Wedding dress codes can be a minefield of confusion, frantic googling, and last minute shopping trips. How casual is Dressy Casual? How optional is the black tie in Black Tie Optional? What the hell does Festive mean? All pressing and important questions that we’ve gathered the answers to.

Below we’ve compiled all the most popular wedding dress codes and how to achieve them. Of course, these just our recommendations and you should wear whatever you want, but we may be able save you a few awkward glances.

 

White Tie

White Tie weddings are the fanciest of all traditional weddings. Think Royal Wedding meets an elegant charity ball. Although, white tie weddings aren’t super common if you’re invited to one it’s great opportunity to above and beyond typical wedding wear.

Standard White Tie Attire:

  • Floor length gown, with fancy foot wear and jewelry (and throw on a fascinator if you’re wanna get wild!)

  • Tuxedos with tails are customary menswear, along with white vests and bow ties.

Photo Credit |  Jeremy Russell

Photo Credit | Jeremy Russell

 

Black Tie

Black Tie weddings are a more common and give you room to play with your style. Black tie weddings are usually formal evening occasions with a distinct, extravagant style.

Standard Black Tie Attire:

  • Floor length gown, but you can get away with a formal cocktail dress.

  • Tailless Tuxedos with a bow tie and a cummerbund or vest.

Photo Credit |  Jessica Burke

Photo Credit | Jessica Burke

 

Black Tie Optional or Formal

Black Tie Optional aka Formal weddings are similar to Black Tie weddings but are a little less hoity-toity. You’ll still be dressed to the nines, but you aren’t confined to gowns and tuxedos. You can infuse more color and pattern into your look.

Standard Black Tie Optional or Formal Attire:

  • Formal dressy dress with no certain color or length.

  • Dark suit or tuxedo with a tie or bow tie.

 

Cocktail Attire or Semi-Formal

Cocktail or semi-formal attire can be anything you’d where on a nice night out on the town. Fun, flirty, but still done up enough to fit in with the party.

Standard Cocktail Attire or Semi-Formal Attire:

  • Nice dress of any length, but steer clear of fabrics that are a little too casual like jersey.

  • Any color suit, but you can ditch the tie or bow tie for a more laid back feel.

Photo Credit |  Wale Ariztos Photography
 

Dressy Casual

Dressy Casual wedding attire is what I like to call “Put One Thing On“. Find your cutest casual outfit (something you’d wear going out to a nice brunch with friends or to your local Red Lobster) then add one nice thing. A pair of nice shoes, a piece of jewelry, a fun cardigan, or cute belt and wallah you’re casually dressy.

Standard Cocktail Attire or Semi-Formal Attire:

  • A dress or a dressy skirt and blouse.

  • Slacks and a button down or polo. If you’re feelin’ a suit coat, throw on a suit coat, but no pressure!

Photo Credit |  Ashley Rhian Photography
 

Casual or Daytime

Perfect for a rustic or backyard wedding, Casual or Daytime wedding attire is a easy-going as you can get.

Standard Casual or Daytime Attire:

  • Break out your maxi’s and sundresses. Sandals are also appropriate if the weather permits.

  • Jeans, knee length shorts, or linen suits.

Photo Credit |  Helen Byrd Photography

Photo Credit | Helen Byrd Photography

 

Calling An Audible

For when you’ve been thrown an out-of-the-box dress code or worse, one you’ve never even heard of.

Themed Wedding Attire

Beach or Tropical Attire

Wear comfortable and breathable fabrics because more than likely it’s going to be hot or humid. If you’re planning on wearing heels, you may want to reconsider. As cute as they might be, sinking during the ceremony (or even all night) won’t be fun.

Photo Credit |  Suburban Faux Pas

Photo Credit | Suburban Faux Pas

Festive Attire

Maybe one of the most confusing dress codes on paper but the most fun in practice, “Festive” attire is your opportunity to wear any of all of the things. Sequins? Break ‘em out! Patterns? Wear a couple! Ruffles? The bigger the better!

Photo Credit |  Millie Pilkington

Photo Credit | Millie Pilkington

 

If you’re attending a themed wedding where guests are expected to dress up, pick a few details to play into the theme like a mask or jewelry or lean in and go all out with a one of a kind outfit and headpiece.

Photo Credit |  Mecca Gamble

Photo Credit | Mecca Gamble

No Dress Code

Sometimes things are going to be left up to your interpretation. In these cases your best bet is to reach out to the couple for clarification. If you’d rather not, in most cases you’ll be safe defaulting to a semi-formal dress code.

Photo Credit |  Mary Summers Hafner

Photo Credit | Mary Summers Hafner

 

Definite No’s, No Matter the Dress Code

  • Never ever ever wear white to a wedding unless explicitly being told to do so.

  • If you’re still unsure of what to wear, err on the side of caution and go a little fancier than you think you need to be. Worst case scenario, you’ll look (and feel) extra nice in all your wedding day selfies.

  • Steer clear of wearing your club clothes, not because you won’t look like a smoke show (because you absolutely will), but because you’ll be more comfortable getting out on the dance floor without any fear of wardrobe malfunctions and the couple will to.

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