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Wedding guest dress codes

Many people have faced, or will face, the challenge of deciphering a dress code on a wedding invitation. To make sure you’re up to scratch, sister design duo, Valeri and Stephanie Chin of Val Stefani, have put together some guidelines to break it down

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Black Tie

This is a formal type of wedding, but more flexible than its white tie counterpart. Guests invited to a black-tie wedding should opt for a formal gown in a neutral color, a chic cocktail dress or a long evening gown. Guests should check with the wedding party or bride to see how formal they would like guests to dress.

The most important part for women to remember, is that they should stay with formal dresses regardless of length. When in doubt, picture what would look appropriate next to a tuxedo.


Formal and Black Tie Optional

An invitation that states the dress code is formal or black tie optional can leave things a bit ambiguous. Men can attend in tuxedos within the black-tie dress standard or in dark suits. Since men are given the option to dress somewhat less formally, women can select anything from a long dress to one that falls more into the cocktail dress category.

The look is still intended to be formal, so it’s better for guests to be slightly overdressed than under. Female guests, however, shouldn’t shy away from having a little more fun with the accessories, choosing a statement necklace or an attention-grabbing shoe.



The time of day should help guests decide how to dress. If the ceremony and reception are later in the evening, then advise guests wear darker formal hues. If it is a daytime wedding, then more vibrant and light weight fabrics are the perfect fit.

In some cases, the casual event releases guests from the traditional suit and tie requirement. Men can wear slacks with a collared shirt while women may choose pants and a blazer or a pencil skirt and a blouse. The important part, again, is not to aim too informal. And this means jeans, no matter how nice, are simply a no.


Dressy Casual

Dressy casual is the first point where jeans may be an option. However, they should be in good repair and not overly worn or faded. Additionally, they should be dressed with items like a sharp blazer or dressy blouse. Shoes should remain on the more formal side as anything too casual would be inappropriate.


Beach Formal

Beach weddings aren’t just a laid-back affair. They can be elegant, but dress for the elements. Think of dressy summer wear like a sundress at tea- or knee-length, paired with shoes that are wearable on the beach.



A daytime wedding is typically less formal than an evening affair. This means, unless specific attire is requested, it is often appropriate to lean casual, such as an outfit suitable for a country club or similar environment. Guests can often take cues from where the ceremony will take place. A church wedding followed by an indoor reception may suggest a more formal approach than a garden wedding with an outdoor reception.

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