Deciphering Wedding & Party Dress Codes

May 13, 2013

It's wedding season, which means, between the engagement parties, showers, and actual weddings, you can probably expect to buy at least one new dress some time soon. But before you do, here's a lesson in exactly what all those wedding and party dress codes mean.  

White Tie
If you get an invitation that says "White Tie" you are in for the wedding or party of the century--like royal wedding standards. A floor-length gown is required (black is your best bet but you'll also do well with rich jewel tones), as are long gloves, which are to be removed when you eat. Also, don't forget jewels--think diamonds and pearls; nothing trendy.

Black Tie
For evening weddings, galas, charity balls and the like you can choose to wear a floor-length gown, but you do have other options: a really fancy knee-length dress or dressy tuxedo pants paired with a silk blouse are acceptable. Technically, black tie attire is for after 6pm, but if you get a wedding invitation that says "black tie" and the ceremony starts at 3pm, just comply with the bride and groom (however clueless they may be). And again, no trendy accessories.

Black Tie Optional
This is a tricky one because you don't want to be the only one at the party who opted out of wearing black tie attire. Play it safe and use the same guidelines for a black tie affair. After all, 'tis better to be overdressed...

Semi-formal can be another tricky one, but the key to remember is that you don't have wear a long dress if you don't want to; an elegant short dress (think just above the knee, but nothing too much shorter) is perfectly suitable. Accessories can be on the trendier side, and of course a great pair of heels always works. 

Cocktail Attire
This is my favorite because the dress can be flirty and playful. A short dress will work, or you can try an on-trend high-low hem, along with great accessories. Don't be afraid to wear something embellished--think beaded throughout or with an ostrich feather skirt. Fun accessories like an animal print clutch or sequined pumps are perfectly in order.

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  1. I loooove this list because I have no idea how to distinguish black tie from white tie! hah! Thanks!
    Holly Foxen Wells

  2. I know, right? I'm still waiting for an invitation to a white tie affair...

  3. I was just talking about wanting someone to get married so I can get all dolled up and so Munch can be the flower girl, but pretty much everyone I know is married. :O)


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