Receiving a wedding invite is an exciting excuse to get dressed up and have a celebration. But sometimes, the language surrounding dress codes or outfit expectations can be tricky to decipher. You want to stick as close to the theme as possible while still allowing yourself room for personal expression. The outfit choice is made even trickier if you are invited as someone who is considered a ‘guest of honor,’ typically reserved for members of close family, who will likely appear in photos, or the bridal party itself. But whether you are looking for formal wedding guest dresses or a chic tropical look, sticking to code shouldn’t overwhelm you.
While nearly every wedding you attend has a dress code of some type, the bride and groom occasionally remove any ounce of confusion by narrowing down your options to very specific choices.
This might be dictating the type of clothes you may wear, suits for men and dresses for women, or assigning strict color palettes to follow. If this is the case, follow the instructions and don’t try to find loopholes. As someone with more significance within the guestlist, any variation will stand out reasonably quickly and could ruin the overall effect the couple is after.
White-tie weddings are the absolute pinnacle of formal events. Think galas at the White House. They might have been popular back in the day, but in today’s culture, a white-tie wedding is relatively rare. However, sticking to the dress code is extremely important if you find yourself invited to one.
White-tie formality dictates that women should wear floor-length ballgowns, an elegant clutch, and high heels. While you don’t necessarily need to stick to neutral black and dark blue tones, single, dark, solid colors are generally more acceptable over bold patterns or bright, multicolor dresses.
The black tie is another very formal wedding type to be invited to, but it does allow for some wiggle room regarding outfit choices. Typically, black-tie weddings indicate an evening function, and you should consider the falling temperatures in slightly cooler months.
Floor-length gowns and heels are again acceptable in this dress code. But, if the celebration is closer to the less-formal side of the spectrum, an elegant cocktail dress or chic pantsuit are very sophisticated alternatives. However, both options still need to be paired with a heel of some kind.
A formal wedding is the most common and popular variation to which you will be invited. Most people have formal clothing options already. Therefore, any choice you consider for a black-tie wedding will perfectly suit a formal one. However, for a wedding in the warmer months, shorter cocktail or long-sleeved dresses are an appropriate option too.
It is not overly common for a color palette to be chosen for formal weddings. But don’t take it as an opportunity to go too bright or bold. Darker, more neutral tones are always considered more traditional, and you might stick out for all the wrong reasons in any professional photos.
When dressing for a semi-formal wedding, taking the weather conditions and time of day into account will play a huge part in dictating what you choose to wear. There is much more freedom with this type of dress code but keep in mind that it is a wedding, and your jeans still belong at home.
For a reception at night, pick darker colors with slightly longer hems or a traditional mid-calf-length cocktail dress. But if the celebration is during the day, you may dip into light colors and dresses that hit you at the knee or just below. Additionally, you can opt for a leather loafer or ankle boot footwear option if you find heels uncomfortable.
Casual weddings are not the most popular but are sometimes confused for location weddings. That is because any location where shoes, ties, or elegant dresses look out of place instantly creates an opportunity to go much more casual in your outfit choice.
Slip dresses, flowy maxi dresses, shorter cocktail dresses, and sophisticated jumpsuits are all very appropriate for this dress code. Anything more will look overdressed and out of place, especially if you find yourself on the beach at sunset. Play around with color and patterns, but avoid anything that will take attention from the show’s main stars. Despite the causal nature, unless specifically stipulated by the bride, avoid white at all costs.
On rare occasions, you might be invited to a wedding where no information regarding what you should wear is provided. If this is the case, use the date and location of the event to create a starting point from which you can work. Alternatively, try to speak to anyone in the bridal party and gain an idea of what they might be wearing.
If you cannot gather any useful information this way, stick to a semi-formal outfit. The likelihood of it being any more formal than that is low, as the couple would mention this to avoid anyone showing up too casually.
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