What Should I Wear?
Wedding Attire Definitions and Reading Between the Lines.
Article By | Lizzie West
That fancy envelope arrives and you are excited to support your friend or family member as they say “I do” to the one they love. Once that initial excitement wears off, you’re left with the question of what to wear. Many times you’re given some clue on the invitation to decipher. Other times, you might have to do some investigating on the wedding website. We are here to clear up some of the confusion and keep it simple.
A good rule to follow is, if you aren’t sure, it’s always better to be a little overdressed than a little underdressed. You can always remove something like a tie or a piece of jewelry to make yourself less formal in a moment. Here are some definitions to help you decipher the most common wedding dress codes:
Casual – This is better thought of as business casual or church-wear. A nice jumpsuit or casual dress should work perfectly. Think tasteful. Unless it’s encouraged in writing, avoid things like t-shirts, casual shorts, and flip-flops. For gentlemen, a nice pair of jeans (usually dark in color) paired with a casual button-down is a great option. Depending on the season, a casual sport coat may be appropriate.
Cocktail Attire – This is a step up from casual. Ladies can still wear dresses or jumpsuits; however you’ll want to consider adding a metallic shoe and some statement earrings OR a necklace to elevate a more casual dress. Many times we see knee length or above dresses – just remember to keep it classy. Gentlemen can add a tie to their casual look and a complimentary pocket square to their casual sport jacket for a more polished look.
Semi-formal/black-tie optional – Jeans are a no-go for this type of attire. Slacks for men, and more dressy attire for the ladies will be the norm. Cocktail to semi-formal can be a relatively easy transition. For the ladies it may mean that you wear the same dress with a dressier pair of shoes, and more statement jewelry. Consider amping up your makeup with a smokey eye or statement lip. For men, a dark suit, with dress shoes, a classic tie and pocket square are going to be the go-to attire. Women can rely on their faithful LBD (little black dress) with bold jewelry and a more formal heeled shoe. Again, metallic accessories are going to be the bread and butter of elevating your attire. Also, adding a fancy handbag will pump up your look as well.
PRO TIPS: Jewel tones are universally flattering and great picks for fall and winter weddings. Your go-to weddings shoes should be ones your can dance in. Metallic accessories will take an outfit from casual to cocktail in an instant.
Formal/Black Tie – Break out your tuxedos and long formal dresses, this is where you really get serious. Many modern weddings don’t lean to being this fancy but you definitely don’t want to downplay your attire with this dress code. Tuxedos and bowties are common, with dark colors being staples. Women should also learn toward long more formal dresses. Don’t be anxious, be excited that you get to put on something fancier than you have in a long time!
White-Tie – This is a once in a blue moon occurrence. This is the kind of attire you see at awards shows, state dinners, or a meeting with the queen. Men should get their hands on a tuxedo with a cummerbund, a bowtie, and patent leather shoes. Women will want to look for a ball gown or something of equal formality. Your jewelry, makeup, and hair should reflect the elegance of this occasion. In this case, you cannot be TOO formal.
#1 Many times the formality of the invitation/website is a good indicator of how dressy you should expect to be for the big day.
#2 The TIME of the event is also a solid clue to the type of attire. The later the wedding and reception the more formal you should plan to dress. The only caveat to this is the black tie and white tie options. Those are typically found as a written request.
#3 From the invite and website, you may notice a theme. If it is apparent and you are able, try to play long. Ex. If you see a comic book theme for an evening wedding, a suit with captain America cufflinks and a marvel themed tie might actually be pretty on par for the evening. And if you are considerate enough to notice, the bride and groom will likely notice and appreciate your thoughtfulness.
#4 If you’re not into that, try incorporating one of the wedding colors into your attire. But, do so in a way that doesn’t look like you’re trying to be one of the wedding party members. Consider adding an accessory that would accomplish this.