It is always exciting to get a wedding invitation to a friend’s big day. But deciding what is appropriate to wear can leave even the most stylish wedding guest feeling a little flustered. We’ve compiled a guide to decoding common wedding dress codes and included a few tips for what to wear even if there is no specific dress code.
The invitation says: “White Tie”- The most formal dress code request
- What she should wear: A formal, full-length gown in a neutral or rich, dark color. Pair the dress with heels and formal jewelry.
- What he should wear: A tuxedo with a jacket that has tails paired with a bow tie and formal dress shoes.
The invitation says: “Black Tie”- The second most formal dress code request
- What she should wear: A nice knee-length cocktail dress or a semiformal full-length dress.
- What he should wear: A tuxedo with a black cummerbund or black vest and a black bow tie.
The invitation says: “Black Tie Optional” or “Formal”- This is less formal than “Black Tie” attire but it is still considered appropriate if the men attending wear a tux or the ladies wear a long dress.
- What she should wear: A full-length or tea-length dress, dressy separates or a neutral cocktail dress.
- What he should wear: A tuxedo or a nice suit and tie.
The invitation says: “Semiformal” or “Dressy Casual”- For this dress code, wear lighter colors for a daytime event and dark or neutral colors for an evening occasion.
- What she should wear: A cocktail dress or a nice blouse and a skirt or trousers.
- What he should wear: A dark suit and tie for a fall or winter wedding or a lightweight suit and tie for a spring or summer event.
The invitation says: “Casual”- This usually indicates a beach or outdoor wedding with a more relaxed feel.
- What she should wear: A summer sundress or a nice blouse and skirt.
- What he should wear: A button-down shirt or polo shirt with dress pants or kakis.
If the invitation doesn’t give a dress code:
- Take cues from the invitation. If the invitation uses formal language and a flowing font it’s likely that the wedding will be semiformal. If the invitation is more rustic it’s safe to guess that the wedding will be casual.
- Consider the time of day when the wedding is taking place. Daytime nuptials are traditionally less formal than an evening wedding.
- When in doubt, ask someone from the wedding party for an idea of what to wear.
What isn’t appropriate to wear:
- White. While it’s become more acceptable to wear a printed or color-blocked dress that has some white in it, never wear all white.
- Anything too revealing or tight.
- A strappy or strapless dress to a religious wedding. Wear a cardigan or light blazer over the dress during the ceremony to cover your shoulders if you need to.
- A similar color dress to what the wedding party is wearing (unless the invitation suggests that guests wear certain colors).
- Jeans, tank tops or flip-flops. No matter how casual the wedding is these are unsuitable in all situations.