In addition to the obvious details (who, where and when), a wedding invitation will often provide a quick note to indicate the dress code. Well intended, these “labels” can lead to confusion about what to wear.
The general guidelines are pretty straight-forward: don’t wear white/off-white (unless asked to), nothing too revealing (be respectful) and avoid wrinkled clothing/looking disheveled. Some additional factors that will help you understand the dress code are to look at the venue, location, season and weather. If the invitation labels the wedding as semi-formal and the venue is grand and opulent, I recommend leaning towards the more formal side of the spectrum. Fall or Winter seasons call more weightier fabrics and darker colors, but be conscious of the wedding location as some places have their warmest weather in September (i.e. California!), so you may go with a lighter weight fabric and a beautiful shawl.
Before we dive into the details, I advise you plan your outfit with your date. Nothing like linking arms with someone who is totally throwing off your look. Don’t have the appropriate attire in your closet and not interested in buying an entire new dress or suit? I’m sure you’ve heard of Rent the Runway for women. There is also The Black Tux , a game-changer in the suit and tux rental industry. Gone are the days where a guy’s only option to getting a nicely fitted suit was to buy one. Now he can rent a high quality suit and all the accessories. Men are stepping up their game in the apparel department, so it’s nice to see an option for guys to create dapper looks without breaking the bank!
The Black Tux created this awesome style guide to define the labels and make planning your outfit easy. Read on as I share specific inspirations and recommendations in each style.
Semi-Formal/Dressy Casual: The infamous Cocktail Attire. You may have also seen “Garden Party Attire.” This typically indicates a semi-formal event that will be outside, so appropriate shoes and layers are key. There is quite the spectrum in this category. A suit is always appropriate for the men, but consider the season and venue of the event for color and fabric. The fun thing about this category is incorporating even more pattern or color into the outfit. Lighter fabrics for a day time or Summer wedding and darker suits for evening or colder wedding months. This grey suit is very versatile and can be paired with many different colors and patterns to get the look you want. For ladies, a respectful cocktail dress that is mid or tea length is a great choice, like this one by Cynthia Rowley.
Beach Formal: Linen or cotton suits, like this khaki one are great for a beach wedding. Ladies need to be appropriate for the environment, but still fit the formality of the occasion. Long maxi dresses, like this one by Saloni with flat sandals are perfect.
Black Tie Optional: I always say, dress up when you have the option, so I recommend this Modern black tux. But this style allows for a dark suit, should that be more your style. For the ladies, I chose this long evening Hudson Gown. Neutral colors such as black or navy are fail-safe, but if your a more daring personality, I say choose a fun color that still has a formal feel.
Black Tie: Contrast shawl tux if you’re looking for a spin on the classic black tux that still works for this level of formality. A long dress like this gold sequin Badgley Mischka gown is glamorous and fun! Otherwise, black gowns are always appropriate.
And remember, infuse your own personality and pay attention to the details, whether it’s a patterned pocket square or cool shoes.