Deciphering Wedding Dress Codes
Wedding season used to be so easy: If it was a daytime wedding, you wore a nice floral dress. If it was an evening wedding, you wore a cocktail dress or a black-tie gown. Now, though, wedding invitations come with complicated codes such as "dressy casual," "smart casual" and "creative formal." Here's how to figure out what to wear to a wedding.
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basic dress codes, defined
This one is easy: Men should wear tuxedos if they have them, dark suits if they don't. Women should wear evening gowns or fancy cocktail dresses.
Black tie optional or black tie invited
The bride and groom know that not all of their friends own tuxedos, so they're letting you off the hook a little. Dark suits and fancy dresses are still suggested.
Wear whatever you want! Jeans, sundresses, even shorts are all on the table.
This means short, elegant dresses for her, dark suits for the guys.
Creative black tie or creative formal
You still wear an evening gown, but men can feel free to get a little creative with their ties or choice of shoes. For example, cowboy boots and a bolero tie, or a dashiki-inspired vest with a tuxedo.
This warrants suits for the guys, and short dresses or dressy suits for ladies.
This is the one that stumps most people. The idea is to have a dressed-up version of a casual look. So, you might wear nice pants and a blouse with a little sparkle. Your date might wear khakis or other non-suit, non-jean pants and a sportcoat. No jeans or shorts.
This usually means the same thing as black tie, but a little looser.
This one trips up a lot of people. It is not the same as casual. Informal is actually the same as semi-formal (see below).
Dark suits for men and cocktail dresses for women.
This is code for "no jeans." Your date should wear khakis and a nice shirt, while you can wear a cotton dress with a little more bling than if you were just going out for lunch.
This is ultra formal. Women wear long dresses, and men wear tuxedos with white vests, shirts and ties.
If all else fails, call the bride and groom, or a member of the bridal party. This is perfectly acceptable and much better than feeling uncomfortable at a wedding.
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