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Breaking Down the Wedding Dress Code

Mentioning the dress code on your invitation is expected, not only to make your guests more comfortable in their clothing decision but also to make sure that your wedding is as formal or casual as you want. You may already know what you want your wedding to look like, but knowing the terminology will help you communicate your vision to all your guests.

White Tie

White tie is the most formal attire. Floor length gowns, updos, sparkling jewelry, tuxedos with tails, and most importantly, white bow ties. A white vest is also expected, and white gloves for dancing are acceptable.

Black Tie

Black tie is slightly less formal than white tie. Gentlemen wear the less formal black tie, and the tuxedo jackets don’t typically have tails. Women still tend to wear floor-length gowns, but a longer length cocktail dress is also appropriate for this dress code. Ask the bride or bridal party if you have questions about the preferred length of a dress.

Black Tie Optional

Black tie optional is still formal, but gentlemen can wear darker suits with dark ties rather than a tuxedo. The wedding will still be formal enough for a tuxedo to be appropriate, but it’s no longer expected. Women still tend to stick to long dresses and more subdued colors, but a formal cocktail dress is also a good choice.


Semi-formal is usually considered cocktail attire. It’s a good idea to base your outfit on the time of the wedding; darker colors for a nighttime event, brighter colors for a daytime one. You’ll start to see shorter hemlines and brighter colors and prints. Women can wear a cocktail dress or a long, dressy skirt and top. Men are expected to wear a suit and tie.

Beach Formal

Beach formal is suggestive of an elegant beach wedding, so dress nicely but don’t forget that you’ll be out in the sand and sun. For women, a knee- or tea-length sundress is acceptable. Men can wear a summer suit, and linen or khaki pants are also a good choice. Sandals are appropriate for both men and women.


Casual does not mean jeans and a t-shirt, and the expected attire is what you would wear to church. For ladies, this means a nice sundress. For men, this can mean a pair of dress or khaki pants with a button-down shirt and a sport jacket.

What do you think? Formal or casual, or somewhere in between. What will be the dress code for your wedding? Hop on over to our Facebook page and let us know!


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