Preferred guest attire for a formal wedding depends on the level of formality of the wedding and ranges from white tie and tails for men and ball gowns for women to dark suits with ties for the men and cocktail dresses for the women. In most cases, the wedding invitation establishes the level of formality, so the guests know ahead of time how to dress. The levels of formality for a wedding range include white tie, black tie, black tie optional and creative black tie.
If a wedding invitation calls for white tie, then men are required to wear a tailcoat, a white shirt with white vest and bow tie, gloves and black opera pumps. Women must wear a floor-length evening gown with all the accoutrements. A black tie wedding calls for men to wear a tuxedo with a black bow tie and either a vest or a cummerbund. Women invited to a black tie wedding may choose between a full-length gown and a cocktail dress. Many weddings call for "black tie optional," a designation which starts to edge the wedding toward semi-formal. At a black tie optional wedding, men may choose between a tuxedo and a dark suit and tie. Women may wear a long dress, a cocktail dress or a dressy suit. At a "creative black tie" wedding, men are encouraged to wear tuxedos with unusual shirts or colors while women get to dress up in whatever way they want.