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Dress to Impress: Your Guide to Wedding Dress Codes

Weddings are fabulous affairs, but dressing for them can be a bit tricky. The good thing is, the couple will almost always give you a dress code in their invitation to work with, so you aren’t showing up to their big day sticking out like a sore thumb. We’re going to look at the most common dress codes for weddings and tell you a bit about what they mean for you as a guest. 

The dress codes we’ll talk about are white tie, black tie, black tie optional, semi-formal, festive, casual, and destination. Clearly, there are a lot of options that the happy couple can pick from when organizing their big day, and it’s important that you as a guest dress appropriately for the occasion.

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White Tie

A white tie affair is what you can expect for the Met Gala. It is the highest level of formality there is. For the men, there isn’t too much opportunity to express yourself or have fun picking out your look, because the goal is for everyone to look extremely similar and, of course, extremely formal. A white tie dress code requires a tuxedo with tails – no exceptions – and a formal white shirt and white vest. You’ll also be expected to wear a bow tie, white gloves, and you should be wearing formal shoes like a pair of clean, inconspicuous oxfords.

Black Tie

Black tie is the next most formal look. Imagine a party you’d see James Bond himself at. It’s reserved for evening events and is similar to the white tie, where you will be expected to wear a tuxedo, but it differs in that your vest is typically black as opposed to white. If you wish, you can opt for a cummerbund instead. For footwear, you’ll want to wear black patent leather shoes. While it is slightly less formal than white tie, the goal is still for the men to look as similar and polished as possible.

Black Tie Optional

This one can be a bit confusing. The general rule is that a tuxedo is recommended, but not required. If you don’t want to wear a tuxedo, still maintain a high level of formality by wearing a clean, dark suit, a white dress shirt, and a dark tie, typically in a solid color as opposed to a pattern. This does leave a little more room for creativity, but is still quite formal and is typically used for evening weddings.
 

Semi-formal/Dressy Casual

The semi-formal style leaves a decent amount of room for options. You’re not required to wear any one particular thing, and when you’re deciding what to wear, you’ll want to consider the time of day and the season of the wedding. Semi-formal attire has a wide range of options that are appropriate, but there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. You will want to wear a suit and tie, but you can go light if the wedding is taking place during the day or in the summer, and dark if it’s an evening affair, or takes place in the winter.

Festive

The festive dress code is a relatively recent phenomenon, and can be a lot of fun to dress for. The key tenet is that the happy couple wants their guests to have fun with their looks. You’ll still want to wear a suit, but you can play with the look by wearing a fun bow-tie, suspenders, a patterned tie, or a bright pocket square. Basically, have fun with this one! You’ve been given a good amount of freedom!

Casual

Casual weddings typically take place outdoors, sometimes even on the beach. You can be pretty relaxed in this dress code: dress pants or khakis are all good, with a collared shirt. If you want to dress it up a bit, you can wear a tie or a jacket, but it’s not required. Bring a nice looking sweater if it’s going to be cold or windy!

Destination

You’ve been invited to a destination wedding! Awesome, let’s party! Destination weddings are super fun, and they usually mean somewhere tropical, so the weather will likely be humid and hot, and you’ll want to dress in something nice but also comfortable for the environment. Guayabera shirts are commonplace at tropical weddings. Also known as Cuban summer shirts, they are short sleeved, linen button-downs with two vertical pleats on either side of the front of the shirt, and a decorative pocket. Wear with linen pants or khakis for a perfect beach wedding look.

A Code for Every Occasion

As we mentioned at the start of this article, the happy couple will definitely let you know what the dress code is for their wedding. Themes and styles are an integral part of wedding planning and they wouldn’t forgo making sure their guests fit in with the look they are going for as well. We’ve covered seven different wedding dress codes here, and now you can take a look at the suits, shirts, pants, and shoes we carry, with their tens of thousands of customization options, to create a perfect look for the next wedding you find yourself at!

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ABOUT

Cait Lambert

Cait Lambert is a barber and freelance writer. In addition to her work in men’s grooming and lifestyle, she has also written numerous fiction pieces: two screenplays and a YA novel. She lives in San Diego, CA, with her dog, Toni. Visit her at www.barberwithapen.com and follow her on Twitter - @caitwrites

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