YCS Bride Guide: Decoding and Deciding on Your Dress Code

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By Erika, Fashion Expert

Almost immediately after getting engaged people started to ask me if I had a wedding date and venue closely followed by, “what type of wedding are you having?”  Don’t be mistaken, most people only minimally care about the “type” of wedding you are having.  What they’re really getting at is what will they be required to wear – if they are fortunate enough to make it only your guest list.

Just like you start to fantasize about what you and your honey will wear for your big day, your friends and family also start to think about what they will wear for your big day.  And, they start to fret about a) whether or not you’ll have a dress code at all or b) if you will have a dress code that is equal parts ambiguous and terrifying (think “dressy casual” – what even is that?).

Some brides, like me, will have a dress code in mind and will allow for the venue and time of the wedding to fit into their vision for the day.  Other brides may let the venue or time of the wedding inform their dress code.  And some brides won’t have a dress code at all, instead allowing for their guests to figure it out based on location, season and time of day.

Luckily for brides and guests alike, the info below will help you navigate the dreaded wedding dress code!

White-Tie: White-tie attire is the most formal attire there is.  You should dress like you’re going to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Black-Tie: This means the affair is still pretty darn formal.  Think, chilling with the Obamas at inauguration.


Formal / Black-tie Optional: Basically, it’s still a really dress affair; however, dark suits can be worn instead of tuxedos.  Ladies, you’re more than likely still in a gown.

Cocktail / After-Five: Suits for guys and knee-length dresses for women are appropriate.

Dressy Casual / Casual: The good news is that these are essentially the same thing! Basically, just skip the jeans, t-shirts, tank tops and flip-flops and you’ll be fine!


Beach Formal: You want to look nice but take the elements (sun, sand, water) into consideration. Leave the sky-high stilettos at home.

Wedding Attire Cheat Sheet

 Dress Code  He Wears . . .  She Wears . . .  Best for . . .  Season
White-tie or Black-tie

White-Tie: Tux with long tails, white vest, white bow tie and formal black shoes. Throw in white gloves for good measure

Black-Tie: Tux with black (or other color) bow tie, cummerbund or vest, formal black or patent leather shoes. Gloves and tails are not required.

White-Tie:  Formal, full-length ball gown (your fanciest stuff ever!). Full make-up, hair, and jewelry are completely acceptable.

Black-Tie: Although a cocktail dress is appropriate, err on the side of a long, chic evening gown to be safe.  Full make-up, hair and jewelry are also a “go” here.

Evening weddings (5pm or later)

Any venue could be appropriate, though outside might make this difficult.

Appropriate for any and all seasons!
Formal or Black-tie Optional Tuxedo or dark (black, navy, dark grey) suit Long evening dresses are still appropriate along with cocktail attire or even a formal suit. Evening weddings (5pm or later)

Any venue could be appropriate, though outside might make this difficult.

Appropriate for any and all seasons!
Cocktail or After-Five Suits are best.  Time of day will dictate if a dark suit (black, navy, dark grey) or light suit (brown, blue, grey) are appropriate. Cocktail dresses or dressy skirts and tops will work best. Mid/Late-Afternoon or Evening weddings work best.

Indoor or outdoor venues.

Appropriate for all seasons!
Dressy Casual or Casual Slacks and a button down shirt or polo shirt.  Neckties are a nice added touch. Summer dresses, skirts, blouses, and dressy pants are all options. Morning and Afternoon weddings.

Indoor or outdoor venues.

Any season will work, but best during Spring, Summer, or Fall.
Beach Formal Summer suit (think linen) or slacks (linen, khaki) and a button down shirt.  No tie necessary. Summer dresses, tea-length dresses, or pretty skirts and tops are all appropriate.  Sandals are an acceptable shoe choice. Any time of day.

Outdoor venues.

If you’re having a destination wedding then any season will work.

Outside of a destination wedding, late Spring, Summer, or early Fall work best for this type of wedding.

Hopefully, whether you are a bride deciding on your wedding day aesthetic or a guest at a wedding, the information above can help you decipher attire for the big day.  I know all too well that the dress code, as much as colors and decor, set the tone for the type of wedding that you want to have.

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering, we are having a black-tie affair for our big day!

We’ll be back in the next few weeks to cover wedding party gifts, bridesmaids attire, and choosing the right vendors in the YCS Bride Guide.  What else do you guys want to know about?

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Erika

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