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Guest Dress Codes for Your San Diego Wedding

June 11, 2021

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Made for newly engaged couples to help you navigate the planning process!


La Jolla Hotel at La Jolla Shores by Sherr Weddings.

It’s finally your turn, and looking through your perfect invitation suite, you’re so excited to print these out to send to your guests. Your names are written in elegant script font, the date and time just below to be printed on card stock in your wedding colors. But there’s one last thing to decide on before you order: The Guest Dress Code. You know what you’re wearing, but what do you tell everyone else to wear? Here’s what you need to know about each category before you decide!

When is the wedding?

The first thing to note is when your wedding is. Late May through mid October can get pretty hot in San Diego, especially if your venue is further away from the beach. November through April, however, can be mild to a little chilly. Depending on the formality of your event, it’s important to think about the comfort of your guests, as well as the look you hope to have at your wedding.

Where is the wedding?

The second thing to think about is location. Is your venue at the Fairmount Grand Del Mar, L’Auberge Del Mar, or Avensole Winery? While all of these three options are gorgeous and luxurious, the climate will be different at all three on a mid-July wedding date! Proximity to the ocean is something to consider as well as the formality of the venue.

How formal is your wedding?

The last thing to remember before we list your options is how formal you’d like your wedding to be. We recommend thinking about a combination of your venue’s formality, your wedding party’s attire, and your decor. The more high-end you get, the higher end your guests will need to be. After all, you don’t want your bridesmaids to be in couture gowns while your guest is in a floral sundress. You want it to flow!

Guests at wedding reception by San Diego Wedding Imagery Team, Sherr Weddings.

Here’s the breakdown of your options from most formal to least:

White Tie

White Tie attire is the most high-end, luxurious you can get and celebrity and royal weddings are known for this dress code. Ladies wear floor length gowns, typically with no ankles showing, high-end or designer jewelry, and heels. Gentlemen are expected to dress in a tuxedo with tails, complete with a formal white shirt, white vest, bow tie, white gloves, and formal shoes. Pretty fancy, right?!

Black Tie

The next step down is Black Tie, which is for the formal, but not regal, wedding. Ladies typically wear the same as white tie, but they may also wear a formal pantsuit. Gentlemen wear a normal tuxedo (no tails this time), white shirt, black vest and bow tie, and leather shoes. Still glam, but not over the top!

Black Tie Optional/Formal

Your next option takes everything in Black Tie and adds a little more leeway for the ladies. Women can wear all of the above or a formal cocktail dress (ankles are accepted with this style). Gentlemen wear the same as Black Tie!


Cocktail is a popular choice among most couples wanting their guests to look elegant, but not extra formal. Women have the option of wearing formal cocktail dresses, floor length dresses, or jumpsuits, and heels. Men wear suits with ties or bowties and leather dress shoes.

Beach Formal

Since San Diego is known for beach weddings, we knew it had to be on our list! Beach formal combines the formality of your wedding without overheating your guests or making the attire difficult to function in. Depending on your venue, guests can wear anything in Black Tie Optional, but with more breathable, light fabrics. Guests can wear lighter, more pastel or colorful colors for suits and dresses, helping to keep them cool. Weddings in the sand with this dress code also allow the ladies to wear a more chunky heal or dressy sandal to make it easier to walk. Men can skip the tie or bowtie for this option.

The ocean waves at Carlsbad beach in San Diego, California by Sherr Weddings.


Similar to Beach formal, Festive tells your guests to have fun with their looks with brighter pops of color. The ladies can opt for dresses in bolder colors such as burnt orange or a Kelly green, and men are encouraged to wear a bright pop of color in their tie or pocket square.


This option allows for comfort, without being overly casual. Floor length dresses, tuxes, and formal suits are inappropriate with this option. Women can wear knee-length dresses or dressier skirts and tops with more comfortable heels. Men can wear slacks and a dress shirt with a tie.


Casual weddings are much more laid back, meaning sundresses, dress pants, and dress shirt are acceptable. Jeans, tank tops, or shorts, are not acceptable unless you choose to specify so. This is also the least formal of all the options.

Other Options

Sometimes couples choose to give their guests color palettes or themes to dress for, such as an all white or pastel wedding. While most weddings are taboo on white, having an all white wedding or pastels can also add an extra layer of elegance in photographs. It’s your wedding day, so choose whatever option makes you the happiest!

Tell us which of these guest dress codes you are choosing for your San Diego wedding! We personally opted for Beach Formal!

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