Destination weddings have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and rightfully so! These celebrations are defined as nuptials that take place in a location different from where the couple lives, either domestic or international; and if you’ve been invited to one of these wondrous affairs, we absolutely envy you. As a guest attending a destination wedding, you not only have the opportunity to celebrate the union of two people in love, but you also have the ability to turn your trip into a vacation. However, whether you’re attending a ceremony on the sandy shores of Tulum, or plan on dancing the night away in the Amalfi Coast, there’s one aspect every guest must consider before packing their bags and jetting off—that is, understanding the dress code.
To date, there are seven standard dress codes that most weddings adhere to: white tie, black-tie, formal or black-tie optional, cocktail, semi-formal or dressy casual, festive, and casual. While you probably already know what black-tie attire means in your hometown, would you know what to wear for a beach wedding? Or how to accessorize a casual ensemble when attending a winter mountain top ceremony?
Meet the Expert
- Avi Levy is the president of IGI (International Gemological Institute), the world’s largest gemological institute that evaluates natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, and gemstones.
- Zanna Roberts-Rassi is a fashion stylist, TV correspondent, and co-founder of Milk Makeup. Currently, she is also an Afterpay brand ambassador
To help ease your mind when packing your suitcase, we’ve enlisted the help of Zanna Roberts-Rassi, fashion stylist and Afterpay brand ambassador, to decode each destination wedding guest dress code.
Every Destination Wedding Dress Code, Explained
While there are seven standard dress codes most couples abide by for their wedding day, the two most important factors to consider when packing for a destination event are the season and weather of the locale. Comfort is key when it comes to dressing for any occasion, and being mindful of your outfit choices, as it relates to external temperatures, will provide you with optimal ease. That being said, there are rules to follow per dress code, as highlighted below.
White tie is the most ceremonial dress code, meaning there isn’t much room for interpretation. From nuptials held on the Caribbean islands to ceremonies taking place in a chateau in Provence, France, a white tie dress code calls for the most formal of attire. “Your dress should be floor-length. No exceptions” shares Roberts-Rassi. As for suits, tuxedos with tails, a white vest, a bow tie, a tuxedo shirt, and tuxedo shoes are expected. And when it comes to accessories, opt for pieces that exude royal and opulent motifs, like Grown Brilliance’s Marquise Lab Grown Diamond Double Row Dangle Earrings and Round Lab Grown Diamond Bangle Bracelet.
Given the strict clothing requirements, you likely won’t be invited to many white tie celebrations in an extremely hot or casual destination. They are best suited for more traditional venues or during moderate seasons.
“A step below from white tie, [this] dress code is still formal! A floor-length, formal dress is still recommended. However, depending on the venue and time of the wedding, you can get away with a fancy tea-length cocktail dress or nice pantsuit!” notes Roberts-Rassi. Additionally, you can choose to don a strapless, one-shoulder, or long-sleeve gown, weather permitting. As for menswear, tuxedos styled with a black bow tie, tuxedo shirt, vest, and tuxedo shoes are still required.
To elevate your look even further, black-tie outfits can be paired with gorgeous statement pieces like Grown Brilliance’s Pear Lab Grown Diamond Halo Drop Earrings and Badgley Mischka Pear Lab Grown Diamond Lariat Tennis Necklace.
Formal or Black-Tie Optional
While a step below black-tie, “don’t let the “optional” confuse you!” notes Roberts-Rassi. This form of attire still demands formalwear (as the name suggests), but guests have more leeway when it comes to their outfit choices.
Long formal gowns aren’t necessary, so if you’re attending a summer coastal Maine wedding, you have the ability to wear a tea-length dress or formal suit—as opposed to a floor-length gown or tuxedo. What we love the most about this dress code, though, is that it allows for guests to still wear their finest fashions but with a bit of added personality. “When in doubt, refer to the black-tie guidelines! But know that this is a bit more flexible!” adds Roberts-Rassi.
When deciding on your jewelry options, we recommend choosing pieces that compliment your clothes rather than being the focal point—such as wearing an Emerald Lab Grown Diamond V-Prong Eternity Band or the Oval Lab Grown Diamond Solitaire Stud Earrings, both from Grown Brilliance.
Cocktail attire is “one of the most popular dress codes. Where comfort meets elegance, cocktail marries the formal with the casual,” shares Roberts-Rassi. “Consider this your more fashion-forward dress code, where contrary to popular belief, minis are acceptable!” For destination weddings, a great way to embrace this fashion-forward aesthetic is by wearing bold and colorful pieces.
Consider sporting a vibrant burgundy jumpsuit for a mountainous fall celebration, paired with Grown Brilliance’s Pear Lab Grown Diamond Solitaire Stud Earrings, or a hunter green seersucker suit for a spring Tuscan affair, worn with Grown Brilliance’s Emerald Lab Grown Diamond Single Station Tennis Necklace. Let the destination help guide your attire, and choose colors that complement the locale you're visiting.
Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual
Venturing into more casual attire, semi-formal (also known as dressy casual) eases the requirements for a structured outfit. “You can really lean into comfort with this dress code, but it’s not a free for all! Opt for a knee-length dress, nice skirt and top, or jumpsuit!,” advises Roberts-Rassi.
Cocktail dresses, bold prints, relaxed suit jackets, light-colored tailored trousers, and flats all fall within this category—making it one of the easiest dress codes to adhere to when it comes to destination weddings, no matter the locale, season, or weather. Keep accessories minimal and fun, and select pieces like Grown Brilliance’s Emerald Lab Grown Diamond Solitaire Stud Earrings, or the Marquise Lab Grown Diamond Three Stations Tennis Bracelet, which will match any semi-formal ensemble you might choose to wear.
If you’re attending a destination wedding with festive attire, get ready to party! “It indicates a celebratory affair where the couple wants their guests to have fun and express themselves!” Roberts-Rassi shares. What’s more, guests have the ability to lean into the destination with prints, colors, and sequins.
You can choose to wear a mini dress with palm tree patterns for a Palm Springs wedding, embrace nautical aesthetics if attending a summer affair in Cape Cod, or sport a chic plaid jumpsuit and a faux-fur coat for a winter celebration in Aspen.
Have fun with your jewelry as well, and opt for bold statement pieces that’ll make your outfit pop—like these Emerald Lab Grown Diamond Dangle Fashion Earrings from Grown Brilliance, or this stunning Diamond Wavy Bangle Bracelet which would be a show-stopping number at any event.
While casual dress codes are the least restrictive, you still need to adhere to standard wedding fashion etiquette rules. As Roberts-Rassi puts it, casual attire is “the least dressy of all dress codes, but that doesn’t mean sweatpants are acceptable.” Paying attention to the season and wedding locale will be key in figuring out what to wear with this style.
For example, laid-back ensembles like sundresses, or slacks and a t-shirt are encouraged for the summer season, as are minimal accessories. Look to Grown Brilliance’s Diamond Trinity Fashion Necklace with Adjustable Chain for a relaxed but elegant piece, or complement your look with a pair of timeless earrings like these Pear Lab Grown Diamond Petite Huggie Hoop Earrings.
Essential Fine Jewelry Tips
Now that you know what to wear, you should also understand the importance of traveling with fine jewelry. You can't pack your jewelry the same way you’d pack your clothes, and when traveling to a destination wedding, there are several key aspects to remember. With the expert advice of Avi Levy, president of the International Gemological Institute, below are answers to the top fine jewelry travel questions.
When traveling abroad, how should you pack fine jewelry?
Levy recommends that fine jewelry should either be worn or packed into carry-on luggage. “Checking in jewelry is not advised, as it could lead to loss or theft. If you take an important piece of jewelry, make sure to have it appraised and insured,” he notes.
Are there any risks associated with traveling with lab-grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds?
According to Levy, there is no real difference when traveling with lab-grown diamonds versus natural diamonds. “The risk is no different if the perceived value is the same to anyone who may have an eye on your jewelry. Keep all jewelry in a safe when not wearing it,” the expert advises.
Should guests obtain travel insurance for their jewelry?
Yes, but it varies based on the exact piece in question. “Insurance providers have different requirements for granting a policy, whether it’s replacement value or blanket coverage for certain price points,” says Levy. “It is advised that jewelry owners consult their insurance company for details. An appraisal is needed to obtain insurance.”
In general, should guests travel with fine jewelry pieces?
Levy notes that this is a personal choice and it is up to the guest to do what makes them feel comfortable. “Again, our advice is to always have an appraisal and an insurance policy for any important pieces, whether traveling or not,” he shares.