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Your pals are getting married and you’re stoked to celebrate their big day with them. But there’s just one little thing that’s bogging you down — what am I supposed to wear? You might be surprised at the number of different dress codes available for brides and grooms to choose from. And that means there’s about a million different things you could wear to one event. So, what does each dress code mean and does that specific dress or suit you’ve been saving fit into the equation? We’re here to be your dress code spirit guides because this can truly be a journey.

A good rule of thumb to follow if you’re still feeling unsure about your final outfit decision is that it’s better to be too dressy than too casual. Choose your favorite heels over flats. Throw on a tie just in case. It’s much less embarrassing to look like you care too much than too little about the bride and groom’s big day.

You can also ease your insecurities by playing safe with color and pattern. If you’re not confident wearing that floral patterned shirt with your linen suit to your buddy’s beach wedding, then opt out. It’s not your day to shine, so err on the side of caution.

Finally, don’t wear white. Just don’t do it. There are so many colors of the rainbow to choose from so take your pick and avoid wedding day drama.

With those basics out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of wedding day dress codes.

Casual, Dressy-Casual, Daytime Semi-Formal

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Don’t be fooled by the word “casual.” A casual dress code does not warrant wearing denim, a t-shirt, or anything that even remotely resembles sweats. Casual or “dressy-casual” still requires a button-down shirt, khakis or neutral-colored trousers, and perhaps a light blazer. Ties are optional, as are full-on suits.

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Sundresses, jumpsuits, skirts, and blouses are also appropriate, and it’s within this dress code that you can get away with wearing nice sandals or open-toed shoes if the weather allows. And maybe, just maybe, you can pull off a clean fashion sneaker. For daytime weddings, keep colors light (again, not white) and fabrics within season. Linens, cottons, and silks are great for warmer months whereas wools suit cooler months.

Semi-Formal, Cocktail

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Suits and ties come into play when we get into semi-formal attire. If it’s an evening semi-formal wedding, wear a darker suit and add color and personality with your choice of shirt and tie. You can also take this opportunity to play with pattern. We firmly believe that both men and women should dabble with colorful and/or patterned suits like plaids and pinstripes. It’s at this kind of wedding where you can show off your eye for fashion and dress up without necessarily sacrificing comfort.

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Cocktail dresses, which usually have more weight and structure than a typical sundress, and heels are recommended. Alternatively, women may also opt for a tailored suit and blouse paired with some classy accessories like heels and clutch.

Beach Formal

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This look can be a bit tricky to pull off because you’ll want to remain as dressy as possibly, while still looking beach-appropriate. We recommend sticking to a longer sundress paired with sandals or wedges, and perhaps a clutch and sunhat. Anything that’s lightweight and catches the wind without showing too much skin will work great.

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And like the standard casual dress code, breathable and light-colored linen suits, shirts sans tie, and festive trousers (ahem — not swim trunks) is the way to go. A good-quality silk tropical shirt under a jacket can also make you look the part. And remember, flip flops are never okay for a wedding. Never ever!

Formal, Black-Tie Optional

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The word “optional” here is key and allows some flexibility within this dress code. You could arrive in a tuxedo or full-length gown or dress, but you’ll also fit right in in a charcoal or navy suit and tie combo.

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Women can get away with several different looks at a black-tie optional wedding. Skirt lengths can vary, as can prints and colors. Dress according to the time of day and season. Glam up and feel great about yourself. You don’t get to dress this formal that often.

Black-Tie

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This evening event dress code is fairly straightforward. Tuxedos are a must for a black-tie wedding. Bow ties, black vests, and patent leather shoes are all part of the package. Luckily, if you don’t own a tux, you can rent one. And if this is a summer wedding, opt for a white dinner jacket rather than the traditional black.

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You’ll want to keep your skirt length, mid-calf to floor-length for a black-tie wedding. Think of it like going to the Oscars or Emmys — you have the ability to get get creative with print and color, but a longer skirt length, or even a matching suit and blouse, with heels is preferred.

White-Tie

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White-tie is the formalest you can get when it comes to any event. Floor-length evening gowns, heels, and jewelry is perfectly appropriate. Really pull out all the stops for this event. Think royalty, elegance, and pure glamor.

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Tuxedos with a tailcoat jacket complete with a formal white shirt, white vest, and white bow tie is the only acceptable look for men at white-tie weddings. Make sure you’re wearing the appropriate footwear such as patent leather black lace-up oxfords. You’ll most likely need to rent this attire, as many don’t own a full white-tie ensemble.

We hope we’ve eased your wedding wardrobe woes. If you have any questions about what you should wear, never hesitate to contact the bride and groom to double check your outfit.

Written by: Olivia Harvey

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