It’s our favorite time of the year at SEG, wedding season! As the invitations start to roll in, you might find yourself excited to pre-plan your wedding wardrobe or stumped at the meaning behind the listed dress code. We love when couples share their wardrobe wishes on their invites. It gives guests insight as to how formal or casual the occasion will be. The trouble is learning to decipher the wedding dress codes themselves. If you too are stumped over what to wear for Black Tie Optional vs. Semiformal, we are here to help.
Wedding Dress Codes:
Unless you are rubbing shoulders with Hollywood’s elite, you most likely will not see this listed on a wedding invitation anytime soon. White tie is the most formal of all dress codes and requires men to wear traditional tuxedos with tails, white shirts and white bowties with formal patent leather shoes. Women are required to wear formal floor length ball gowns.
A black tie event is also a very formal affair and typically indicates it will be held in the evening hours. This wedding dress code encourages men to wear tuxedos or a very formal black suit with a traditional white shirt and black bowtie or tie. Women are encouraged to wear floor length gowns or formal evening dresses.
Black Tie Optional
This wedding dress code is always a bit tricky to decipher. Black tie optional usually means the event is slightly less formal than a black tie affair, but still relatively formal in nature. Most often, it will indicate that the bridal party will be in formal tuxes and gowns and guests are encouraged to dress formally as well. For men, this means a tuxedo is the best option, but not required. A traditional, dark colored suit with a white shirt and conservative bowtie or tie is also appropriate. Women have a bit of a broader selection including a floor length gown, formal evening dress or dressy separates. Dark colors, especially black are the most appropriate palette for a black tie optional dress code.
Semiformal or Cocktail Attire
Either one of these wedding dress codes is very common to see on an invitation. This wording indicates the event is somewhere in between formal and casual. This will mean suits and ties for men and a cocktail dress for the ladies. A little black dress is always our suggested “go to” choice for a semiformal or cocktail attire dress code.
A little more towards the casual end of the spectrum, this oxymoron phrase can be very confusing for guests. When this appears on the invite, we suggest men choose between a suit (with or without a tie) or a nice pair of dress pants and a sport coat. For the ladies, a simple dress is a great choice.
As the word indicates, this event will be more relaxed and the guest’s attire can reflect that. Men can wear khaki pants with a button down or a polo, while ladies can wear a casual summer sundress or even dress pants and a nice blouse. While casual does indicate a laid back atmosphere, jeans, shorts and tank tops are still discouraged.
Others: Beach, Festive
While the above wedding dress codes are the most common, you may also see the words beach casual, beach formal or festive specified on an invitation. Beach casual will often indicate a laid back outdoor beach wedding. Sundresses and flat sandals are appropriate for ladies. The men can decide between khaki pants with a polo or button down or if the weather will be extremely hot, Bermuda shorts with a nice button down works as well.
Beach formal will indicate that although the wedding location is at beach or resort, the dress code should remain more formal in nature. Tea length dresses for women with more formal fabrics can be paired with dressier, flat sandals. Linen or light colored suits are a great choice for the men.
Festive can indicate that the wedding will be bright and fun or that there is a specific theme to the event. If the wedding has a theme such as a Gatsby wedding, guests are encouraged to participate in the theme and dress the part.
If you are wondering where to find dress code information, it’s typically located in the lower right hand corner of the invite itself or on the reception card. Sometimes, there is no mention of the dress code, which can make it much trickier to decide what is appropriate to wear. If this is the case, you’ll have to do a little detective work.
Undisclosed Dress Code
If there’s no mention of a dress code on the wedding invitation, there are a few ways guests can determine what to wear.
How formal or casual is the invitation itself? The more traditional the invitation, the dressier the attire should be. A formal invitation will usually be a soft cream or ecru color with dark printing in traditional fonts. A more casual invitation is generally more colorful in nature, with more whimsical font choices and might even have guests reply online vs. providing a separate replay card.
What type of venues will be hosting the events? If the ceremony is at a church and then an “adult only” reception will be held at an upscale hotel, this will be certainly be a more formal event. If the location is a beach wedding followed by a tented reception, you can expect a more laid back vibe with more casual attire among guests.
The time of the reception is also a great indicator of what is appropriate to wear. An afternoon wedding on a Sunday will usually be more casual in nature than an evening wedding on a Saturday night.
While wedding dress codes are certainly not an exact science, we hope this information will help steer you in the right direction the next time you receive a wedding invitation. And with that, we’d like to leave you with a quote, always remember, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” — Little Orphan Annie