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As a Man, What Should I Wear to the Wedding?

Balck tie? Sunset formal? California Casual? What should a guy wear to a wedding??? Let us share a quick guide to what each of the wedding dress codes means for you!

white man in black tie tux

Hey, John!

I’m a guest at an Ainsworth House & Gardens wedding this summer. I am so totally confused by the dress code “sunset formal.” What does it mean? What should I wear to the wedding???


–Ben, Befuddled in Bend, Oregon

Hey, Ben!

I hear you and I’m happy to help. First, let me explain what the well-recognized wedding dress codes are. Second, since the dress code “Black Tie Optional (Formal)” allows the bride and groom to create dress code all their own, I’ll explain a few I’ve encountered. To be absolutely safe, please contact someone “in the know” to clarify what the dress code is.

Dress code categories:

  • White Tie

  • Black Tie

  • Black Tie Optional (Formal)

    • Tropical Black Tie Formal

    • Sunset Formal

  • Creative Black Tie

  • Semiformal (Cocktail Party)

  • Dressy Casual

  • Casual (Oregon Casual and California Casual)

  • Traditional

  • Custom or Themed Wedding

  • Garden Party.

OK, let’s get specific!

White Tie:

As the most formal of the dress codes, it requires men to wear a black tailcoat, a formal white shirt covered by a white vest, white bowtie, and black shoes. White gloves are optional because they are VERY formal.


Black Tie:

Men:  Penguin attire of a dark tuxedo, a white dress shirt, a coordinating bowtie with a cummerbund and dark dress shoes such as Oxfords. Not to keep you in suspense but suspenders are optional.

man in white tux
Man's blue suit with a patterned tie PXBY

Black Tie Optional (Formal):

While you are welcome to stick to the Black Tie dress code since this is a very safe option, you are offered a little more room for creativity.

A dinner jacket in a color or a print makes the attire more creative and casual. Or men can wear a dark suit and a conservative tie instead of a tux.

Tropical Formal: While the other dress codes are clearly defined, this one is not. Think of adding colors which reflect the tropics—lime green, pineapple yellow, peach/mango—in your tie, bowtie, pocket square, and/or socks.

Sunset Formal: While not clearly defined in the etiquette guidelines, we think this dress code encourages black/dark suits for the men with sunset colors or pinks or peaches in the ties, bowties, pocket squares, and socks.


Creative Black Tie:

While not as common as it was years ago, it does pop up every once in a while now. This is a dress code which gives you permission to just have fun by wearing accessories that highlight your personality!

Express yourself with unique cufflinks, socks, or ties. Select a jacket with an unusual color or from a unique fabric.

Black professional in a gray wuit and white shirt Pixabay
Black business man in dark suit PXBY

Semiformal (Cocktail Party):

While a man’s suit in a dark color (e.g., gray, blue, or green) is required, a tie is optional.

Dressy Casual:.

A sports coat with trousers is fine. Again, a tie is optional..


Clarify with someone  how casual this wedding is. 

Oregon Casual: Sport coat with a button-down shirt and/or sweater with relaxed pants.

California Casual: Polo shirts with shorts and boat shoes.

White man in dark polo shirt PXBY
Wedding Event


If you are attending a wedding which is infused with a specific ethnicity or culture (e.g., India), ask what you should wear.

Dress respectfully no matter what you wear.


Custom or Themed Wedding:

At Ainsworth House & Gardens, we’ve hosted weddings with a Bridgertom theme and with a Harry Potter vibe. If the couple states that as a guest  you will be stepping back in time to the early 1800s (think Jane Austen) or flying into the fantasy world of Mr. Potter, consider how a few accessories might allow clothing you already own to fit into this theme.

If the wedding theme is a location (e.g., California beach or a winery at Italy’s Lake Como), consider an upscale-casual look which is infused with colors of that location. For a beach theme, think of serene greens and blues. For the winery theme, think of the vibrant blue of Lake Como and the rich purple of the grapes for your look’s inspiration.


Harry Potter wedding at Ainsworth bride at arch
man in blue print jacket Pexels


While a tuxedo is NOT required, a suit is fine. Incorporate a patterned tie or pocket square. Bonus points if you pick a floral pattern!



No matter how many miles inland you are, you can still have a beach wedding. Check with the wedding venue’s staff or the couple to find out which beach wedding vibe this will be. After all, there’s a significant difference between a beach wedding in Newport Beach, California, and a beach wedding in Newport, Rhode Island.

There are a few commonalities:

Linen-blend suit or a sports coat and pants.



If you have more questions, please reach out!


Your friend in the wedding business,


John Shyne


Image above the title was taken by Photography by Cambrae at a wedding which occurred at the Ainsworth House & Gardens.

Images 2-7 are courtesy of

Images 8 & 9 are of weddings at Ainsworth House & Gardens. 

Image 10–a man in blue jacket–is courtesy of

Images below here are from Ainsworth House & Gardens Gallery.


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