are getting married in a religious venue. On these occasions, be prepared to dress more modestly than you might do otherwise.


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