What to Wear to a Wedding Reception

Wedding season is fast approaching, which means it’s time to don your glad rags and head to the dancefloor! But, first thing’s first — what are you going to wear?

Whether you’re the best friend, a distant relative, or the plus-one, figuring out what to wear to the wedding reception can be tough. You’ll need to navigate the realms of style, etiquette, and personal flair to create an outfit that’s uniquely you. It’s no small feat!

So, if you’re wondering what to wear to a wedding reception, keep reading! We have specific guidance on formal, casual, and cocktail wedding reception attire to help you feel comfortable and confident as you celebrate the big day. 

What is a wedding reception?

Photo © Big Day Productions – UK WIDE Wedding Photo + Film | See their Bridebook profile

A wedding reception is the evening portion of a wedding day. It’s usually framed as a party to celebrate the happy couple’s big day and as a display of hospitality to those who attended and supported the wedding. Think of it as the grand finale of the special day!

It’s common for someone who isn’t immediate family or a close friend of the newlyweds to be invited to the reception only. You may also be invited as a plus-one or an extended part of the couple’s social circle. While the ceremony is more intimate, the reception opens its arms wider, inviting a wider group of guests to share in the love and happiness.

What do you wear to a wedding reception?

Photo © Andy Sidders Photography | See their Bridebook profile

If you’re feeling stuck on what to wear to a wedding reception, check out the following guidance. Formal, cocktail, or casual are three safe bets when dressing for an evening wedding reception. 

What is formal attire for a wedding reception?

Photo © The Soul of My Lens Wedding Photography | See their Bridebook profile

Formal attire is the epitome of elegance and sophistication. It’s all about fitting in with the beauty of the big day and making an impression.


Ladies should wear a floor-length gown, a tea-length dress, or even a classy jumpsuit. Rich fabrics like silk, velvet, or satin are all beautiful options, and you should opt for dark colours or jewel tones. If you’re a fan of glitz and glamour, a little bit of sparkle doesn’t go amiss at a formal wedding reception!

Enhance your outfit with sparkling jewellery, a stylish clutch, and satin gloves for a touch of elegance. Remember, formal dressing isn’t just about the dress, but about the outfit as a whole. 


Men can’t go wrong with a well-tailored suit in a dark colour. Pair with a crisp shirt, a contrasting tie, and polished dress shoes to complete the ensemble. Black, charcoal, and deep navy are all acceptable suit colours, and shirts should be white or pale blue. 

Accessorise with cufflinks, a pocket square, and a dress watch. You should look clean and well-groomed, with clean nails and a well-maintained beard (if you have one). It’s also a good idea to get a haircut a week or so before the wedding. This way, you’ll look tidy without worrying about itchy hairs ruining the day. 

Gender-neutral or non-binary

A jumpsuit, tailored suit, or formal separates are all great gender-neutral or non-binary options. The most important thing is striking the balance between formality and being true to your own style. Don’t feel the need to wear a suit if you’d never usually wear one; likewise, don’t wear a jumpsuit if you’re going to be uncomfortable all day. Instead, opt for an ensemble that makes you feel confident and fabulous, ensuring you can fully enjoy the celebration.

A great tip is to express yourself with accessories. For example, if you’re more flamboyant, opt for chandelier earrings to offset a classic suit look. Alternatively, consider going bright with your makeup while opting for a jumpsuit in a dark or jewel tone. This will help you infuse your personal style into your outfit while still respecting the formality of the occasion. 

Shoes should be classic and comfortable to ensure you can dance the night away without issue. 

What is casual wear for a wedding reception?

Photo © Gin Fizz Photographic | See their Bridebook profile

Casual wear usually means a more relaxed or informal dress code. Similar to ‘come as you are,’ casual dress codes are all about feeling comfortable while still dressing appropriately for a family party. 


Ladies can wear sundresses, midi dresses, or a nice top with flowy trousers. You could also wear a pretty blouse with dressy shorts or a casual jumpsuit if that’s more your style. Bring a light cardigan or denim jacket to keep off the chill. 

Accessories should be understated, and you can wear clean trainers, sandals, or other flat shoes.  Try an effortless hairstyle like a side braid or loose waves to tie into the laid-back style. 


Try pairing a button-down shirt or polo shirt with some smart chinos for a polished but casual look. You could also include a casual blazer or smart jumper if the weather promises a chill. Complete the ensemble with stylish yet comfortable footwear. Loafers, slip-on shoes, or clean trainers are all great options for a casual look. 

Stick to pale, neutral colours and subtle patterns for a timeless look. 

Gender-neutral or non-binary

Casual separates are a good gender-neutral or non-binary option. For example, a stylish blouse with flowy trousers, a tunic top with leggings, a smart shirt with chinos — the choices are endless. Mix-and-match however feels right to you and accessorise accordingly. Consider a belt, a dress watch, and understated jewellery. 

Remember that fashion is a form of self-expression. Choose an outfit that’s true to you and reflects your personality. Wear it with confidence and you’ll look fabulous.

What is cocktail attire for a wedding reception?

Photo © Schmittat Photo&Video | See their Bridebook profile

Cocktail attire is a great balance between casual and formal attire. It allows guests to dress to impress while still maintaining a sense of ease and approachability. Here’s a detailed guide on what cocktail attire entails for women, men, and non-binary guests.


You can’t go wrong with a little black dress for cocktail wear. However, if this isn’t your style, a midi-length bodycon dress, a dressy jumpsuit, or a knee-length cocktail dress are also great options. Statement jewellery, a clutch, and a fascinator can all elevate your outfit and add a touch of glamour. 

We recommend wearing heeled shoes or dressy flats to a cocktail reception. These shoes will not only complement your outfit but also add a polished touch to your overall appearance. 


Men can either wear a tailored suit or a shirt, tie, and dressy trousers. Black, navy, and charcoal are all great options. However, you can also opt for something jazzier with cocktail wear. For example, dark purple, dark green, or even burgundy can be both stylish and unusual. 

Choose polished dress shoes such as Oxfords or loafers. Match the shoe colour to your suit for a cohesive appearance.

Add refined details with a pocket square, tie bar, cufflinks, and a dress watch. These accessories contribute to an overall sophisticated look and tie in well to the cocktail theme.

Gender-neutral or non-binary

Cocktail wedding receptions offer flexibility when it comes to guest outfits. So long as they’re dressy, fashionable, and well-groomed, almost anything goes! This is great for non-binary or gender-neutral guests who want to express themselves through their clothing. 

Opt for a tailored suit, a jazzy jumpsuit, or fashionable separates for a look that reflects your personality. Experiment with a range of colours, from classic neutrals to vibrant hues, depending on your mood and the season. Cocktail receptions often allow for a broader colour palette.

You can wear whatever shoes complement your outfit. Whether it’s heeled boots, dressy sandals, or even polished Oxfords, the most important thing is that you’re both comfortable and well-presented. 

The bottom line on dressing for a wedding reception

Photo © OneMo Photography | See their Bridebook profile

No matter the dress code, the key to dressing for a wedding reception is to balance comfort with style. There’s nothing worse than the night being ruined because of blisters or tight trousers. Instead, opt for an outfit that fits well, suits the dress code, and reflects your personality. This way, you can fully immerse yourself in the celebration without worrying about wardrobe malfunctions. 

If you’re looking for further inspiration, check out our post on the ultimate guide to wedding dress codes. With over 13 popular dress codes to choose from, you’re sure to find something that fits the bill. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Photo © Jasmine Haskovic Photography | See their Bridebook profile

What do brides wear to a wedding reception?

It’s becoming increasingly fashionable for brides to change into a ‘party dress’ during their wedding reception. These dresses are usually shorter and made with less fabric than a traditional wedding dress. This means your wedding dress will stay perfect, and you can dance the night away without all the skirts and petticoats weighing you down. 

Do you have to dress up for a wedding reception?

You don’t necessarily have to, but it is nice to. Even casual wedding dress codes often call for a slightly more polished and put-together look than everyday attire. While the level of formality can vary depending on the couple’s preferences and the specified dress code, dressing up for a wedding reception is a thoughtful way to honour the happy couple and the significance of the big day.

What is the best colour to wear to a wedding reception?

There’s no one ‘best’ colour to wear to a wedding reception. The best colour will completely depend on your preferences, the formality of the occasion, and the wedding colour scheme. However, generally, pale colours, pastels, and neutrals are good for summer weddings, while darker colours or jewel tones are preferable for winter weddings

You Might Also Like…

Happy Planning!