What to Wear to the Wedding {Dress Codes De-Coded}

As we continue into the most popular season for weddings, it’s inevitable that you have received at least one invitation to attend a wedding celebration.  And depending on the location and timing of the event, you’ve probably also had at least one moment of panic as you wonder what you are going to wear.

With so many things to consider- tradition to climate to formality to terrain- it’s no wonder the etiquette for wedding guest attire has gone cloudy for most. So when the men’s clothier Paul Fredrick contacted us to weigh in on the subject we jumped at the opportunity to join in the conversation!

This infographic is a handy reference guide Paul Fredrick put together in conjunction with a team of stylists, wedding specialists, and the like. At first glance you can see how the formality progresses as the day goes along.

We thought we could elaborate on this even further by discussing the fine line between tradition and our thoughts on how to dress your best for every style of wedding- for both men and women.

Formal- After 6p

Wedding ceremonies beginning at 6p or later call for your most polished duds- and even more so if the invitation indicates Black Tie. A tux will always be the way to go in either of these situations, polished black shoes, and we agree with this graphic that the traditional bow tie (ala Bond) is the only way to go (and besides, ladies do you not agree the men look so dapper in a bow tie?).

Sara + Dylan Photography

Ladies you’ll want to pick out a dress, tea-length to floor length (black tie), to really seal the deal at a formal wedding. If you have straps, bring a shawl or bolero to cover your shoulders if the ceremony is held at a church. And let’s weigh in on the debate over whether you can wear white or black to this affair. In short, we think black is chic and is completely acceptable. White? Though times have changed a bit and traditions have loosened we still agree with etiquette and say let the bride be the only one shining in white.

Semi Formal- Before 6p

Ceremonies beginning at 5:30p or earlier call for a less formal look, though by no means casual. Guys look cool and polished in a dark suit- think dark navy or gray. A slim tie or vest (with a jacket over top) is acceptable in this situation too.

Ampersand Studios

Ladies will look for what we call cocktail attire for this style of event. With the exception of a floor length gown, you can often intermix the attire requirements for a formal and semi formal event. One rule we live by- for cocktail attire, keep the hemline at the knee, longest at the calf. We are not clubbing so let’s leave the super short dresses at home, ok?

Casual- Before 6p

If the wedding invitation clearly states a casual celebration, don’t overdress for the occasion. Men can look to lighter fabrics like khaki, poplin, or seersucker (tradition holds this to Memorial day through Labor day only if you’re really by the book).  A sport coat would be the way to go here, though guys can even get by with a nice dress shirt, tie, and slacks sans the jacket (Paul Fredrick has a great selection of looks here), loafers or other less formal dress shoe, and a smile. And by no means are you allowed to wear jeans to a wedding.

Ampersand Studios

A more casual wedding can also be considered “garden party” attire for the ladies. Think summery fabrics (cotton, linen, light silks), and getting a little more colorful in patterns is acceptable (and don’t worry- it doesn’t have to be florals). The most important issue to note here is the terrain.  Most of our garden party or casual weddings have included grass or other nature to contend with, so consider wearing flats or wedges to avoid sinking or other ankle rolling debacles.

Resort Chic- Anytime

With more and more destination weddings becoming the go-to celebration, we’ve found a lot of would-be guests struggling to find the right seaside look. Unless Black Tie or other formality is indicated, much lighter fabrics and styles of dresses (ie: we would find the maxi dress totally acceptable in this situation) are the norm. Depending on the locale, men would even be good to go in flat-front khaki shorts and a button down shirt with loafers.

And there you have it- the complete thought list on what we think your guests should be wearing. We would love to have you weigh in on the discussion- what are your thoughts on wedding attire and formality?

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