Wedding Dress Codes Deciphered: How To Be a Well-Dressed Guest

You just got a wedding invite in the mail and in big black letters it says, “Dress Code.” Unfortunately, the words they use you specify that dress code are totally foreign to you. Don’t let that scare you, we can help make sure your misunderstanding doesn’t result in a fashion faux paux.

Here are seven common wedding dress codes broken down so you know what to wear!

Dress Code: WHITE TIE

The pinnacle of fancy. This is where you pull out a gown that would be fit for the Oscars.

What should you wear: A formal, full-length ball gown in a neutral color. This kind of dress code means bring the drama, so complete the look with fabulous makeup, look at me jewelry and standout hair.

Dress Code: BLACK TIE

In the sphere of formal. How is it different from White Tie? The occasion is usually in the evening. What should you wear: A ball gown is still appropriate, but look at it like this, maybe you’re not going to the Oscars, you’re  just going to the after party. In order to be on the safe side wear a dress that is ankle length and don’t be shy on the statement jewelry.


This is all in the name. Have a little fun. This is less serious than White and Black Tie.

What you should wear: Add a little color to your look through your accessories, your dress can stray from the neutral palette and the cut of the dress can be on the trendy side.

Dress Code: COCKTAIL

This relates directly to the length of your dress. Keep your ball gown in your closet.

What you should wear: A short dress. But not too short, it should hit no higher than your knees. This is the perfect occasion for your LBD. Statement jewelry is still appropriate.


This may seem like an oxymoron, but with the rise of beach weddings this is a dress code that you will come across. What you should wear:  A summer dress is definitely your go to, but make sure it’s on the formal/dressy side. It should be no shorter than knee length and because of the elements, sandals would be appropriate. Your makeup and jewelry can be on the everyday side.


In an age where “rustic barn weddings” are all the rage, farm formal has become a more common, but often misunderstood, wedding dress code. What you should wear: Put away your bedazzled denim overalls (even if those are strangely back in style). You still want to dress up — think cocktail dresses of any length and ties, if not full suits, for men — but consider this a heads up that you will be outdoors and may have to walk through plenty of unpaved terrain, so stilettos may be a bad idea.

Dress Code: CASUAL

When casual is on a wedding invite, it has a different meaning. The “wear what you want” meaning is not applicable. Unfortunately, jeans and shorts are not appropriate. Always stay on the safe side and assume it’s business casual.  What you should wear:  A dress, a skirt or even a pant/blouse combination is appropriate.


These dress code tips should have you covered, but if you’re still not sure, ask. If you know someone in the wedding party, send them a quick email or Facebook message to get clarification. Do you still want to be on the safe side? It’s easier to pack accessories than a whole outfit. So, take some jewelry options to dress up or dress down your main outfit.

So, now that you know what to wear, now it’s time to celebrate.

Tell Us More

Have you ever made a fashion faux paux because you misunderstood a wedding’s dress code? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter!