There are so many different dress codes for weddings and events nowadays, and working out what each one means can be difficult especially when some are very similar or have multiple names. Making things even more tricky, apart from the most formal and traditional of dress codes which have strict rules, such as white tie, black tie and morning suit, most of the other dress codes are open to a bit more flexibility and interpretation.
Some of the most common dress codes are:
- White Tie
- Black Tie
- Black Tie Optional & Formal
- Morning Suit
- Semi-Formal & Lounge Suit
- Smart Casual
White tie is the most formal of dress codes and is usually only for weddings or formal events that begin after 6pm, it is also known as evening dress or for men, an evening suit. Men must wear a black double-breasted tailcoat, white waistcoat and a white bow tie. Men should also wear patent shoes. While women should wear floor-length gowns to a white-tie event.
Black tie traditionally means men should wear a black tuxedo with a black bowtie and a white shirt. Women can wear an evening gown.
Black Tie Optional & Formal
Black tie optional, which can also be called formal, is a slight relaxing of the black tie dress code. It means men can wear full black tie or they can wear a dark suit and tie if they do not have a tuxedo. It is also more flexible for women, who can wear either floor length or knee length dresses or even pant suits and separates.
The morning suit is for very formal daytime weddings, for example a royal wedding. This dress code requires men to wear a black or grey tailcoat, a waistcoat, stripped trousers and a grey top hat. Because of this a morning suit dress code is not very common for a lot of weddings as most men would have to hire or buy a whole new suit for the occasions. Women should wear a formal daytime dress and a hat.
Semi-Formal & Lounge Suit
Lounge suit or semi-formal is a common dress code for weddings and functions as it is appropriate for both day-time and night-time. For men it usually means you can wear any dark business suit, a white shirt, and a complimentary tie and accessories, you could add a waistcoat if you wanted or if the weather was cold. Women can wear a dress, a cocktail dress or a pants suit.
The Cocktail dress code is like semi-formal, however it is usually for evening events after 5pm as it is often a bit more glitzy, especially for women. No matter the time of day men should wear a dark suit, however if it is a day-time wedding or event then you could have more colour in your shirt and accessories but if it’s a night-time or late afternoon wedding you should probably stick with muted tones. Women should wear a cocktail dress, which is usually knee length.
Smart casual is one of the more common dress codes for informal weddings and functions. Men don’t even need to wear a suit to a smart casual wedding. You could wear suit separates in different colours, a blazer or sportscoat with trousers, or if the weather is warm ditch the jacket all together and wear a smart button down shirt, and ties are optional. There is debate about whether men can get away with wearing denim to a smart casual wedding, however if you think it is appropriate (maybe talk to the bride and groom) try to stick to dark blue if you can. You can also have more fun with colours and patterns with smart casual, go bright and bold if you want. The same goes for women, there are no hard rules for smart casual so you can pretty much wear anything, a maxi dress, a knee length dress, a jumpsuit.
Some weddings may state casual as the dress code, but usually there is a difference between wedding casual and normal casual attire. Men can wear polo shirts, long or short sleeve button down shirts and chinos. A jacket is optional and really depends on the weather and the location. Denim is still debatable in this dress code, so if in doubt it is best to ask. The casual dress code is pretty open for women, any dress or pants suit should be fine, however it is best to steer clear of anything too dark or formal.
What to do if you are unsure of dress codes?
If the dress code has not been specified or if you have any doubt about what is the right outfit to wear to a wedding or a special event ask the bride or groom or the host, they will not be offended and it is better that you get it right then turn up in the wrong attire and feel embarrassed or out of place.
And if you are still in some doubt, dress up a little more than you think is the minimum. Now we are not saying to go and wear white tie to a semi-formal wedding, but it is usually better to a bit overdressed than being underdressed as it will show your respect for the event, and you will stand out for the right reasons as there is no harm in looking good. For example if you are going to a wedding with a semi-formal dress code perhaps try a three-piece suit (a suit with a waistcoat) to add a touch more style and sophistication to your look, it also means if it gets a bit warm you can take the jacket off and still wear the vest.
To find retailers that sell a range of suits for all dress codes go to our mens suits page.