What Black Tie (and other attire requests) Really Means

Wedding Season is upon us, and with that comes all kinds of dress codes that you may or may not know about. As we step into a more relaxed era, people tend to forget about proper dress. A wedding is not a time to ignore the desired dress code, much like you wouldn’t show up in jeans, converse, and a t-shirt if you worked in a conservative, business formal law firm. You may have received an invitation to your best bud’s wedding and aren’t sure what to wear, or maybe you’re planning your soiree and aren’t sure what to put on the invites. So, let’s dig down into the nitty gritty of dress codes and what they mean:
White Tie
Chances are you won’t encounter a white tie event. And, if you have been invited to one, you’ll already have a good idea of what you wear because – most likely – you’ve attended events like this before. But, just for fun, this is what you would wear if all your princess dreams have come true: long-tail tuxedos for the men and ball gowns and perhaps a white glove or two for both parties. When you see White Tie, think royal parties.
Black Tie
While there aren’t many Black Tie events out there nowadays (people are tending to lean towards more casual settings more and more), there are still a few that may pop up. Tuxedos and full-length gowns are a must with black tie. You cannot get away with a short dress or a plain suit at one of these events. You’ll upset the host and look like a fool in the process.  Don’t even try. If someone has labeled the dress code as a black tie event, they truly mean black tie.
Formal
Formal is a little bit more lax, but still means you have to look good. That means that you can bring your A-game and rock a tux and a beautiful evening gown like you would at a black tie affair. But, it also means that men can be in a (dark) suit and women can ease up on the expensive dresses. It still means long dresses, and not short, and if you’re stylish enough to pull it off, and not look like Hillary Clinton, dress pants and a blazer will do.
Cocktail
Something that sounds fancy, but isn’t. This just means don’t show up in jeans or leggings. Honestly, never show up in leggings. For men, it’s time to suit up! Women?
A cocktail dress. Cocktail dresses are meant to be short and more flirty and fun than an evening gown and are exactly what you are expected to show up in for this type of affair. Luckily, you have a lot of options in this department, even running over to the maxi dress look (no beach dresses, though) for a warm summer wedding. While Cocktail Attire is meant to be fancy, if you show up in an evening gown (and are not in the wedding party), you’ll look a fool.
Beach Formal
Kind of an oxymoron, this one. This would most likely be on your invite when the bride wants those beach wedding pictures, but still wants her guests not to show up in shorts. Linen pants for the men, tea-length, or full length, sundresses for the women. Not into dresses? You can totally rock some wonderful linen pants and some wedges!
Casual
While casual can mean that jeans are okay, it’s a good rule of thumb to steer clear of these for weddings unless specified. Dress pants and a nice shirt do well on the gents and a more casual summer dress or nice pants works for the ladies.
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