What to Wear to a Rehearsal Dinner, According to 7 Experts

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on email

Not sure what to wear to a rehearsal dinner when it’s not your wedding?

Though you might be able to get some hints from the formality of the invitation or the location of the dinner, putting together the most appropriate outfit can be a bit tricky.

That’s why we consulted experts to give us their insights on what you should wear to a rehearsal dinner.

Let’s find out:

Bonnie Tsai

Bonnie Tsai

Founder & Director, Beyond Etiquette

Consider the location of the dinner and the formality of the invitation

A few things that can help you decide what to wear to a rehearsal dinner would be the location of the wedding, the location of the dinner, the formality of the invitation, and if there is a dress code listed on the invitation.

If you still feel unsure about what to wear to the rehearsal dinner, you can always reach out to the bride, groom, or the person who invited you to the event. Keep in mind that what you wear to the actual wedding should always be more formal than what you wear to the rehearsal dinner.

Dress codes at rehearsal dinners can fall into the following categories: formal (black-tie), semi-formal, business casual, and casual.

Black tie

Men: Black tuxedo with pressed white dress shirt finished off with cufflinks, a black bowtie, and a cummerbund.

Women: Floor-length dresses or gowns.

Semi-formal/cocktail

Men: Dark grey or navy suit with a white dress shirt paired with an elegant tie and finished off with leather dress shoes and dark dress socks.

Women: Elegant cocktail dress, long elegant skirt with a top, or elegant pants with nice top.

Business casual

Men: Sport coat or blazer with a dress shirt or open collar shirt and slacks or khakis. A tie is optional and you can finish off with dress shoes or loafers.

Women: Cocktail dress, or knee or floor-length skirt with an elegant top.

Casual

Men: Dress shirt, casual button-down shirt, or polo with khakis or slacks and finished off with loafers or dress shoes.

Women: Cocktail dress, sundress, or knee or floor-length skirt with an elegant top.

Elizabeth Kosich

Elizabeth Kosich

Fashion Designer & Image Stylist

Keep it chic while staying appropriate

Attending a wedding is a great opportunity to amp-up your style, so take the time to carefully craft your outfits. Here are some guidelines that will help you keep it chic while staying appropriate:

Women

Since the wedding day look should be more restrained and understated, the rehearsal dinner is when you can go for a more stylish, trend-forward look.

Wear a chic jumpsuit if you’re going for a sophisticated, sleek look or keep it classic with a cocktail dress. A full-length maxi hemline can translate as either bohemian or formalwear, so choose the style and print based on what you’re trying to communicate. Rehearsal dinners are more relaxed, so feel free to go with a bold print, color or cut.

Above all, make sure the fit and proportion of your outfit suit your size and shape.

Men

Rehearsal dinners can be on the casual side, but aim for a sports jacket and tie at the very least. Depending upon the tone of the night, attire can range from suit to flannel, so take cues from the groom on appropriate attire.

Remember the photos are meant to last forever, so you’ll want to present as your most polished and smart!

Karen Norian

Karen Norian

Simply Eloped

If you’re a bride or groom

Chances are that your rehearsal dinner is only a few days prior to your wedding day. To give your guests a glimpse of what your big day will look like, choose an outfit that compliments your wedding’s overall theme and color palette.

For instance, if your ceremony is taking place on the beach, dressing in delicate fabrics, like tulle or chiffon, will flow perfectly. Or, if your reception’s decor mimics an English garden theme, wearing a floral print dress or a floral-patterned tie will show off a cohesive look for all of your wedding day details. Similarly, wearing a hue that complements your wedding’s location can be the perfect touch.

Incorporating blues that are reminiscent of the ocean or greens that highlight hilltops will add just the right amount of coordination to your outfit.

The great thing is that couples are no longer tied to wearing a simple white dress or a nice jacket to their rehearsal dinners, so now is the time to really go all-in on something that’s slightly more fun and playful! But, if you prefer to stick with a more traditional style, play up a certain aspect of your outfit — like a colorful heel or a fun pocket square — to add in a bit of modern flair.

If you’re a guest

If you’ve been invited to the rehearsal dinner, that typically means that you play a special role in the wedding. Whether that means you’re a family member or a bridesmaid, the best way to plan your outfit is by first chatting with the couple.

After finding out the appropriate dress code, you can then filter out what’s in your closet. Try to remember that whatever you wear shouldn’t upstage the couple themselves, so if the bride tells you she’s wearing a sundress, don’t show up in a ballgown!

A good rule of thumb is to find an outfit that acts as a perfect neutral — not too dressed up, not too dressed down — and to accessorize for the occasion.

If the dinner is somewhere that’s a bit fancier, add on a sequined belt with a polished heel. If the dinner’s dress code is more casual, pair your look down with some fun earrings, cute flats, or a denim jacket. And, if you’re unsure of whether or not your outfit looks the part, throw a few accessories in your bag just in case, that way you can scope out the styles in the room before ultimately choosing what outfit details work best for the rehearsal dinner’s overall vibe.

Nathan James

Nathan James

President of Boardroom Socks

It is best to err on the conservative side

If the rehearsal dinner is a black-tie event or if it has a specific theme (i.e. “luau” or “Western“), you should be advised of this ahead of time. In that case, dress accordingly.

If you haven’t be advised of what to expect ahead of time, it is best to err on the conservative side; no one remembers the over-dress guest but everyone remembers the under-dressed guest. Showing up in too-casual of attire is embarrassing and reflects poorly on yourself as well as the individuals who invited you.

For gentlemen, we recommend wearing trousers, a button-down, and a sport coat.

An even better option would be a suit and tie; if upon arrival you determine that the tie is too formal, it can easily be removed. For footwear, we recommend a well-polished pair of brogues or other lace-up dress shoes; slip-on style shoes are too casual and should be avoided. Ensure your belt and shoes are the same color.

Given that we are manufacturers of men’s hosiery, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss dress socks in at least a little bit of detail. Socks can be a great way to subtly, and appropriately, express personality at a rehearsal dinner. Our recommendation here is to again err on the conservative side, particularly if the event is formal. A bright, solid-colored sock such as purple or red can be used to tastefully add a splash of color to a dark suit.

Marie Kubin

Marie Kubin

Founder & CEO, RENT MY WEDDING

When in doubt, overdress

I’ve helped thousands of couples across the U.S. plan weddings. Here are my 3 top tips for what to wear to a rehearsal dinner.

  1. Check the venue’s dress code
  2. Ask the couple
  3. When in doubt, overdress

Not sure what to wear to a rehearsal dinner? Follow these 3 simple rules to ensure you dress appropriately for a rehearsal dinner!

First, check the venue’s dress code. If the venue has a specific dress code, plan your wardrobe accordingly. If it’s a casual restaurant, like a pizza place, it’s a safe bet to dress casually. If you’re still not sure, ask the couple. What if it’s too late to ask the couple? A good rule of thumb is that when in doubt, overdress!

No one is going to fault you for looking nice at an important event. But you certainly don’t want to be the only one wearing jeans in a crowd of cocktail gowns!

Brett Galley

Brett Galley

Director of Special Events, Hollywood POP Gallery

It’s important to follow the dress code mentioned on the invitation

Figuring out what to wear to a wedding-related occasion is always a bit tricky. As a guest, you want to adhere to the etiquette and not outshine the bride, bridal party or family members. On the flip side, though, you do not want to be underdressed either.

Therefore, it is important to follow the dress code mentioned on the invitation. On rare occasions, the couple has not specified a dress code which means a little detective work will take you a long way.

If the rehearsal is taking place at a restaurant, do a quick search of the place so you get an understanding of the ambiance and style. If it is a fine dining restaurant or otherwise an elegant looking place, you know the setting will likely be upscale and dressier. Dressing in cocktail attire is always a safe bet on those occasions.

However, if the dinner is hosted at the couple’s favorite BBQ joint or distillery, chances are that everyone will be more casually dressed. Some couples choose to host the dinner at an event venue, which typically means they had a bigger budget and rehearsal dinner will be a preview of what the actual wedding will be. Unless otherwise advised, dress in cocktail attire.

But no matter what the dress code, leave white for the bride to wear.

If still unsure, you can call the wedding planner or maid of honor for more insight. The weeks leading up to the wedding is a stressful time for the couple, so always try the wedding planner, maid of honor or best man first before contacting the bride and groom.

Elise Armitage

Elise Armitage

Fashion and Travel Blogger, What the Fab

Look to the rehearsal dinner’s venue to determine how dressy or casual you should be. If it’s at a fancy supper club, a floor-length dress might be in order, vs if the dinner is being held at an outdoor venue or someone’s backyard, a more casual dress would be appropriate.

Just keep in mind that while of course, you want to look your best, you don’t want to be too flashy or look like you’re trying to outshine the bride. And of course, don’t wear white!

Sometimes a white dress with a print or pattern would be acceptable, but just to be on the safe side I would avoid it altogether. And since it’s bound to be a family affair, definitely avoid showing too much cleavage or leg and opt for something slightly more modest.