Decoding Wedding Dress Codes: Casual to Black Tie

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Have you ever looked at a wedding invitation and been totally stumped by the dress code?Black tie optional? Dressy casual?Festive? We know just how confusing it can be to decipher the various types of wedding attire, which is why we decoded some of the most commonly used dress codes ranging from the fanciest to the most casual. Read this helpful guide to ensure you dress appropriately for all your upcoming events.

Invitation Says: White Tie

This is the most formal wedding dress code (think White House state dinners or the Oscars).

  • Women: a floor-length formal evening gown.
  • Men: a tuxedo with a black tailcoat, matching trousers, white vest, white bowtie, shirt studs, cufflinks, and black shoes.

Invitation Says: Black Tie

Black tie is the second most formal dress code and usually indicates that the wedding will be a soirée.

  • Women: a floor-length evening gown is appropriate, but you can choose to wear a cocktail-length dress.
  • Men: a tuxedo with a black bow tie, black vest or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes are an appropriate option. Men may also get away with wearing a conservative black suit if they do not own or want to rent a tuxedo.

Invitation Says: Black Tie Optional

This can also be phrased as “Formal.” While it is still a formal event, the rules of dressing aren’t as strict as a black or white tie wedding.

  • Women: a gown, cocktail dress, jumpsuit or dressy separates are welcomed.
  • Men: a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie.

Invitation Says: Cocktail Attire

You may also see “Semi-Formal” or “Dressy Casual.” This is the most common dress code for weddings. The time of the event and the venue are going to help determine how to dress. For an evening wedding, darker hues are always a great choice, and for a daytime event, opt for light colors and softer fabrics.

  • Women: a cocktail-length dress, dressy maxi dress or jumpsuit, or a long skirt and top.
  • Men: a dark or muted suit and tie. Dress shoes are still a must.

Invitation Says: Festive Attire

Perhaps the most confusing, festive attire gives guests the green light to keep their wedding look fun and playful.

  • Women: a cocktail dress in a bold print or playful pattern; feel free to pair with an equally bold pair of shoes or accessories.
  • Men: a suit paired with a bright, colorful tie.

Invitation Says: Casual

A casual wedding is a strong indication that the wedding will be held outdoors. It may also be a beach or destination wedding. Though the event will be much more relaxed and laid-back, you still want to dress appropriately.

  • Women: a sundress or a skirt or pants paired with a nice blouse are all choice. Pair with strappy sandals or flats.
  • Men: dress pants or khaki pants paired with a button-down shirt, tie, and sports jacket.

So, what if the invitation doesn’t specify a dress code? We suggest cocktail attire so that you are covered whether the wedding is formal or casual.

This post originally appeared on BridalPulse