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Jenny Berg has spent over a decade covering wedding and event trends, as well as other lifestyle topics, for publications such as Vogue.com and Instyle.com.
Formal Guest Attire For Wedding
A few things they silently pray their wedding guests get right. Probably the biggest one is dress code compliance. Even if there is a clear dress code printed on the invitation, deciding what to wear to the wedding can be complicated. For example, what makes semi-formal clothes
What Does This Dress Code Mean? A Guide To Wedding Guest Attire
The semi-formal dress code calls for a more relaxed look than that required at a formal black tie event. It’s a way to tell your guests to wear something nice without buying an expensive dress or renting a tuxedo.
To guide you through this semi-ambiguous dress code (widely considered the most confusing of all), we reached out to industry experts Kaila Rudolph and Ariel Gutowicz to share their insights. Read on for a breakdown of semi-formal wedding attire.
Floor-length dresses are longer than the semi-formal dress code requires. Women who follow this guideline can choose a cocktail dress or a polished ensemble. Semi-formal also translates to shorter hemlines, bold prints or raised compartments such as a formal top paired with tailored trousers.
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“Like all wedding rules, fashions have changed,” says Rudolph, former merchandising director at ide. “A killer jumpsuit or tailored pantsuit with subtle accessories can have the same impact as a cocktail dress or even a long flowing dress. Flirty details like ruffles, sleeves, slits or high-low hems work.”
If a semi-formal event is to be held outside, elegant flats are acceptable. “You can go more casual with fun sandals, but not the dirty ones you wore last summer,” advises Rudolph.
When it comes to beauty, skip the Cinderella-style updo. “Finish the look with simple but styled hair and fun accessories,” says Gutowicz, stylist for BHLDN.
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Tuxedo time. Instead, focus on matching your blazer or jacket with pants. When choosing a color, think about the seasonality. “Darker creations are necessary in the winter months, and lighter colors are perfectly acceptable for summer parties,” says Gutowicz. “A smart shirt and jacket will do.”
When it comes to shoes and accessories, when in doubt, don’t hesitate to wear a tie – you can always take it off later. “Don’t get too creative with the footwear,” says Gutowicz. “Play it safe with a classic leather shoe.”
A semi-formal dress code is not meant to be completely casual. “Focus on the level of sophistication versus the type of outfit,” says Rudolph. A wedding, regardless of the dress code, is still a special event that deserves an unusual outfit.
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Rudolph also points out that the location of the wedding can provide clues as to how to interpret the dress code. “A grand ballroom sets a different tone than a modern industrial loft or garden party,” he says. Do your research beforehand, and if all else fails, don’t be afraid to contact the host to explain. When you visit the site, Dotdash Meredith and its partners may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Cookies collect information about your preferences and devices and are used to make the site work as you expect, to understand how you interact with the site, and to show you targeted ads your interests. You can learn more about our use, change your preferences and withdraw your consent at any time with future effect on the Cookie Settings page, which you can also find at the bottom of the page.
Jen Gantz is the founder and CEO of Maid for Hire, an Amazon bestselling author, and the host of the You’re Not Getting Any Younger podcast.
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Have you ever been invited to a wedding where you had no clue how to dress the wedding guests? Between “optional black requirements” and “semi-formal,” the language is hard to decipher. “Although many couples want their guests to wear black, the most common wedding dress code is formal,” says Alicia Mae, CEO of ILÈ Events, a wedding planning company based in New Jersey.
Formal wear may be the most common, but there are several other dress codes that may appear on a wedding invitation. Formal, semi-formal, and informal are a bit more ambiguous than, say, black tie, and it can be difficult for guests to nail down the level of formality they want to achieve.
One of the best ways to decide what to wear is to do some research on the venue. “As a guest, I like to think of the wedding venue first as a backdrop that sets the tone,” says Mae. “A quick Google search of the venue can give you an idea of the style of the wedding, and the venue will have photos from past weddings to inspire you.”
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If you’re stressed about style, we’ve got our practical advice for you. Here are the most common dress codes for wedding guests, so you can arrive at the celebration dressed appropriately and stylishly.
This is the most formal wedding attire possible (think: White House state dinners). Women should wear a floor-length formal evening dress, without exception. Pair your dress with jewelry, heels, and a chic clutch. Men must wear a tuxedo with tails, a white formal shirt, white waistcoat and bow tie, white or gray gloves, and formal footwear such as derby shoes or oxfords.
This is the next most formal wedding dress code and usually means that the wedding is an evening event. Women should wear formal floor-length dresses that do not expose the ankles at the hem of the dress, but if the wedding looks a little less formal, a sophisticated cocktail dress may also be acceptable. Women can also wear elegant pantsuits. Men must wear a tuxedo. A black tie, black waistcoat or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes are also recommended. A white jacket and black tuxedo pants are also acceptable for summer weddings.
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Less formal than black tie is acceptable. So no need for a tuxedo, but the event is still formal enough to be appropriate. The options are the same as black tie: a floor-length dress, a fancy cocktail dress, or a smart pantsuit. For women, there’s not much difference between black and tie-optional, although Mae says it’s more acceptable to wear dresses that show your ankles (which is not true under the black dress code). Men have
A slight step above semi-formal, although not as formal as black tie optional or black tie, cocktail attire is a popular dress code option. It is a balance between elegant and comfortable and usually more formal than a daytime wedding but more casual than a night celebration. Instead of floor length dresses, women should choose tea length, knee length or midi dresses. Men must wear a suit and tie regardless of the location of the wedding. Don’t forget to look classy and polished, but don’t wear anything too ornate or too fancy to take to the newlyweds.
Part of dressing for a semi-formal or smart casual wedding is considering the time of the wedding. Wear darker and more formal colors for an evening wedding and choose light colors and fabrics for a daytime event. Try a knee-length dress or an elegant skirt and top. An elegant pantsuit is also suitable. However, floor length dresses would be inappropriate. Combine with heels, pretty wedges or formal flats. If the ceremony is held outside and you will be walking on the lawn, avoid traditional heels, which are likely to get stuck in the grass. Men should wear a shirt and trousers, dark or light depending on the time of day, with the choice of tie. “Semi-formal gives you flexibility when it comes to comfort, but you definitely don’t dress too casually,” says Mae.
Wedding Guest Attire: Explained
This dress code is relatively new and will leave many guests scratching their heads. Basically, guests have a chance to have fun and play with their looks. Opt for cocktail attire with bolder colors and fun accessories. Women should wear a cocktail or party dress in a fun color paired with fun accessories and elegant heels or pumps. Men should accessorize their suit with a bright tie or a creative pocket square.
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