• By: OLM Staff

The Dreaded Dress Code: What to Wear to a Summer Wedding

Warm weather brings barbeques, patios, beaches, and, of course, weddings. With the sunny months of June, July and August as some of the most popular choices for wedding dates, an invitation to a friend’s nuptials comes as no surprise. But with the ceremonies and subsequent celebrations comes the dreaded dilemma of what to wear.

Weddings are becoming increasingly more complicated and confusing, with everything from “Beach Formal” to “Dressy Casual” listed as dress codes. After consulting the wedding website www.theknot.com, I have uncovered the secret to decoding the dreaded dress code.

White Tie

According to theknot.com, this is “the most formal of all wedding dress codes” – think Hollywood award ceremonies, like the Oscars or Golden Globes. For men, a tuxedo and bow tie is a safe bet, complete with a long black jacket and vest. For women, choose formal, full-length styles paired with glamorous hair and make-up.  This is the time to find a gown that you’ve always wished you could wear but could never find the right occasion. White tie weddings aren’t as popular as other dress codes, so this is the perfect opportunity to live it up! Just remember to avoid white, as it is never appropriate to outshine the bride on her big day.

Black Tie

The second most formal dress code, black tie indicates the wedding is in the evening. The Knot suggests that men should still stick to a tuxedo and bowtie, while women can wear a “chic cocktail dress or long evening gown” – ask the wedding party about the appropriate dress length if you are nervous about your choice.

Formal or Black Tie Optional

Essentially, this is simply a dressy occasion, and attire can be slightly less formal than black tie (although if you choose to wear a tux or gown, it would still be appropriate). Men can wear a well-cut dark suit – black is always a safe bet – or tuxedo, while women can opt for a sleek suit, formal cocktail dress or a classic gown. If you choose to wear a long gown, be sure to avoid a dramatic silhouette (such as a ball gown or one with dramatic tucks and draping), so as not to steal attention from the bride. Opt for simpler shifts in understated tones for a look that is elegant yet refined.

Beach Formal

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a destination wedding, chances are the invitation will read “beach formal”.  Two words that should seemingly never appear together describe a dress code that may leave many stumped. The Knot describes beach formal as an “elegant beach wedding – so dress to impress, but also dress for the elements (sun, sand and water).” Men can appear in a summer suit sans tie, or a light shirt paired with linen pants or khakis and sandals.

For women, a breezy sundress or a cocktail frock in a light colour looks appropriate paired with dressy sandals or wedges. For dressier beach weddings, try a fun print in a loose silhouette, like the Zuhair Murad dress worn by Carrie Underwood. Stay away from heels – no one can pull off stumbling and sinking in the sand, no matter how amazing they may look. For make-up, stick to lighter colours on the eyes and a bright, cheery lipstick in coral or pink for a look that matches the location.

Semiformal or Dressy Casual

Interpreting this dress code depends on the time of day of the wedding – for daytime nuptials, stick with cheery dresses in summery hues, paired with light make-up. In the evening, chic cocktail dresses in bolder hues look appropriate with a smoky eye and neutral lips. Women can also opt for a fun skirt and dressy top, experimenting with length, colour and print. Try pairing a slim maxi skirt with a white tee and bold necklaces for a nighttime soiree, or an of-the-moment mid-length skirt in a cheerful colour for a daytime affair. Men should wear a suit and tie – for day, try a lighter suit in tan or light grey, and for night, wear classic black or charcoal.


Although it alludes to jeans and a tee shirt, for weddings, casual is best interpreted as “business casual”. You want to appear comfortable, yet respectable. For men, pair dress pants with a crisp button-down or polo shirt in warm-weather colours like white, tan, light grey, pink, or light blue. Women can wear a cute sundress and jeweled sandal, or a skirt or pants paired with a colourful blouse and wedges. Think brunch at the country club, not lunch at the pub.