Bridal Etiquette Series: Debunking the Wedding Dress Code

There’s nothing we love more than getting glammed up for an Alabama wedding! From makeup to hair to donning a sundress, trendy jumpsuit or ballgown, weddings are the ultimate opportunity to look and feel your best. However, we know the confusion that seems to far too often accompany the dress code – if an invitation even specifies. Whether you’re determining the guest attire for your own upcoming wedding or simply attending, we’re here to break down the wedding dress code. Wardrobe not included.

Wedding attire, wedding dress code, what to wear


The invitation says “White Tie”
A white tie dress code is as formal as it gets. For ladies, this means a floor-length gown. Hint: Use the Academy Awards or a White House dinner as inspiration. Men should wear a tuxedo, long black jacket with tails, a white vest and bow tie.

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Pomegranate Gown, ML Monique Lhuillier (Rent the Runway)

The invitation says “Black Tie”
A step down from white tie, a black tie dress code indicates a formal gown of any length for ladies and a full tuxedo for gentlemen. If you’re unsure of whether most women will wear long or short dresses, don’t be afraid to ask around.

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Cobalt Marilyn Gown, allison parris (Rent the Runway)

The invitation says “Formal” or “Black Tie Optional”
A formal or black tie optional dress code falls in the middle of the wedding attire spectrum. Ladies aren’t required to wear long gowns, but a formal cocktail dress is appropriate for this occasion. While men can certainly opt to wear a dark formal suit and tie, your date may want to err on the side of caution and sport a tuxedo – if he has one of his own.

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Lunai Dress, Elizabeth and James (Rent the Runway)

The invitation says “Semiformal,” “Cocktail Attire” or “Dressy Casual”
For any of these dress codes, defer to the time of the ceremony. For a ceremony taking place after 6 p.m., opt for a cocktail dress or a dressy skirt and top. If the ceremony falls before 6 p.m., feel free to sport something more casual. Regardless of the ceremony time, your date will be safe sticking to a suit and tie.

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Sydney Dress, Herve Leger (Rent the Runway)

The invitation says “Casual”
With a casual dress code, you’re free to select any outfit of your choosing – within reason. Jeans, tank tops and shorts probably aren’t viable options, but a sundress or skirt and top are perfectly appropriate for this type of event. Gentlemen should stick to dress pants and a button-down shirt or polo.

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Blush Geometric Lace Dress, ST by Olcay Gulsen (Rent the Runway)

The invitation makes no mention of dress code
If a wedding invite doesn’t include a specified dress code, consider the season, venue and time of day at which the wedding takes place. For example, an outdoor summer wedding at 4 p.m. will likely be far less casual than a ceremony taking place at 7 p.m. in a house of worship. Use your best judgment for this scenario.

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