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Dress Code

One question we get asked a lot is about dress code. This seems to be big issue among brides, especially in the Northwest, where casual attire is the new evening wear. It sounds like everyone could use a little advice on what to wear when attending a wedding, so we've gathered some basic rules of thumb to answer some of your questions.

1. Black-Tie
"Black Tie" means the men should wear a tuxedo with a black bow or long tie and the women should wear a long formal gown. If you are a bride and would like to have your wedding be "Black Tie" remember that as a result your wedding must be very formal. It is most likely your wedding will be held in a ballroom or formal outdoor tent. You must also reciprocate the guests gesture to dress formally by providing a 3 to 5 course meal and open bar.

2. White-Tie
Like "Black-Tie" all the same rules apply for "White-Tie" except the men done a white bow or long tie, with white vests and shirts, while the women wear long formal gowns.

3. Black-Tie Optional
A "Black Tie Optional" or "Black Tie Invited" gives you the option of wearing a tuxedo or formal dress, but it should clue you into the formality of the event, meaning a dark suit and tie would be your other option. Women can wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

4. Creative Black Tie
Creative Black Tie leaves room for trendy interpretations of formal wear. Men can go more modern with a tux -- maybe a black shirt, no tie. Women can wear long or short dresses or evening separates.

Sometimes, themed parties in the South call for dress codes like "Texas Black Tie" or other variations of Creative Black Tie. In that situation, you can have more fun with it, choosing a dressy look with a theme (for him, it could be a tux with boots and for her it could be a long dress paired with Southwestern style silver belt and jewelry).

5. Semi-Formal or Evening Attire Invited
"Semi-Formal" or "Evening Attire Invited" means that tuxes are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening wedding (after 6 PM) would still dictate dark suits for men, and a cocktail dress for her. Daytime semi-formal events mean a suit for men and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for women.

6. Cocktail Attire or Cocktail Reception
"Cocktail Attire" means short, elegant dresses for women and dark suits for men. For women, wearing the classic "little black dress" is appropriate.

7. Dressy Casual or Casual
"Dressy Casual" calls for dressed-up versions of casual looks. For men, it could be trousers and a sportcoat, for women a dressy pants look. Jeans, shorts, T-shirts and other casual looks are NEVER appropriate for Dressy Casual. Dressy Casual may be the right attire for a beach wedding.

"Casual" generally means anything goes and is really never appropriate for a wedding.

More General Questions...

Is it okay to wear black to a wedding?
Yes, but only for evening weddings. Gone are the days where black is only reserved for funerals. Just try to avoid wearing black from head to toe. Pair your dress with a colorful or metallic pair of pumps or a brightly colored handbag and jewelry.

Is it okay to wear white to a wedding?
No. White is reserved for the bride. But if you have a dress that is white in the background with a print in the forefront, that is acceptable.

Is it okay to ask your mother-in-law-to-be to wear a certain color and style?
Yes. Typically, it is appropriate for the mother-of-the-bride to choose her dress first. Then once she has chosen a style and color, the bride should give her mother-in-law a description of the gown so she can coordinate, without matching identically.

Is it okay to show skin or cleavage at a wedding?
Wear something feminine and appropriate, out of respect for your hosts. Clubwear, overtly sexy clothing (strapless, see-through, etc) doesn't belong at a wedding. If you have to ask if it's appropriate, it probably isn't.

Should men wear a tie to a wedding?
Yes. Even if the attire specifies semi-formal, wearing a tie is respectful. It is always better to be overdressed, than underdressed.

What if an invitation doesn't say what to wear?
Use your judgment. If the wedding is taking place during the daytime, a pastel colored dress or suit is most appropriate. If the wedding is occurring after 6 p.m. a little black dress is always appropriate. For men, a light colored suit for daytime and a dark suit and tie for evening is most appropriate.

A Final Tip for the bride...

If you are a bride that cares how people dress at your wedding, it is perfectly acceptable to add a line to the bottom of your wedding invitations with dress code instructions. If you have a wedding website, you could also include a "what to wear" section for your guests. In fact, most people like having a little heads-up on how they should dress, especially for daytime or outdoor weddings, which can be a bit ambiguous.