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Understanding The Wedding Dress Code

So, you’ve found a date, checked off the entree, and sent the RSVP card back to soon-to-be bride and groom. You’ve even figured out what item to get them off their registry and you’ve found the perfect card—one that has just enough space for you to handwrite your own special message. The one thing you’ve yet to figure out: what the heck to wear to the wedding. Okay, granted, you’re not the bride, so picking a dress shouldn’t be too stressful, right? Wrong!

Don’t worry, girl, we totally get where you’re coming from; understanding the lingo of the wedding dress code these days isn’t as straightforward as it once was. To save you from all your wedding guest woes, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly used wedding dress code terms and decoded them. Worry no more, because once you finish reading this article, you’ll never find yourself inquisitive of a wedding dress code again!

Wedding Dress Code: Black Tie
Decoded: Although you should double check the time of the arrangements, the term “black tie” is typically used to express an evening event. When attending a wedding with a black tie dress code you’ll want to err on the side of overdressed (if not, you may stick out in the crowd). Women do have a bit of option when dressing for a black tie wedding; you can either go for a classy floor-length gown or opt for a short, fancy cocktail dress. Gentleman should also put in the extra effort for this event, preferably wearing a tux.

Woman wearing red and white dress

Wedding Dress Code: Black Tie Optional or Formal
Decoded: We all hate this one—it’s basically the bride and groom’s way of saying that they aren’t going to require you to wear anything too fancy, but if you wanted to dress for a Grand Ball, they’d be okay with it. It’s the fact that “black tie optional” leaves it up to you to make the decision which makes it so tricky. We say a safe bet is to wear a pair of dressy separates or a cocktail dress. Be sure to pick a color that coordinates with your date’s conservative tie and formal dark suit getup.

Wedding Dress Code: Casual
Decoded: A casual dress code is typically expected when a wedding is held outside (e.g., on the beach, at the park) and has more a celebration and family vibe, rather than a prim and proper vibe. You’ll fit the part in a sundress or maxi skirt and your date will be comfortable in a pair of khakis (go for a “dinner in the Hamptons” look).

Wedding Dress Code: Semiformal or Dressy Casual
Decoded: This wedding dress code is usually used when a wedding is held during an out-of-ordinary season or at an unexpected location. It allows you to dress for comfort while keeping in mind that you’re attending a special occasion. You can go with anything from a maxi skirt and dressy top, to a cocktail dress. Your date also has a bit a freedom in his attire; we suggest that he still wear a suit and tie, but opt for accent colors that sync with the season.

Woman in lace

Wedding Dress Code: White Tie
Decoded: This is the most formal of all formal dress codes; think Oliva Pope’s attire when sitting across from Fitz at a White House State Dinner (yes—we totally just made a Scandal reference).

You will look most appropriate in any sort of formal, floor-length gown. Specifically, an evening gown (please don’t pull out your strapless prom dress). The gentleman on your arm should be dressed in a full tux. We’re talking dressed to the nines; tuxedo, jacket with tails, vest and bow tie, and black formal shoes, of course.


By Lionesse

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