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Wedding 101

What to Wear to a Wedding: The Ins and Outs of Wedding Dress Code

by | March 29, 2020

Having a dress code for a wedding is a crucial part of making sure the couple to be wed keeps their vision for the day as consistent as possible. It also makes sure that you, as the guest, are included in their vision as well! Make sure you add the dress code to the wedding invitations so guests can plan accordingly as to whether the wedding attire is a formal wedding or maybe more casual. As our styles and trends have changed at an accelerated pace recently, many people have had to reassess what garments fall within what dress code. Here is a quick guide to help you get started on your wardrobe for the big day:


A casual dress code (usually interchangeable with “dressy casual”) denotes the least formal attire; however, it’s still wise to air on the side of a more business casual style. Generally speaking, shy away from denim, tank tops, t-shirts, sneakers, etc. Now is the time to wear that killer sundress or those chic tailored pants, even a romper or jumpsuit - if paired with a sleek pair of heels, wedges, or sandals - can be appropriate for this dress code.

Beach Formal

Beach formal (or tropical, island, or destination) implies the couple sees this as a formal affair but is making you aware of the terrain and conditions: dress for what would be beach appropriate as well! So what does all that mean? Sundresses, linen pants, or elevated jumpsuits for those with more feminine styles are usually great options. Tailored khakis, a lighter colored button-down, and, optionally, a sports coat is a solid look for those more masculinely presenting.

Cocktail & Semi-Formal

The terms “semi-formal” and “cocktail dress” can be used interchangeably. This dress code can have a huge question mark attached to it for many, and rightfully so! This one truly encompasses everything in between casual and formal. As with all dress codes, wedding guests should keep in mind the venue, season, and time of day when deciding what to wear. Some appropriate options include shorter, but still more formal, dresses (ranging from just above the knee to tea length), typically paired with a wedge or heel, depending on the season, or a tailored suit worn with or without a tie.

Black Tie & Black Tie Optional

Black tie optional, or formal attire, is almost identical to black-tie: the option resides with those who feel most comfortable in a traditionally masculine style. They have the option to either wear a tuxedo (required for a black-tie dress code) or a darker suit and conservative tie. Cummerbunds or vests are definitely the way to go if you are in the tux/suit game. For the more feminine, floor-length evening gowns are encouraged and often paired with heels.

White Tie

Unless we are lucky enough to rub elbows with some Hollywood stars, many of us won’t see this dress code on an invitation any time soon. However, white tie denotes decadent floor-length gowns (ballgowns are often accepted and encouraged) and long-tailed tuxedos with a (surprise!) white vest and tie. Feel free to dress to your Cinderella dreams come true- luxurious accessories, including jewelry, gloves, and footwear, are strongly encouraged.

Within all of these different dress codes, the most important element is making sure you feel comfortable and stylish, whatever that means to you! The couple wants you to be there to share in this momentous occasion with them. If you have any questions about specific garments, it is always best to reach out to them to make sure their vision comes to life- and that you feel fabulous, too!

Gown Pictured: N. Portman
Photo Credit: Erika Tuesta