So, you’ve been invited to a wedding. Fun! The invitation is pinned on your bulletin board, the date is marked in your calendar and you can’t wait to celebrate. As joyful as this occasion is, there are still a lot of stress factors creeping their way into your head. As a wedding guest, there are a lot of considerations in preparation for the big day. Aside from getting the right gift, one of the most bewildering decisions to make is what to wear.
The old adage comes back to haunt us. A closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear! You don’t want to be overdressed, but you certainly don’t want to look like an underdressed chump amidst a crowd of fancy–shmancy partygoers. Despite the dress code printed on the invite, there are just so many options to choose from, so many aspects to consider. It’s overwhelming. It’s daunting. Maybe you’ll just stay home and watch reruns of The Bachelor instead.
That’s crazy! Of course you’re going to the wedding. It’ll be beautiful! You’ll dance, you’ll eat cake and you’ll have a fabulous time. Just take a deep breath and don’t panic. Look, there are worse things than feeling lost in a tornado of dress options. Playing dress up can be a blast, and with these helpful tips you’ll be able to decipher the dress code in no time.
First things first: look at the invitation. Most invites specify the dress code for their guests, giving them an idea of what to wear. Hear are the most popular types, from the most dressy to the most casual, and everything in between.
I know what you’re thinking. What’s white tie? I thought the most formal attire was considered black tie. Well, black tie is the second most formal of dress codes. White tie is a step of elegance even above that. This is your chance to dress like the Queen of England, the upper class guests on the Titanic, an elite guest of the royal ball, etc. If you’re going to a white tie wedding, pull out all the stops: white gloves, regal jewels, detailed embroidery and coiffed hair. This is as fancy as it gets, so men wear tails and bowties, and women’s gowns are floor length and classy.
Just make sure not to wear anything that will outshine the bride on her special day. That means stay away from white and ivory, don’t wear a tiara or crown (or a veil, obviously) and make sure the dress’s circumference isn’t too statement making. Remember, the bride is Cinderella. You’re just there to celebrate her finding her prince.
If white tie is the Oscars, then black tie is the Golden Globes- still very fancy, but taken down a notch or two. Men wear tuxedos, women wear elegant gowns or cocktail dresses, and small beaded or satin clutches are aplenty. Black tie usually implies an evening wedding (as does white tie) so rich fabrics and tasteful color palettes are encouraged. Basically, your outfit should probably be dry clean only or something you’d pack in a garment bag. No wrinkles, no stains, no rips or holes. Dress to impress, nothing less.
Formal/Black Tie Optional
“Black tie optional” and “formal” both mean the same thing. While you still want to keep things relatively fancy, there’s a little leeway with the specifics. Men don’t have to wear a tuxedo, although it wouldn’t be inappropriate. A dark suit and tie is completely acceptable. For the ladies, a floor length dress is still fitting, although a slightly shorter hem with a chic pair of heels also becomes an option here. A dressy suit can also work, as long as it doesn’t look like you’re heading to the office. You want to look put together. This is your chance to “clean up nice” as they say. So, use some hair product, do your makeup and channel your inner princess.
This is where things start to get tricky, where the lines begin to blur. Think of Goldilocks shopping for an outfit that’s “just right”- you don’t want to dress too casual, but you also don’t want to look too formal. The aim is to fall somewhere in the middle, keeping it dressy without standing out too much. That being said, a nice skirt or dressy pant with a chic blouse is acceptable, but men should still wear a jacket and tie.
The trick to cracking this dress code lies in the details of the event. Consider the location, the time of day and the season. This will determine whether you wear a lighter color or a darker hue, whether you opt for a heavier fabric like velvet or a more delicate one like silk or chiffon.
For example, lighter colors are more appropriate for a daytime wedding whereas darker, jewel shades may be more suited for a nighttime wedding. Similarly, a spring or summer ceremony is a better time for playful paisley and floral dresses, whereas a fall reception may lend itself more towards a hound’s tooth pattern or geometric print.
This is the most low-key of dress codes when it comes to attending a wedding. This by no means implies a free for all where you can roll out of bed in the morning, grab a coffee, and head to the ceremony. It’s still, after all, a wedding! You’ll be meeting new people, making first impressions, and very possibly sitting in some house of worship. So, just because the dress code is casual doesn’t mean that no rules apply.
Men should wear dress pants with a button down shirt or polo. Women can wear a dress, a skirt and blouse or even a nice pair of dress pants. There are several ways to interpret this level of attire, but stay away from anything floor length or bejeweled, as those generally read as more formal choices.
No matter what the dress code may be, there are certain “don’ts” that cannot and should not be broken. Jeans are never okay to wear to a wedding. They’re just not. The same goes for t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, etc. Basically, if it’s something you’d throw on to run errands, it’s not appropriate for a wedding.
Your outfit of choice should also stay modest. This means watch out for the cleavage and make sure the hemline is long enough to cover your thighs. There will be grandparents at this wedding. You’re not going clubbing. Remember that. Also, make sure to bring a shawl or pashmina to cover your shoulders during the ceremony, especially if you’ll be in a church or temple or some other conservative venue. Be respectful, be classy and be fabulous. If you remember this, you’ll be fine.
Dressing for a wedding doesn’t have to be a dizzying experience of confusion. If you possess an average amount of common sense, everything will be okay. So, RSVP yes to the wedding, follow these guidelines and dance the night away. There’s so much to celebrate!