The Wedding Guild Series: Understanding the Wedding Dress Code

The Wedding Guild Series | Understanding the Wedding Dress Code | What to Wear to a Wedding | Michelle Leo Events | Utah Event Planner and Designer

Wedding season officially starts for team MLE this weekend, which has us thinking through all the nitty gritty wedding day details, including the biggest question on everyone’s mind once they’ve opened that beautiful hand-calligraphed envelope: what do I wear?

No need to panic. There are a few clues that can help you make this decision.

A great wedding invitation should indicate the dress code to put your mind at ease. But if this isn’t the case, a great place to check for more information is the wedding website (which is the second most common place couples will include dress code requests). Many couples are embracing technology and directing their guests to wedding websites for further information such as dress code, directions to the venue, lodging suggestions, etc.

If you’ve checked the wedding website and it fails to provide you with fashionably accepted direction, have no fear. Below, MLE provides simple tips to help you decipher whether cowboy boots and hats or black tails and shiny dancing shoes are appropriate.

Take your cues from the wedding venue:
The location of the couple’s celebration is very telling, especially if you’re struggling to decide what to wear. Ask yourself the following questions to avoid the embarrassment of showing up in a tux when a summer suit is more appropriate:

  • Is there a dress code associated with the venue? For example, some places require long pants and collared shirts with a tie or, at minimum, a suit coat for the gentlemen.

  • Is the celebration located at a formal resort or is it a ceremony at a casual beach setting?

Take your cues from the season:
What season is the event scheduled to take place? Lightweight fabrics for summer celebrations are a much better (and more comfortable) choice than wool and cashmere. And the opposite is true for winter festivities.

Take your cues from the others:
If all else fails don’t be afraid to reach out to members of the bridal party for further clarification.

Understanding the Wedding Dress Code | What to Wear to a Wedding | Michelle Leo Events | Utah Event Planner and Designer


Now that you’ve done your detective work and know if the dress code is black tie, semi-formal, casual, etc. … what do these terms even mean? Don’t worry! MLE can explain what all those fancy dress code terms mean.

If the invitation says White Tie:
In a word: Elegant
What to wear:

  • Gentlemen: Tailcoat, white vest and my personal favorite, a white bowtie!

  • Ladies: A formal full-length ball gown. Add elegant hair, makeup and accessories. The works!

Keep in mind: These events are far and few between, unless you’re Blake Lively, so go all out when you have the chance!


If the invitation says Black Tie:
In one word: Fancy
What to wear:

  • Gentlemen: A traditional tuxedo. This includes a black dinner jacket, black trousers, a white formal shirt, a black bow tie or long tie, black dress socks and black formal shoes. You can also opt to wear a black formal waistcoat or black cummerbund. Black is the order of the day with this dress code.

  • Ladies: A floor length gown in a darker color is the most classic black tie look for women. Keep hairstyles, makeup and accessories polished and sophisticated.

Keep in mind: As the old adage goes “You can never be overdressed or overeducated”. When it comes to black tie err on the posher side.

Understanding the Wedding Dress Code | What to Wear to a Wedding | Michelle Leo Events | Utah Event Planner and Designer


If the invitation says Formal/Black Tie Optional:
In a word: Classy
What to wear:

  • Gentlemen: This dress code gives men a little more autonomy when choosing their attire, but not much. A tuxedo (as detailed above) or a black suit with either a bow tie or long tie are great options for a black tie optional event.

  • Ladies: A floor length gown is still appropriate for black tie optional events, but if you’d rather opt to wear a cocktail dress especially in the warmer months go for it!

Keep in mind: Ladies, if you opt for a cocktail dress make sure it’s not a dress that will look out of place among men dressed to the nines and ladies who chose to wear a gown.


If the invitation says Semi Formal/Cocktail attire:
In a word: Polished
What to wear:

  • Gentlemen: A suit and tie is the perfect option for men.

  • Ladies: As the name clearly indicates a cocktail dress is the perfect choice for women. You can never go wrong with a little black dress, but feel free to get creative with brighter colors and statement jewelry.

Keep in mind: Don’t be afraid to add some color and creativity into your outfits with this dress code, especially during the warmer months.

20180902 Jacobs Evan Christine_1042.jpg


If the invitation says Casual:
In one word: Relaxed
What to wear:

  • Gentlemen: Dress pants with a collared shirt.

  • Ladies: A casual dress or a blouse and skirt.

Keep in mind: Casual may put you in the mind that anything goes, but don’t think this means you can show up in sweatpants. Aim to still look polished just a little more relaxed than any of the other dress codes.

Understanding the Wedding Dress Code | What to Wear to a Wedding | Michelle Leo Events | Utah Event Planner and Designer


Now that the foreign language of wedding dress codes has been decrypted for you there’s only one thing left to do… go shopping for all of those fun summer fetes

EducationEmily Driggs