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Decoding Wedding Dress Codes: How to Dress For Every Type Of Wedding

by Katherine Callaghan

Have you ever looked at a wedding invitation and been totally stumped by the dress code? We have and we know just how confusing it can be to decipher various types of wedding dress codes. Lucky for you, we decoded some of the most commonly used wedding attires ranging from white tie to casual and everything in-between to help you dress appropriately for all your upcoming events.

Invitation Says: White Tie

This is the most formal wedding dress code (think White House state dinners and the Oscars).

  • Women: A floor-length formal evening gown.
  • Men: A  tuxedo with a black tailcoat, matching trousers, white vest, white bowtie, shirt studs, cufflinks, and black shoes.

Invitation Says: Black Tie

Black tie is the second most formal wedding dress code and usually indicates that the wedding will be an evening event.

  • Women: A floor-length evening gown is appropriate, or you can choose to wear a dressy cocktail-length dress.
  • Men: A tuxedo with a black bow tie, black vest or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes are an appropriate option. Men may also get away with wearing a conservative black suit if they do not own or want to rent a tuxedo.

Invitation Says: Black Tie Optional (can also be phrased as Formal)

This is still a very formal wedding, however, the rules of dressing aren’t as strict. This is a slightly less formal than a black tie wedding.

  • Women: A long dress, formal cocktail dress, or dressy separates are welcomed.
  • Men: A tuxedo or a formal dark suit and tie.

Invitation Says: Cocktail Attire (can also be phrased as Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual)

For this type of wedding, it is a slightly less formal event than a black tie and black tie optional. Men are not required to wear a tuxedo and women are not required to wear a floor-length gown (but long maxi-style dresses are welcomed). The time of the event and the venue are going to help determine how to dress. For an evening wedding, darker hues are always a great choice, and for a daytime event, opt for light colors and softer fabrics.

  • Women: A cocktail-length dress, dressy jumpsuit, or a long dressy skirt and top.
  • Men: A dark or muted suit and tie.

Invitation Says: Festive Attire

Festive attire gives guests the green light to keep their wedding look fun and playful.

  • Women: A cocktail dress in a bold print or playful pattern, and feel free to pair with an equally bold pair of shoes or accessories.
  • Men: A suit paired with a bright, colorful tie.

Invitation Says: Casual (can also be phrased as Beach/Destination Casual)

A casual wedding is a strong indication that the wedding will be held outdoors. This event will be much more relaxed and laid-back, however, you still want to dress appropriately.

  • Women: A sundress or a skirt or pants paired with a nice blouse are all appropriate options.
  • Men: Dress pants or khaki pants paired with a button-down shirt, tie, and sports jacket.

So, what if the invitation doesn’t specify a dress code? We suggest cocktail attire that way you’re covered whether the wedding is formal or casual!