Decoding The Wedding Dress Code
So you’re going to a wedding. We’re excited for you, and for whatever lucky pair is about to tie the knot.
But there’s a chance the invitation has left you scratching your head. In today’s world, dress codes are more relaxed than ever—but their meanings have become less clear. What’s the line between formal and semi-formal? What sort of casual is too casual? And just what exactly is “festive attire?”
Below is a handy guide to decoding your invitation, plus a little advice on how to make the most of each.
The Invitation Says: Black Tie
Black tie = tux. It may be increasingly common to see tuxes paired with neckties on the red carpet, but leave that look to Hollywood. If your invitation says “black tie,” you’ve got one choice when it comes to neck wear: a black bow tie.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean your tux must be black, too. Midnight blue has become an increasingly popular tuxedo hue: it’s dark enough to be formal, yet different enough to look distinct. Just keep the shoes black, and freshly shined.
The Invitation Says: Formal, or “Black Tie Optional”
This is the second most formal invitation you can receive. While you can wear a tuxedo if you’re feeling particularly Bond-ish, you’ve also been given a license to wear a suit. However, it should be one of your more formal suits, preferably in dark grey or navy. Pair with a solid-colored shirt in white or blue, a dark tie, and black shoes.
The Invitation Says: Semi-Formal, or “Cocktail Attire”
Semi-formal can get tricky, particularly when it’s attached to the always-vague term “cocktail attire.” Interpretations can vary widely, from full suit to a sport coat and chinos. We may be biased, but if there’s a question of being overdressed or underdressed, we’ll recommend the former every time.
Select a suit, but this time consider wearing one with a subtle pattern or a lighter shade of color if you feel so inclined. You can also take more liberties with the pattern of your shirt and shade of your tie, and break out your brown dress shoes.
The Invitation Says: Casual, or “Festive Attire”
A beach, a barn, a backyard: less traditional weddings call for less traditional dress codes. Which is where the confusing label of “festive attire” comes in. In theory, that could mean a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of flip-flops. But no matter how casual the venue, you won’t regret looking your best.
In these instances, try pairing a sport coat with a button-down shirt—no tie—with a pair of chinos. Fulfill the “festive” part of the invitation by wearing something with a bold pattern or a bright color: you can never look overdressed if you’re having fun with it. Slide on a pair of loafers, and feel free to leave the socks at home.