Summer Wedding Dress Codes

Stipulating a dress code on your invitations is optional and will inevitably serve to confuse guests. But it's advisable for summer weddings, which often take place outdoors or on the beach (and, you know, someone might show up in a caftan—or shorts!). Many guests will wonder "How casual can I go here?" and "Is it okay to wear a beaded burgundy number at a 4 p.m. ceremony when the sun's still blazing?" so we've outlined the four most common dress codes for a range of receptions. Decide which one fits your vision and use the (hopefully super-clear) lingo we've provided.

At a "formal" summer wedding—usually held in a hotel ballroom or some equally opulent setting—women are expected to wear floor-length gowns in lightweight luxurious fabrics (think: silk chiffon or silk crepe) with a tasteful neckline and an elegant silhouette. It's about looking dignified and sophisticated—not too tricked-out, revealing, or nightclub-y. To match, men should wear a tuxedo with any of the classic elements: cummerbund, peak lapel, bow tie, studs, and round-toe shoes. But a white jacket tuxedo, for example, feels lighter for formal (also called "black tie") summer weddings. If you aren't a stickler for tradition but still want to host a formal event, consider writing "black tie optional" on the invite, which allows men the alternative of a dark suit and women the choice of cocktail dresses or dressy separates.

NEXT: Semiformal Wedding Dress Code

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from