Most of us have faced or will face the challenge that is only presented on wedding invitations: deciphering the dress code. If you don’t know your “semiformal” from your “black tie optional” here are some guidelines to get you started.
Black Tie This is a formal type of wedding, but more flexible than its white tie counterpart. As a guest invited to a black-tie wedding you should opt for a formal gown in a neutral color. You can also wear a chic cocktail dress or a long evening gown. Be sure to check with the wedding party or bride to see how formal they would like guests to dress.
The most important part for women to remember is that they should stay with formal dresses regardless of length. When in doubt, picture what would look appropriate next to a tuxedo.
Formal and Black Tie Optional An invitation that states the dress code is formal or black tie optional can leave things feeling a bit ambiguous. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a challenging look to put together! Men can attend in tuxedos within the black-tie dress standard or in dark suits. Since men are given the option to dress somewhat less formally, women can select anything from a long dress to one that falls more into the cocktail dress category.
The look is still intended to be formal, so it is better to air on the side of slightly overdressed than under. Don’t shy away from having a little more fun with the accessories such as a statement necklace or an attention-grabbing shoe.
Semiformal Depending on the time of day will help you to decide whether to dress more formal or casual. If the ceremony and reception are later in the evening then wear darker formal hues for an evening affair. If it is a daytime wedding then more vibrant and light weight fabrics are the perfect fit.
In some cases, the casual even releases guests from the traditional suit and tie requirement. Men can wear slacks with a collared shirt while women may choose pants and a blazer or a pencil skirt and a blouse. The important part, again, is not to aim too informal. And this means jeans, no matter how nice, are simply a no.
Dressy Casual Dressy casual is the first point where jeans may be an option. However, they should be in good repair and not overly worn or faded. Additionally, they should be dressed with items like a sharp blazer or dressy blouse. Shoes should remain on the more formal side as anything too casual would be inappropriate
Beach Formal Beach weddings aren’t just a laid-back affair. They can be elegant, but dress for the elements. Think lots of sun, sand, and water. Think of dressy summer wear like a dressy sundress at any length like tea or knee length. Pair them with shoes that you can wear on the beach. Leave your sky-high heels at home think a dress flat sandals or dressy espadrille.
Daytime A daytime wedding is typically less formal than an evening affair. This means, unless specific attire is requested, it is often appropriate to lean casual, such as an outfit that would be suitable for a country club or similar environment. You can often take cues from the environment in which the ceremony will take place. A church wedding followed by an indoor reception may suggest a more formal approach than a garden wedding with an outdoor reception.
When in doubt, you may want to consider asking for more information. Try not to call the bride or groom as they have enough on their plate. Instead, see if a member of the wedding party can provide the clarity you need. Often, they have a good understanding of what the couple is going for and can provide you with an overview or what is being requested.
Sister designer duo Valerie and Stephanie Chin of Val Stefani have deciphered some of the most popular and confusing dress codes you might receive in an invitation.