When a wedding invitation arrives, you may get excited. After all, you want to make sure that you look your best without outshining the bride—and that means fitting the dress code of the wedding. While many brides and grooms opt for formal weddings, and equally formal attire, others may prefer a different setup. You could find yourself dealing with anything from a black-tie request to a casual dress code that allows you to choose from more comfortable clothing options.
What do those many dress codes mean, and how should they impact your clothing choices? Take a look at these common wedding dress codes and how to choose the ideal clothing for them.
White Tie Dress Codes
If you receive a wedding invitation that has a white tie dress code, assume that it will be a highly formal event. You will need to choose a floor-length evening gown (preferably one that does not match the wedding party's colors, if you know them). Along with your dress, you should plan your accessories with care. You may want to consider:
- Your favorite sparkling jewelry
- High Heels or other formal shoes
- White silk gloves that reach your elbows
Men need to wear a full tux: white shirt, tails, a clean white vest, and all the appropriate trimmings, including formal shoes.
White tie weddings are fairly rare, especially in modern times. However, if you do receive an invitation to a white-tie wedding, you'll need to prepare to dress up in your best.
Black Tie Weddings
Black tie attire weddings are considerably more common than white tie weddings. A black-tie wedding is generally very formal (though not as fancy as a white-tie wedding) and will require adherence to a relatively strict dress code. You should plan to wear a floor-length formal gown that brushes the floor or the tops of your shoes for a black-tie wedding, complete with gorgeous accessories. Plan to wear refined, elegant jewelry and shoes with your outfit. Options like pearls often add a great touch, but you could also choose jewelry that will add a touch of sparkle or reflects your unique style.
For a black-tie wedding, men will still need to wear a tuxedo, complete with the black-tie that gives this dress code its name. Either a regular tie, a bow tie, or even, depending on the venue and the formality of the event, a string tie, could be appropriate for a black-tie wedding.
Formal/Black Tie Optional Events
Pay close attention to the venue and to what you know about the event when you attend a formal or black tie optional wedding. Black tie optional events note that men do not necessarily have to wear a tuxedo, but that one would still be appropriate for the occasion. Men could also choose to wear a formal dark suit with a white shirt and appropriate tie.
At a black-tie optional event, women have many of the same options that they would enjoy if they headed out to a black-tie event. You could choose to wear the same floor-length gown you might have worn to a black-tie event or to go slightly less formal with a fancy cocktail dress or even a formal pantsuit. Consider the time of the event and the venue: if the wedding is earlier in the day, you could choose a knee-length gown, not necessarily just a full formal floor-length gown. On the other hand, if you know that the wedding is held in the evening at a fancy venue, you might want to opt for something closer to full black-tie formal wear.
Formal attire is a highly popular choice for many weddings. It allows wedding guests a little more creative freedom with their outfits, but still expresses the solemnity of the event. Choosing the right outfit for a formal wedding can be a challenge, since many people worry that they will end up over or under-dressed based on others around them.
Many men are pleased to note that formal weddings do not require them to wear a full tuxedo: instead, they can get by with a nice suit and tie. Formal attire also introduces more color options for men, who can choose to wear colorful jackets, shirts, and ties instead of the black and white attire required for many formal occasions.
For women, a nice cocktail dress is a great option for formal wedding attire. The dress can be long, like you would wear for a black-tie event, or shorter, depending on your preferences. You can also use bolder accessories that better fit your personal style, including accessories that will add a pop of color to your outfit.
As you move toward cocktail attire, the hemline of your dress can leave the floor behind. You have many more options regarding colors, patterns, and fit when you're invited to a wedding where cocktail attire is specified. While you can still wear a floor-length dress, you won't need the full gown often required for large formal events. Cocktail attire allows you to select from tea-length, knee-length, or midi-length boho flowy dresses. Cocktail attire can be a more casual environment overall, so you can choose more comfortable clothing for the event. Not sure how to style a midi dress for a more fancy occasion? Check out our blog for tips and tricks.
For a cocktail attire event, men will need to wear a suit and tie—no tuxedo required. Both men and women, however, should maintain a polished, classy appearance for the event.
Semiformal/Dressy Casual Weddings
Choosing the right attire for a semiformal wedding can feel challenging. You don't want to be overdressed, especially if you'll be at an outdoor wedding where you might be required to walk on the grass or sand, but you also want to make sure that you look great and feel confident. With a casual wedding dress code, you can leave the formal floor-length wedding guest dresses behind, but you'll still want to wear something that is appropriately dressy. Try options like:
Pay attention to the venue, time of day, and any wedding themes when dressing for a semi formal or dressy casual wedding. For example, you might not want to wear your little black dress to a midday beach wedding, where lighter fabrics might be more appropriate. On the other hand, if you're attending an evening wedding, you may find that it's the perfect time to break out your dressier accessories or a slightly more formal dress choice. Evening events also generally call for darker colors, while daytime events usually veer toward lighter colors and fabrics. Read one of our recent blogs to learn how to dress up a maxi dress, so you can elevate your casual dress for a special occasion.
Your accessories can also play a huge role in your wedding attire. For an evening event, you may want to add more formal jewelry, while a daytime event may allow for more fun, colorful, or personalized jewelry options.
At a dressy casual event, men should still plan to wear a suit and tie.
Casual attire has become increasingly common for many weddings. A "casual attire" wedding does not mean that you can show up in just anything, but it does mean that you have several more comfortable options. In some cases, you may be able to refer back to your favorite work wardrobe to find appropriate pieces for a casual wedding. In other cases, you may choose some of your favorite, but still dressy, outfits. You might, for example, want to wear something like:
- A high-low dress with a fun hemline
- Brighter colors and accessories
- A stylish jumpsuit
- Your favorite sundress made with the best summer fabric
- A cute, fun dress that reflects your personality
Choosing the right attire for a casual wedding can be a lot of fun. You can explore with more colors, patterns, and fun accessories that will allow you to show off your unique sense of style.
At a casual wedding, men can also default to office-ready attire. A button-down shirt with a comfortable blazer is a good choice. Men can also veer away from traditional black suit pants: khaki pants are suitable for a casual attire wedding.
Come As You Are Weddings
Some couples don't want their wedding guests to worry about what they're wearing to the wedding. Instead, they want them to come out prepared to celebrate. Beach weddings, mountaintop weddings, and other outdoor locations often come as you are. Of course, that may not necessarily mean "as you are" if you generally wear workout gear—but it does mean that you can choose more comfortable attire that is appropriate for the venue and the occasion. Consider what the couple will likely wear and what the venue looks like to choose the ideal outfit.
Are you looking for the perfect outfit for a friend or family member's wedding? At Karen Kane, you can find a wide selection of options that will allow you to look and feel your best. Take a look at our collections to find the perfect wedding attire.