By: Paula Ramirez with Historic Mankin Mansion

In the midst of deciding on wedding décor, centerpieces, invitations, and so much more, you can’t forget to settle on a dress code for your guests. What they will be wearing helps set the tone and overall vibe for the event, so be sure that you are taking things like décor, weather, location, and your own attire into consideration.

So, what are the options and what’s right for you? Let’s break it down!

Julie J. Photography


Cocktail attire seems to be the most widely used dress code for weddings. This is the perfect choice for a semi-formal event where you expect guests to look dressed up, but not over-the-top. Knee-length cocktail dresses will be a popular choice for the ladies, while high-end jumpsuits and dressy pants could also make an appearance. Men will likely opt for a suit for a cocktail dress code; some will wear ties and others will not. If you want ties to be required, be sure to make that clear when notifying your guests.

Julie J. Photography

Choosing this dress code usually means that your wedding will be more on the relaxed side, perhaps a backyard wedding or a picnic feel. Expect your guests to come in a variety of outfits, from denim to shorts to sundresses, and sandals to boat shoes and no ties. If you’re looking for a more specific type of casual, it’s best to let guests know what the restrictions are to give them some direction.

Hayes and Fisk Photography

Black Tie/Black Tie Optional
If your wedding is a formal evening affair and you want to see guests at their absolute best, a black-tie dress code is the way to go. For men, it’s pretty cut and dry: wear a tuxedo. If you want a specific color, such as black, white, or blue, be sure to let them know as most will likely default to black. For women, formal floor-length gowns are always a safe bet that many will choose, while a high-end cocktail dress with heels is another option you’ll likely see. If you want guests to dress formal but are not expecting tuxedos and floor-length gowns, then say black tie optional or formal on your invitations and wedding website. This gives men a suit option and ensures that they will include the tie, while women can still go long or short for their dress.

Communicating What You Want
There are several ways to let your guests know about the dress code, but the most popular and efficient ways to do it are to put it on your wedding website and/or in your invitation suite. You can simply note casual, cocktail, or black-tie if there aren’t any other details or restrictions you want to include, but be sure to make room if there are. Communication is key!

Paula and Martin Ramirez are the proprietors of Historic Mankin Mansion, a wedding resort and bed & breakfast. They have lovingly restored this national landmark to its original grandeur and are honored to share the treasured estate with couples and their families. For more information, please visit