Somewhere between picking out invitation card stock and purchasing wedding gowns, a bride must decide on not only who her guests will be, where they will seat and what they will eat—but what they will wear.
Deciding on the dress code for the event, be it strict or flexible, will eventually shape how the ultimate vibe of your wedding, so it’s important to consider the details and the overall theme of your nuptials.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t worry, let’s break it down.
The Vibe: If you’re leaning towards a more relaxed wedding vibe, a casual dress code is the best bet for you. Beach wedding, backyard bashes and the occasional elopement-with-friends all fit into this space.
The Code: A casual dress code really means anything goes—but be wary of this one: once you’ve given your wedding a ‘casual’ dress code, you’re basically forfeiting your rights to managing how your guests dress. They might come in a nice dress and heels; they might come in jeans and a tee. You have to deal with both.
The Vibe: If you were aiming for the ‘Casual’ code but wanted a ‘don’t you dare wear jorts’ addendum; ‘smart-casual’ is probably the code for you. Think: small weddings and garden affairs with an intimate and relaxed vibe.
The Code: For ladies, this means skirts, dresses, trousers and blouses—sometimes middling in the area of work wear. For men, it means button-ups, polos, slack and sweaters.
The Vibe: Just as it says, cocktail is along the sartorial line of a cocktail party. Ideal for semi-formal weddings, and usually the go-to for events, this code is versatile and flexible.
The Code: For women, dresses, jumpsuits and two-piece ensembles are all permitted, allowing for more flexibility for your guests. For men, a suit, with a tie or without, is standard.
The Vibe: If your wedding has quite a formal atmosphere and begins after 6pm, Black Tie could be an option for you. This gives a glamorous and classic feel, but is generally intended for bigger wedding parties.
The Code: This dress code is strictest for men, who are required to wear a tuxedo for the occasion. This may be complemented by a scarf or an evening watch, but should always include a bowtie. For women, anything on the side of formal is accepted. This included floor-length gowns, classy separates, cocktail dresses and even formal jumpsuits.
Black Tie Optional
The Vibe: If you think Cocktail is too casual, but Black Tie is too formal, Black Tie Optional might be the one for you. This code balances in between the former and the latter and is generally good for any wedding with a slightly romantic, formal tone, including garden weddings, church weddings and destination resort weddings.
The Code: Black Tie Optional, as the name suggests, is a slight deviation from Black Tie. The difference is that men are not strictly required to wear tuxedos, and may be allowed to wear a suit in its place. For women, the same rules as Black Tie generally apply.
The Vibe: If your wedding is on the higher most scale of formality, think: big church weddings, rented out hotels, and/or weddings to members of a royal family (in which case, congrats), White Tie is the only way to go. On the scale of dress codes, it is the most formal and strict, with very traditional rules applied to what you can and cannot wear.
The Code: White tie is yet another step up from Black Tie and is the strictest dress code of them all. For women, this means only floor-length gowns. For men, nothing less than a black, double-breasted tailcoat, a white waistcoat and pearl cufflinks is accepted, with top hats and pocket watches being optional.
The Vibe: While monochrome, that is, single colour, themes are potentially vague in their formality, you are still requesting a relatively strict code of dress. Basically, you would be asking your guests to adhere to one particular colour when choosing their outfits for your big day. If you are particularly obsessed with a specific colour, or you would just like your wedding guests to have a clean, uniform look, then this theme is for you.
The Code: As the name suggests, guests will be expected to wear the single colour that has been requested by the bride and groom on the invite. Although, factor in that your guests will interpret this as they will, meaning that different shades and combinations are to be expected—pending strict instructions on your wedding website or your invitation.
The Vibe: This themed wedding has one of the more quirky and creative dress codes, in that you could either be asking your guests to come dressed in vintage Gatsby-inspired attire, or alternatively, asking them to come as their favourite Game of Throne’s character. This dress code is reserved for the couple that would like to celebrate their big day in a particular world they so desire.
The Code: As you are asking your guests to plan, arrange and purchase a costume for your wedding—depending, of course, on the extremity of your theme—you should be prepared for some guests to underperform on the theme (and for some to over perform, as it were). If you’ve requested a 1950s-themed wedding, some might rock up in an Elvis costume, whilst others will pop on a full-skirted dress and call it a day. You must be prepared for both.