Wedding Dress Codes

As I learned when I was planning my own wedding, ‘wedding season’ is considered June through October in the US. So we’re right in the thick of it, Fledglings, and I’m sure that you, like me, have been awash in invitations to showers, bach parties, engagement parties, and yes, weddings.

I can feel your blood pressure going up from here. There’s so much to consider: Should I go to these things? How much money should I spend on a wedding gift? What if I run into my ex’s ex whom I hate so much it makes my ears hurt?

And then there’s the clothing. What to wear? How much to spend on clothes? Do I *need* new clothes for this? What if I feel really out of place because I dressed wrong?

It’s enough to drive anyone to drink.

Might as well.

But put down the Pinot for a second, because dressing for other people’s weddings is pretty straightforward, once you know the lingo. And if you’re in doubt, put those social skills to work and ask! Maybe don’t ask the bride, because stress and busy and STRESS, but her maid of honor or one of the bridesmaids will likely have her finger on the pulse of what the bride wants people to wear to various events. Get direction when you need it. That’s the best way to avoid embarrassment.

Here are the wedding dress codes I’ve seen and dressed for, and some suggestions on what to throw on so you feel like you fit in with the other celebrants.

  1. Business/Dressy Casual: Same as it is for work, and same as I described in previous posts. Slacks or a skirt, nice flats, nice top. Make sure everything is clean, neat-looking, and weather-appropriate. Boom.
  2. Beach Casual: This one’s generally used for outdoor weddings (duh), so no heels here. Sandals or slip-ons that you can take off if needed – like, if you’re actually on a beach – are a necessity. A big tip here, Fledglings: Don’t wear anything floor-length on a beach. Your skirt or pant legs will just vacuum up the sand as you walk around, and your outfit will be a mess by the end of it. Mid-calf (known as ‘tea length’) or knee-length, please. A sundress or nice capris and a nice, bright-colored top will work fine and not wreck your budget if you do want new clothes for it.
  3. Sunday Dress: I did this one for my wedding. If you’ve ever been to a formal religious ceremony, like a Christian church service or Jewish shuul, wear what you’d wear to that. A dress or pantsuit for the ladies, slacks and button-downs for dudes. Maybe wear a tie, maybe not. If a jacket is your thing, go for it, but if you’re a blue-collar type who doesn’t do the jacket/tie thing, don’t rush out to get one. Look nice, look modest, look put together. If in doubt, ask.
  4. Black Tie: I don’t see these a lot, but they do happen to people who aren’t me. This is your Very Formal Wedding, with Very Formal Dress required. ‘Black tie’ means a dude needs to wear a tuxedo, or a black suit with a black tie. To complement that look, ladies should wear a floor-length evening gown (or a cocktail dress, IF the bride says it’s okay – this is another one of those times to ask for guidance). Oh yeah, you’re gonna go all out here. Put your hair up, put on some chandelier earrings, go be awesome.
  5. Casual: This is your backyard wedding, your jeans-and-t-shirt affair. Go have fun and be comfortable, but don’t look like a slob, please. Nice, non-holey jeans with a button-down or polo shirt for guys, nice jeans or a casual skirt and a cute top for the ladies. You can definitely shop your own closet for this wedding, and good for you!

That’s a quick rundown of what the different styles mean, but next weekend I’ll do an FAQ post about wedding attire. We’ll discuss cost, etiquette, and expectations, because in our super-casual world, this is one of the most structured events you’ll attend, and it’s good to be armed with some knowledge of how to do the thing properly. Have a good weekend!


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