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What to Wear to a Formal Wedding

No, it's not the same as black tie.
Emily Platt - The Knot E-commerce Editor
by Emily Platt
Emily Platt - The Knot E-commerce Editor
Emily Platt
Editor, E-Commerce
  • Emily is a writer and editor who specializes in shopping content
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Emily wrote for Martha Stewart Weddings
  • Emily has a bachelor's degree from Vassar College
Updated May 26, 2020
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Stumped on what to wear to a formal wedding? Unsure of what "formal wedding attire" even means? We've got the answers plus some outfit examples you can shop right on the spot.

First things first: Formal isn't the same as black tie. It's actually synonymous with "black tie optional," which is one step above cocktail attire on the dress code spectrum. In other words, if black tie attire, cocktail attire and formal attire appeared on a Venn diagram, formal would fall right in the middle.

Okay, so what's formal attire for a wedding more specifically? We've broken down formal wedding guest attire for men and women below. Check out the looks for inspiration, but keep the event's other details in mind too. The season and venue will also help you decide what to wear to a formal wedding.

Formal Wedding Attire for Men

Formal weddings are great because the dress code is fancy (it's fun to get dressed up) but flexible. Men can wear a tuxedo, but they don't have to—a dark suit and tie are also appropriate. Dress shoes fit the bill when it comes to footwear. Consider patent leather loafers for a tux or laced oxfords for a suit.

Blue tuxedo for formal wedding

This bold black and blue tux is fresh but still formal.

Ted Baker London Josh trim fit navy shawl lapel tuxedo, $1,098, Nordstrom.com

Black plus size suit for formal wedding

Charcoal is another foolproof color choice. We like this slim, suave suit.

ASOS DESIGN Plus skinny suit in Charcoal, $127 for a suit jacket and matching pants, ASOS.com

Green suit for formal wedding

If you're comfortable wearing a more modern hue, try a deep green suit.

Topman Banbury slim fit suit jacket, $195, and trousers, $85, Nordstrom.com

Black tuxedo for formal wedding

Of course, you can't go wrong with a timeless black tuxedo.

Theory Chambers tuxedo jacket, $695, and wool Mayer pants, $345, Theory.com

Navy plus size suit for formal wedding

Ditto for a simple navy suit.

Burton Menswear Big & Tall skinny suit jacket, $87, and pants, $48, in Navy, ASOS.com

Formal Wedding Attire for Women

Formal dresses to wear to a wedding include both evening gowns and elegant cocktail frocks, so pick the hemline you feel best in. That being said, you don't have to wear a dress at all. We're big fans of suits and other dressy separates. Accessorize with heels or fancy flats and jewelry as you see fit.

Navy women's tuxedo for formal wedding

How smart is this stylish navy women's tux?

ASOS DESIGN premium tux exaggerated suit, $183, ASOS.com

Red dress for formal wedding

This red formal midi dress features a hybrid of two big trends: the one-shoulder neckline and the off-the-shoulder neckline.

Jay Godfrey red Lasse dress, from $30 for a 4-day rental, RenttheRunway.com

Floral plus size gown for formal wedding

We love the beautiful pattern on this long, plus-size formal wedding guest dress.

JS Collections two-tone embroidered leaf gown, $358, Nordstrom.com

Ruffled cocktail dress for formal wedding

Now's the perfect time for a dramatic short dress like this ruffled one.

Lavish Alice asymmetric draped high neck frill midi scuba dress in Navy, $103, ASOS.com  

Green plus size evening gown for formal wedding

Meanwhile, this gorgeous gathered plus-size dress makes a more subtle statement.

Vince Camuto side-ruched off-the-shoulder gown, $208, Nordstrom.com

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