Decoding wedding dress codes

March 21, 2016

A festive party-worthy look from Monique Lhuillier.

Wedding season is upon us, but if you are confused by the dress code (yes, there still is one) for your particular event, we can decode it.

Weíve called in the experts to help you avoid any wedding day blunders and to offer a few ways to save money on your wedding attire.


This is what youíd wear if you were going to a Hollywood awards show. (Unless youíre Lady Gaga and youíre wearing a meat dress.) Itís the fanciest thing you could wear to a wedding, said Shelley Brown, associate fashion editor at The Knot, an online wedding planning resource that has helped more than 25 million couples plan their weddings.


For men, this means a tuxedo. "But for women, the rules are a little more lenient," said Stephanie Weers, editor at Style Me Pretty, a wedding fashion website. "Black tie for women can range from an evening gown to a tea-length dress if the fabric is formal enough." Weers said that the color women choose to wear for a black tie event matters too. She said to plan on wearing a more neutral hue like black, navy or champagne.


This is a little less strict than black tie, Weers said. A cocktail dress is appropriate if it doesnít bare too much skin, but it should still be in a neutral hue. Men can wear a dark suit and white shirt, or a tuxedo. "When it comes to black tie or black tie optional, think classic and timeless, and dress it up with accessories such as a piece of statement jewelry for women or a fun pocket square for men."


Wear a fun, festive party-worthy look, said Los Angeles-based style expert Lindsay Albanese, who is the resident style expert for the E! Style Collective. "Itís a time when you can add a little trend and flash if thatís what youíre drawn to," Albanese said. "A little metallic or a sparkle is always well suited for the occasion."


Even if the invitation doesnít specifically tell you what to wear, you can figure it out by paying attention to the time of day the wedding will be held. Weddings that are earlier in the day tend to be less formal, so you can wear cocktail-length dresses or even sundresses, Brown said. Men can wear a nice suit or sometimes even a button-down shirt and dress pants for a daytime reception. Venue location can also tell you a lot about the expected attire. "If the ceremony is being held in a church or in another religious site, make sure to dress appropriately ó nothing too short or revealing," Brown said.


Unless requested by the couple, you should never wear white to a wedding. According to The Knotís 2015 Bridal Trends Report, 60 percent of brides are now wearing ivory dresses, up from 50 percent in 2011 ó so consider all shades of white to be off-limits, Brown said.


This is the area where rules donít apply. While, typically, spring and summer are months reserved for open-toe shoes, thatís not to say you canít wear your favorite peep-toe heels for a winter ballroom wedding, Weers said. "Make sure you understand the location of both the ceremony and the reception before deciding on shoes," she said. They work for black tie and cocktail weddings.


If you foresee having to wear a tux more than twice and are fairly certain that your weight wonít change drastically, itís smart to buy, instead of renting a tuxedo each time. A groom should always buy the tux, so that he gets one that is custom-fit, Albanese said.



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services