Breaking Down Wedding Guest Dress Codes


When it comes to shopping for wedding attire, most of us have faced or will face the challenge that is presented on wedding invitations: deciphering the dress code. If you don’t know your “semiformal” from your “black tie optional,” here are some guidelines from incredible bridal and eveningwear sister duo, Valerie and Stephanie Chin from Val Stefani, to get you started. These gorgeous dresses are perfect for the range of your weddings this year from black tie to daytime casual.

Black Tie

This is a formal type of wedding, but more flexible than its white tie counterpart. As a guest invited to a black-tie wedding, you should opt for a formal gown in a neutral color. You can also wear a chic cocktail dress or a long evening gown. Be sure to check with the wedding party or bride to see how formal they would like guests to dress. The most important part for women to remember is that they should stay with formal dresses regardless of length. When in doubt, picture what would look appropriate next to a tuxedo. 




Formal and Black Tie Optional

An invitation that states the dress code as formal or black tie optional can leave things feeling a bit ambiguous. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a challenging look to put together! Men can attend in tuxedos within the black-tie dress standard or in dark suits. Since men are given the option to dress somewhat less formally, women can select anything from a long dress to one that falls more into the cocktail dress category. The look is still intended to be formal, so it is better to air on the side of slightly overdressed than under. Don’t shy away from having a little more fun with the accessories such as a statement necklace or an attention-grabbing shoe.





The time of day of the wedding will help you to decide whether to dress more formally or casually for a semiformal wedding. If the ceremony and reception are later in the evening, wear darker formal hues for an evening affair. If it is a daytime wedding, then more vibrant and lightweight fabrics are the perfect fit. In some cases, a semiformal wedding can release guests from the traditional suit and tie requirement. Men can wear slacks with a collared shirt while women may choose pants and a blazer or a pencil skirt and a blouse. The important part, again, is not to aim too informal. 



Beach Formal

Beach weddings aren’t just a laid-back affair. They can be elegant, but make sure to dress for the elements, like lots of sun, sand, and water. Think of dressy summer looks like a dressy sundress at any length, like tea or knee length. Pair the dress with shoes that you can wear on the beach. Leave your sky-high heels at home and wear dressy flat sandals or dressy espadrilles. 





A daytime wedding is typically less formal than an evening affair. This means, unless specific attire is requested, it is often appropriate to wear casual attire, such as an outfit that would be suitable for a country club or similar environment. You can often take cues from the environment in which the ceremony will take place. A church wedding followed by an indoor reception may suggest a more formal approach than a garden wedding with an outdoor reception.


When in doubt, it is always a good idea to consider asking for more information and clarity about the wedding dress code. Of course, the bride and groom will have a lot on their plate, so contact a member of the wedding party who can provide the clarity you need. The bridal party often has a good understanding of what the couple is going for and can provide you with an overview of what is being requested for the dress code!

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