Guest Dress Code Explained for Casual to Black Tie Vow Renewals

Answers to your questions about what you should wear. If you were left feeling unsure about what you should wear to a vow renewal after receiving an invitation, you’re not […]

7.3 min readCategories: Attending as a Guest?

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Answers to your questions about what you should wear.

If you were left feeling unsure about what you should wear to a vow renewal after receiving an invitation, you’re not alone. Attire language can be a bit obscure and challenging to decipher.  We’ve put together a list of the most common guest dress codes and their definitions so you can arrive dressed perfectly and ready to celebrate the occasion.

Casual Vow Renewal Dress Code

A casual dress code indicates the vow renewal will likely be held either outdoors or at a casual indoor venue. Common outdoor venues include places like a beach, park, campsite, or backyard. Casual indoor venues include locations such as a hotel suite, theatre, library, gym, restaurant, or the couple’s home. Each of these locations indicates the celebration will be more casual and relaxed, especially when it comes to guest attire. Keep in mind, ultra-casual attire like jeans, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, or tennis shoes are probably not appropriate unless they are expressly noted as acceptable.

Feminine Attire

A cotton summer sundress or maxi-dress in a casual fabric paired with wedges or dressy sandals are excellent options for a casual vow renewal. Dresses in more formal fabrics, casual sandals, flip flops, and sneakers should be left for other occasions.

Masculine Attire

Pair khakis or dress pants with a collared shirt for an appropriate look. Feel free to add a sweater, tie, or sports jacket if it suits you, but don’t feel obligated. They’re definitely not required.

Semiformal or Dressy Casual Vow Renewal Dress Code

Part of dressing for a semiformal or dressy casual vow renewal is taking the time of the day the vow renewal is being held into account.

Guests should opt for light colors and fabrics for a daytime vow renewal. Darker, more formal colors are perfect for an evening vow renewal.

Feminine Attire

A cocktail dress, elegant pantsuit, dressy jumpsuit, or a dressy skirt and top paired with heels, nice wedges, or formal flats would be appropriate attire. Keep in mind that if the ceremony is being held outdoors, you may be walking across a lawn or sand. Going with a wedge, flat, or block style heel will help keep you from having issues with the heel sinking into the ground. A formal floor-length gown would be inappropriate attire.

Masculine Attire

A classic suit and tie would be appropriate attire. Let the time of day and season be your guide for color and shade.

Festive Attire Vow Renewal Dress Code

This dress code is a relatively new take on the semiformal dress code. It provides insights into the style of the vow renewal. Essentially, the couple is trying to let their guests know that they should come ready to celebrate, and they can have fun and play with their look. Cocktail-party attire in bolder colors and prints paired with fun and playful accessories would be perfect.

Feminine Attire

This is your opportunity to wear a cocktail dress, party dress, or jumpsuit in a fun color or print. Pair it with bold or playful accessories and heels or dressy flats.

Masculine Attire

A suit in a bold or traditional color paired with a bright tie and pocket square that has been creatively folded is entirely on point. This is your chance to wear that colorful jacket!

Tropical or Destination Vow Renewal Dress Code

Tropical destinations are usually humid and hot, so you’ll want to dress accordingly – no one looks fabulous when they are melting. While your first thought may have been to pick something in linen, you may want to think twice about wearing the linen dress or suit. While linen is appropriate for a tropical vow renewal, keep in mind it usually wrinkles easily. A dry cleaner or iron may not be available to press it. Modern cotton and cotton blends tend to travel better.

Vow renewals held in other destination locations tend to be more formal in style. When in doubt, opt to err on the dressier side for your attire. It’s easier to downgrade a look than amp one up. If you feel uncertain if what you’re planning to wear is dressy enough, chances are it’s not. Trust your gut feeling and go with something a bit more formal.

Feminine Attire

A cotton sundress paired with nice sandals or wedges would be perfect for a tropical destination. If you will be outside in the sun, add a sunhat to your look. For an evening vow renewal, you may want to add a wrap to your look.

For other destinations, look to the style of the invitation and the location to be your guide to attire. Semiformal attire would be appropriate for most locations.

Masculine Attire

Dress pants or khakis paired with a guayabera shirt would be appropriate vow renewal attire in most tropical destinations. A guayabera shirt is a short-sleeved, button-down shirt that usually has decorative square pockets and embroidery on it. They come in a wide variety of colors, styles, and price ranges. Long sleeve versions are also available. If you want a little fancier style, many designer labels offer a version. Don’t wear shorts unless specifically instructed to do so.

As with feminine attire for other destination vow renewals, look to the style of the invitation and the location to be your guide to attire. A dark suit and tie would be appropriate for most locations.

Formal or Black-Tie Optional Vow Renewal Dress Code

The wording here indicates something slightly less formal than black tie is acceptable. Yet, they are expecting you to wear something more formal than semiformal attire. This is your opportunity to dress your best as while a tuxedo isn’t required, the event is still formal enough for one to be appropriate.

Feminine Attire

This is your chance to wear that gorgeous floor-length gown, fancy cocktail dress, or a dressy pants suit that makes you feel like simply amazing. Satin, silk, tulle, and lace all would be appropriate fabrics.

Masculine Attire

A classic tuxedo or a formal dark suit paired with a white shirt and conservative tie is appropriate attire.

Black-Tie Vow Renewal Dress Code

This is the second to most formal dress code and usually means the vow renewal will be an elegant evening event.

Feminine Attire

A formal floor-length gown or dressy cocktail dress paired with heels or dressed-up flats and an evening bag would be appropriate. Elegant pants suits are also acceptable attire.

Masculine Attire

Wearing a tuxedo is required. It should be accompanied by a black bow tie, black vest or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes. For summer vow renewals, it would also be appropriate to wear a white dinner jacket and black tuxedo trousers.

White-Tie Vow Renewal Dress Code

This the most formal attire possible and not common for a vow renewal. This level of guest dress code is generally reserved for occasions like gala balls, royal ceremonies, and state dinners.

Feminine Attire

A formal floor-length evening gown is required, no exceptions. It should be paired with elegant jewelry, heels, and a clutch.

Masculine Attire

A tuxedo with tails, a formal white shirt with standing wingtip collar, white vest and bow tie, white or gray gloves, and formal footwear, such as derby shoes or oxfords, is required, no exceptions.

What Not to Wear to Vow Renewal, Regardless of Dress Code

There are a few rules that apply to all dress codes across the board for vow renewals. Regardless of whether the occasion is casual or black-tie, you will want to avoid all of the following faux pas.


Whether or not the dress code is black tie, it’s essential not to be underdressed for the occasion. Unless your hosts explicitly stated that wearing jeans or shorts is acceptable, you will want to wear at least something that you would feel comfortable wearing to a formal office party. Dress pants, dress shirts, suit jackets, and dresses paired with nice footwear are typically safe options.

Dressing for the Club

Even if the invitation says “festive” attire or the reception is expected to be quite the party, you should keep your attire classy. If you’re thinking of wearing something that you might wear to a nightclub, don’t. A vow renewal is an important event for the couple, and chances are that their family and friends will be in attendance, so keep it on the conservative side.

Wearing Solid White or Ivory

Guests should select attire in a color other than white or ivory to wear to the vow renewal. The last thing you want to do is show up wearing something that competes with the wife’s dress in case she opts for a wedding-style dress. If the couple has specifically asked all the guests to wear white, however, you should respect their request and find yourself a white outfit.

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