What To Wear To A Formal Wedding Reception: Attire Guide

If you’re unsure what to wear to a formal wedding reception, please understand the definition of formal wedding attire. We will provide outfit ideas that male and female guests can wear if the wedding reception is formal. 

We will also discuss the etiquette of dressing for a wedding reception and compare the formal dress code to black-tie and evening wear. And speaking of formal guest outfits, you can read what to wear to a black-tie optional wedding if it’s the dress code indicated on your wedding invitation.

what to wear to a formal wedding reception


Formal Dress Code Explained: What To Wear To A Formal Wedding Reception


Formal attire for male guests

If the dress code for the wedding reception you’re attending is formal, then it’s expected for you to wear a suit, formal pants, and tie. Tuxedoes are not necessary for a formal wedding reception, but you can ask other male guests if they would wear a tux than a suit. 

You can also use the reception location as a clue for your formal attire. For example, if it’s a hall or a country club, you can always make your outfit even more formal by switching your tie with a bowtie.  

Don’t forget to wear a buttoned shirt underneath the suit. And of course, wear leather oxfords or loafers and never pair your outfit with sneakers or sandals. 


Formal attire for female guests

The outfits to try if you’re a woman attending a formal wedding reception should be classy and modest. You can also use the time and season of the wedding reception venue to know what to wear for your formal attire. 

For example, if an indoor evening wedding happens during the cool months, then long dark-colored dresses partnered with a shawl will be respectful. On the other hand, if the formal wedding is outdoors and it’s summer, you can even wear formal separates. 

Women are not limited to dresses when they wear formal attire for a wedding reception. Nowadays, pantsuits are as classy and suitable for a formal reception. 


Is Evening Wear Formal?

A wedding reception typically happens during the evening. The couple also chooses an indoor venue to have more freedom than a grand event outdoors. 

That being said, most receptions typically request formal attire for their dress code to suit the indoor and grand venue. However, not all receptions are the same. 

Regardless of the evening reception, the couple may prefer a semi-formal or cocktail attire as the reception is more about having fun and dancing than the solemn and formal wedding ceremony. Check the wedding website or invitation to be sure, and bring a change of clothes if needed for the reception. 

If the couple requests a cocktail event, you can read what is a cocktail reception wedding to know what to expect. 


What Is Meant By Evening Attire?

Evening attire usually refers to formal evening wear. Remember that events in the evening typically follow a formal dress code on what to wear. 

Some evening weddings even request a black-tie dress code, which is dressier than the formal dress code. Think of fancy long dark-colored gowns or dresses for women and tuxedos for men. 

But if the evening attire is for a wedding, please keep modesty in mind. You don’t want to wear an attire that is too eye-catching and would steal the spotlight away from the bride and groom. 


Does Formal Mean Black Tie?

If the wedding you’re attending mentions a black-tie dress code, please understand that it’s a level above normal. For example, a dressier version of cocktail attire is formal, while a black-tie is even grander than formal. 

Evening formal events typically follow a black-tie dress code for the guest attire. But if it’s black-tie optional, then it means that you should wear formal attire like pantsuits, midi or long dresses, and suits. 

You can also imagine the outfits worn at a gala if the wedding reception you’re attending indicates a black-tie event. Remember to be mindful of the colors and styles you’ll wear since you are only a guest. 


Is A Wedding Reception Formal?

A wedding reception usually has a formal dress code as it matches the formality of the wedding ceremony held before it. Most receptions also happen in the evening and indoors, so formal outfits will be comfortable and appropriate. 

However, the reception can be semi-formal or even a cocktail event. This will make dancing and having fun more comfortable than wearing tuxedos and evening gowns. 


Is It Okay To Wear A Long Dress To A Wedding Reception?

You can wear a long dress like a maxi or a floor-length gown to a wedding reception if the dress code is formal, black-tie, or black-tie optional. Long dresses like maxi dresses where the hem touches the floor also come in different styles so that they can be used on beach wedding receptions and even casual backyard receptions.

Make sure that the dress will be comfortable for the venue and that it’s not too extravagant for the wedding theme and formality. 



And that’s it! You just learned what to wear to a formal wedding reception, which should be influenced by the time and venue of the reception. 

But to give you a quick idea, men can wear suits with leather suits, while women can opt for a long dress or even a pantsuit. Also, you don’t need to wear black-tie attire as it’s a level up from a formal dress code. 

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