Wedding dress code – the characteristics of a chic look
Even if you’ve never been to a wedding before, you probably know that most such celebrations have a dress code. The dress code is designed to make it clear to guests what style and colour of outfit they should choose in order to feel comfortable, look appropriate and blend harmoniously into group wedding photos.
In other words, all of this should simplify the task for the guests. However, the real challenge for most of them comes when they are invited to the wedding and are trying to decide what to wear.
So below we take a closer look at what different wedding dress codes mean – from white tie to semi-formal and casual.
How do you dress as a guest for a wedding?
While most wedding invitations include the preferred dress code, it can be difficult to decipher exactly what the bride and groom’s vision is in terms of attire. In addition, with the advent of new creative suggestions for outfits such as beach formal or daytime, you can easily become confused.
Firstly, you can of course refer to the couple’s wedding website if there is one. However, our tips are sure to help you find your way around and can serve as great inspiration for creating your own unique look.
White tie is the most formal of all dress codes
A white-tie outfit, also known as a full dress, is suitable for any elegant occasion and is not only to be found at a wedding. It is suitable for such events:
- royal banquets
- State dinners
- Diplomatic receptions
- Charity balls
- Presentation of honours and state awards
- Official weddings
Whilst white-tie weddings are not as common today, it is important to dress appropriately if you have been invited to one. In this case, there are no concessions.
The white-tie outfit for men looks very elegant and presentable. It emphasises every figure and refines the silhouette. White-tie for men includes:
- a dark dinner jacket tailcoat, extended to the back of the knee
- white piqué button-down shirt worn under a white waistcoat
- the entire ensemble is completed with a bow tie and cummerbund
The colour and fabric of the trousers must match the dinner jacket. They also often have a large-ribbon or satin stripe along the outer seams.
For ladies, an A-line evening dress or a floor-length sheath dress would be appropriate. Some also prefer a ball gown, but this depends on the formality of the event.
The outfit can be complemented with sparkling jewellery, elegant shoes and sleek elbow-length gloves in white silk.
Black-tie outfit: a slight deviation from the full dress
This dress code is the second most formal for weddings. Black tie weddings often take place in the evening and require a formal appearance. “Black tie” means exactly what the name implies: formal dinner jackets with a black bow tie, plain long black tie or even a very narrow tie.
The black-tie outfit is still one of the strictest dress codes with little room for manoeuvre. A dinner jacket is the only and invariable option. Neither a black suit nor a two-piece suit would be appropriate here.
However, you don’t have to wear the long tailcoat and cummerbund, and there are plenty of great formal dinner jackets for every budget. You can spice up your outfit with accessories such as cufflinks.
Ladies are also expected to wear formal dresses that should touch the bottom or top of their shoes.
Black Tie Optional – fewer restrictions and more choices
If your wedding invitation says “Black Tie Optional”, it may seem a little confusing at first. Should you really be wearing a black tie outfit?
To understand how to proceed in this situation, it’s recommended to think of “Black Tie Optional” guest attire as a mix of the black-tie and formal dress codes – the next item in our outfit overview.
You can wear a dinner jacket if you like, but a dark suit with nice loafers is also acceptable. A midi or knee-length cocktail dress for women is also acceptable instead of a floor-length dress.
Formal dress code – one of the most popular for weddings
You will most likely see this wording on your wedding invitation. However, the choice of attire still requires careful consideration. A formal dress code for a wedding is slightly less formal than a black-tie suit and generally has fewer requirements.
In this case, a dinner jacket is no longer required. A formal wedding dress code may include a traditional suit and tie.
Ladies, on the other hand, can get away with a more flirty cocktail dress. An elegant trouser suit will also be appropriate.
Beach Formal – the emphasis here is on fun
The dress code for beach weddings will be more relaxed. Whether you are travelling to a hotter country for the party or simply invited to a summer wedding near you, it is important to dress for the weather.
The best choice would be a linen shirt and trousers with a blazer jacket. For ladies, a summer dress with a straw hat is suitable. For a wedding in a hot climate, breezy fabrics such as linen and cotton will help keep you cool without deviating from the wedding dress code.
As with most outdoor weddings, it’s worth thinking carefully about your choice of footwear. Stylish moccasins or loafers are perfect for this.
Ladies can swap high heels for wedges or chunky sandals. The latter is particularly practical if you have to walk on sand.
Cocktail outfits – a fine line between formal and casual
When it comes to cocktail attire, guests have more flexibility in their choice of fabrics, colours and patterns. As the cocktail dress code is slightly less formal than black tie, a dinner jacket is not compulsory here either. However, you can always opt for more formal tops, which is a popular choice for winter weddings.
When considering what to wear to a cocktail wedding – a suit and tie, a crisp black or white shirt with suit trousers is a win-win option.
This dress code calls for a formal dress for women with a shorter hemline. It can also be complemented with jewellery or more colourful and stylish shoes. Accessories in general are a key element of the cocktail dress code. Ladies can also opt for a sophisticated jumpsuit.
Casual or daytime – elegance combined with comfort
Many people who see the word casual in a wedding invitation may associate it with an absolutely free style of dress with no rules. However, this is not always the case. Casual attire is the most casual of all the dress code phrases on this list, but it’s important to remember that a wedding is still a formal event and there are a few rules to follow. Shorts, leggings and trainers are not casual wear.
When choosing what to wear as a guest to a daytime wedding, use business casual outfit ideas as a guide. A blue button-down shirt with a navy blazer and khaki trousers will not only create a great look, but is also a very practical option.
Ladies can choose a dress with an unusually shaped neckline and simple but elegant accessories. From shoes, pumps with heels are the best addition to the outfit.
The casual or daytime dress code offers plenty of scope to experiment with trendy colours, patterns and fabrics. So if you feel like it, you can choose the outfit you feel most comfortable in.
Semi-formal seems to be one of the trickier dress codes
Since semi-formal and cocktail attire can sometimes be used interchangeably, you may get confused when it’s time to choose an outfit. However, the semi-formal style lies between casual and formal. Cocktail attire is therefore slightly more elegant than semi-formal outfits.
Gentlemen can choose a shirt and trousers, depending on the time of day – dark or light, optionally with a tie. A semi-formal style gives you flexibility in terms of comfort, but don’t dress too casually.
Some examples of what a lady should wear to a semi-formal event are a midi dress, a smart jumpsuit or a wrap dress.
What else can you look out for?
In principle, nothing is complicated if you know these simple rules. In addition to our tips, you can also pay attention to the style of the wedding invitations themselves, the nature and taste of the wedding couple and the location of the future party.
The time of day the event is taking place can also be a useful indicator of what the dress code for the wedding means. Evening weddings often involve a more formal style of dress.
In this case, consider an outfit that is a little more understated and sophisticated. For a black-tie optional or cocktail wedding at the beginning of the day, it would be appropriate to opt for something less formal than a dinner jacket or long evening gown.