When it's time to attend a wedding, you want to make sure you're dressed appropriately. Too casual or too formal, and you're likely to feel out-of-place and uncomfortable.
Since the formality of each wedding varies, and not everyone understands dress code lingo when directions are provided, here's a rundown on the vocabulary for wedding attire, along with some advice from the experts on how to dress as a guest.
- White tie is as formal as it gets, and it doesn't come around very often. For men, this means a black tailcoat, a white vest, a formal white shirt a white bowtie and possibly white gloves. Shoes for men should be black. For women, this means a long, formal dress and usually high heels. Keep in mind that, if you're not fully comfortable in a long dress or heels, you can go shorter and lower, just as long as you keep it pretty formal.
- Black tie is also formal, but not quite as formal as white tie. This is evening wear. For men, this typically means a dark tuxedo, a white dress shirt, a coordinating bow tie, a cummerbund and, optionally, suspenders. For women, this typically means a cocktail dress with heels preferable.
- Black tie optional is a step down from black tie. You can go with the attire above or opt for a dark suit and tie. Women should stick to a cocktail dress but might go with something a bit more casual. Heels are not quite as important in this scenario.
- Creative black tie is not often seen, but just in case you run across it, it means wear black tie apparel, but add some fun. Include a jacket in a unique color or material or unusual socks or cuff links. Women may want to add statement jewelry or other accessories to infuse some fun into their outfits.
- Semi-formal is just what it says. It's formal with a bit of casual infused into it. Men can get away with a suit minus a tie. Women should probably stick to a nice dress, but again, it doesn't have to be too formal. A nice dress suit is also acceptable for women in this case.
- Casual really depends on the venue. Is it a beach wedding or other outdoor venue? You might think sandals. Men can wear sport coats or button-down shirts and relaxed dress pants. In some cases, a nice button-down shirt and dressier shorts will do. Women should wear a less formal dress and shoes. Again, think about where the wedding is and even what the wedding party is wearing.
- Traditional may indicate a particular culture. For example, you might be asked to wear traditionally ceremonial attire for a specific faith or culture. Be sure to do some research on what is appropriate here.
- Custom. It seems a bit unusual, but it's not unheard of for brides to send color palettes or other specifications for dress. This might be the case if it's a particularly small destination wedding. For example, you might be asked to wear tropical or beach-inspired attire, or to wear festive attire that matches a particular holiday or other theme. When in doubt, ask the bride - or whoever you're closest to in the wedding family - for clarification.