Wedding Dress Code: What to Wear to a Wedding or Formal Event

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There’s little more exciting than receiving an invitation for something truly fabulous (and what’s more fabulous than a wedding?) that I can’t wait to attend, and little more nerve-wracking than feeling stuck as to what to wear.

For many events such as a wedding, it’s not just choosing the outfit, but deciphering the dress code, that can leave invitees angst-ridden. As many of you are also trying to decide which dress code is appropriate for your wedding, I thought I’d help you by describing each dress code, so that you can choose the formality which suits your event.

Black Tie, Formal, Cocktail, Loungewear, Casual, White Tie, Evening… What does it all mean?

Garden Party/Lounge Suit

This is usually for the laid-back, relaxed outdoor wedding (in fact, this was the dress code we suggested for my wedding).  This is the actual wording we used….

We want you to have fun on our big day so please make sure you dress the part – be pretty and comfortable ladies, there will be grass so fancy flats or wonderful wedges are fine. Gents, a jacket and tie would be lovely, but please feel free to take then off after the formalities.

Dress Code Wedding Garden Party

Girls, this generally means a dress (or top and skirt if you like) that is colourful,  maybe pattered and light. Nothing too fitted, black, or sequined – garden parties are not for clubwear.

Boys, this still means a suit, but generally you can go a lighter colour like blue, grey or even taupe or cream. Have fun with a colourful bow tie, or a printed shirt, but you really should still be wearing some sort of jacket and tie.

What NOT to wear: Jeans (under any circumstances), trainers, shorts (this generally goes for guys and girls).

Cocktail Dress Code

Cocktail is probably the dress code everyone thinks of when they think “wedding”. It’s a little bit fancy, but not so fancy as Black Tie/Formal.

Girls, cocktail attire usually means a knee-length frock (or shorter) but save the evening gown for black tie. Sequins, lace, and black are all appropriate and generally some great heels complete the look. (if you are not a huge fan of wearing heels, looks for some smaller heels, if you are wearing a knee-length hem any heel will make your leg look longer!)

Dress Code Wedding Cocktail

Guys, generally cocktail for men means a black, or dark coloured suit and tie. You can totally play with colours in your shirt and tie, but if you aren’t sure, stick a black suit and tie with a white shirt, classic always looks great!

Black Tie/Formal Dress Code

Black tie dress code is the biggie that most people struggle with.  If your gorgeous bride and groom have gone to the trouble to create an amazing formal affair, then do your bit and dress the part.

Girls – in the strictest sense, this means LONG evening dresses. This is where most people go wrong.  If the bride is wearing an amazing, ornate dress, and her ‘maids are decked out in floor-length gowns, your pretty sun dress isn’t going to cut it for black tie. A shorter, more glamorous dress is also fine as we are usually a little more relaxed here in New Zealand.

Black tie Dress Code Wedding

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a heap of cash on a fancy dress, just find something simple, timeless and elegant (black is always a god option) that you can wear again for the next black tie wedding.

Guys – Technically, a black tie dress code means just that – Black suit, white dress shirt and a BLACK bow tie, but I think most bridal couples would be happy with a normal tie. Just make sure you shoes are shined, and your shirt is ironed and you’ll look sharp.

If you’re still stuck at the end of it all, take your cues from the bridal party. Ask the bride (or groom) what they have put the bridal party in and try and stick as closely to that as you can.

Wedding Dress Code Don’ts…

While plenty of traditional wedding rules have gone out the window, there are still a few things you should definitely avoid wearing at weddings. As you probably know, wearing white – or off-white or ivory – is one of them, unless the invitation explicitly states that the wedding will be an all-white party. Denim is pretty much always off-limits, too. Anything too low-cut, short or otherwise attention-grabbing should also be avoided.

 

Honour the importance of the event with an appropriate outfit, and remember, it’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Next time you’re invited to a wedding, why not help the bride out by buying her the perfect engagement gift: the little white book wedding organiser and diary.

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