Dress Codes For A Wedding: Cheat Sheet

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Thursday, February 20

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As we fast approach wedding season, we are getting a plethora of questions about wedding dress codes. Most of our weddings take place in Colorado and tend to border somewhere between cocktail attire and semi-formal attire. We would like to just take a quick moment to highlight this fabulous dress code outlined from our pals at The Knot for what to wear and what to tell your guests to wear. If you’re ever stumped by a dress code request, the best bet is to ask the couple, or a well informed member of the wedding party. However, most invitations will fall into one of these following categories.



The invite says: “White Tie”

This is the most formal of all wedding dress codes though it isn’t very common anymore – think Oscars and state dinners. 

He should wear: A black tailcoat, a white pique vest, a formal white shirt, a white bowtie and even white gloves for dancing are appropriate. Black formal shoes, or opera shoes should be worn.

She should wear: A formal, full-length gown. Heels are recommended, but you should be able to walk around in them. Glamorous makeup and dramatic jewelry and hair are appropriate, but keep it understated, white tie is as classy as it gets and it’s not ostentatious. 


The invite says: “Black Tie”

This is the next most formal wedding dress code and usually means the wedding is an evening affair. It’s only one step below White Tie, so you should still dress accordingly.

He should wear: A tuxedo and a black bow tie. A cummerbund is a nice touch, although now a tuxedo and vest combo is acceptable. Patent leather shoes are also suggested.

She should wear: A chic cocktail dress or a long evening gown in a formal fabric. 


The invite says: “Formal” or “Black Tie Optional”

The wording here suggests something slightly less formal than black tie. This means that a tuxedo isn’t required but the event is still formal enough for one to be appropriate.

He should wear: A tuxedo or a formal dark suit and tie.

She should wear: You can wear anything in the same vein as Black Tie, though you may be overdressed in a sequined ball gown. Floor length dresses and cocktail length dresses are still appropriate, just be sure you’re still dressed for an evening affair.


The invite says: “Beach Formal” (or in our case “Mountain Formal”)

This suggests an elegant beach wedding — so dress to impress, but also dress for the elements (sun, sand, and water). Anything you’d wear to a nice restaurant on a summer day is appropriate.

He should wear: A summer suit with a linen shirt (no ties required), linen pants or khakis, and sandals.

She should wear: A formal summer sundress at tea- or knee-length with flat sandals. Makeup and hair can be natural and everyday.

Photographer | Ashley Sawtelle

The invite says: “Semi Formal” or “Dressy Casual”

Depending on the time of the event, you’ll want to dress somewhere between formal and casual. Wear darker, more formal hues for an evening fete; opt for light colors and fabrics for a daytime wedding.

He should wear: A suit and tie, dark or light depending on the season and time of day.

She should wear: A cocktail dress or a dressy skirt and top.


The invite says: “Casual”

Generally, casual means anything goes, but there is a difference between wedding casual, and casual-casual. That said, jeans, shorts, and tank tops are probably not appropriate unless they’re specifically noted as acceptable. For the purposes of wedding wear, assume business casual to be on the safe side.

He should wear: Dress pants or chinos with a button-down shirt or polo. A jacket isn’t required but it is a nice touch.

She should wear: A summer sundress or a skirt or pants with a nice blouse. Makeup and hair can be natural and everyday.



We hope this helps you with any dress code questions you may have had!

Feature Photo | Ashley Sawtelle

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