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Newlywed couple walking out church and celebrating wedding with confetti
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Black tie, semiformal, cocktail attire—you generally know the drill with wedding dress codes. But these days, couples are bucking tradition by getting more creative with attire requests. While that means that you might have more of a say in what you get to wear, it can also lead to a lot of head-scratching when you are deciding what (and what not) to wear. To break it down, InStyle put together a great gallery of wow-'em wedding guest looks plus a breakdown on the new etiquette for nuptial dress codes from the traditional attire to the anything goes kind of shingdig. P.S. Unless requested, it’s still never okay to wear white to a wedding!

White Tie

The most formal of all events (think royal balls and stately dinners), when an invitation calls for White Tie it means a tuxedo jacket with tails, a white pique vest, a white bow tie, and gloves for the guys! For the the ladies, call your stylist! Time for a formal Oscar-worthy, Old Hollywood gown.

Black Tie

Traditionally, Black Tie events take place in the evening and as such will be noted on the invitation. Think formal, upscale, and long and luxe! While some modern Black Tie requests allow for a shorter dress with a luxurious detail like sequins or beading, it’s appropriate to stick to a longer length. For the gentlemen, tuxedo and a crisp, black bow tie are the way to go!

Sequin Gown
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Black Tie Optional

Most likely an evening event, but not always the case, a Black Tie Optional invitation allows you a bit more leniency in the tuxedo department—for guys, a dark suit is also appropriate. For the ladies, a long dress or a formal tea-length dress works. While you might be inclined to wear black, you can go brighter or bolder so long as you do not overshadow the bride. Amp up your look with bold jewels and heels!


Time of day will dictate the best approach for a semi-formal wedding wardrobe. For evening, opt for a darker suit and a cocktail dress in a dark hue and interesting textures. For daytime, have fun with it! You can liven up your dressed up look with bright colors and fabrics. For the guys, a semi-formal calls for a suit and tie. For a daytime semi-formal suit, guys don't have to stick with dark, serious shades— light gray or tan works just as well.

Festive Chic

Festive Chic implies color and patterns. Embrace the “festive” and go with bold, bright colors or floral and graphic patterns. Festive calls for your best accessories, though, like an impressive pair of earrings or killer heels (or both!). For the guys, a blue tuxedo jacket with black lapels or a velvet jacket say "Hey, I'm here to dance, too!"

Beach Chic

Dress your best—but dress for sand! Considering the floor covering, statement flat sandals will be most appropriate. (And the style earns double points for being comfortable—can you say dance the night away?) For the ladies, go with a dressier sundress in lighter fabrics, a maxi dress, or a hi-low hemline and bring a shawl for breezy nights. For the gents, a summer suit in linen is a perfect choice. And unless otherwise specified, no tie is required.

Fancy Farm

Farm to fork weddings are anything but a hoedown these days, so skip the denim and diamonds and opt for your hippest look. For guys, pair a jacket or grey suit with a check shirt and suspenders—and break out the Brooklyn fedora for that "Hudson Valley Chic" vibe. For ladies, a maxi dress or a short floral chiffon number will make an impact. But also keep it real— we're talking possible barnyard floors and rolling lawns here— with stick with a wedge, which will give you height minus the tripping hazard.


What did that invite say? Whimsical to one might mean embracing your inner Cirque De Soleil character while to another might mean “wear color." Take cues from the venue and the invitation. Perhaps it's a garden party? Break out a bright floral number then and a great fascinator! Does the affair take place at a club? Wear an elaborately embellished LBD but keep the hem length PG-13. When all else fails, check with the bride to make sure your look is on target.

Dressy Casual

Unless it's requested, we’d say it’s still most appropriate to leave the jeans at home. Take this opportunity to wear that cute romper or fitted jumpsuit, a great clutch and a pair of impressive heels or lace-up gladiator sandals. For the gentlemen, it’s never too dressy to wear a great linen blazer over a crisp white or check dress shirt and slacks—and no sneakers! It’s time to break out the driving loafers, gentlemen.

Dress Code Cards

Wedding Dress Code
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Attention bride-to-bes! Are you looking for a cute little extra to slip into your wedding invitation envelope? Katie Fischer Design creates these fun and unique dress code cards to inform your guests about what to wear on your special day.