Dress To Impress – A Wedding Style Guide

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It’s traditional for wedding invites to state an appropriate dress code. While weddings in the past were typically formal or smart but casual affairs, couples tying the knot these days have far more options to choose from. It can therefore be confusing knowing what to wear, when you want to dress to impress and look your best.

Our practical style guide will help you decide what makes the perfect VIP guest outfit…

White Tie Attire

If the luxurious wedding invites feature the words ‘white tie’ you can expect the level of dress code formality to be very high.

Whether you’re the mother of the bride, her bestie, or a casual acquaintance, the appropriate attire for you, as a female, is an elegant evening gown with a full-length A-line or sheath silhouette. A floor-length ball gown is also perfectly acceptable. Glitzy jewels and elbow-length silk gloves are essential accessories.

Generally reserved for state dinners and royal banquets, the evening tailcoat and trousers is the fancier version of the classic tuxedo for gentlemen. It’s paired with a white wing-collar shirt, vest and bow tie, and accessorised with studs and cufflinks. A satin cummerbund and patent leather shoes will help you look the business.

Black Tie Elegance

Ladies wearing a refined and glamorous evening gown should ideally dress it up with sophisticated pearls or dazzling diamonds.

Although less posh than a white tie do, gents are still required to wear a dark tuxedo, with peak lapel or a shawl collar, and the compulsory bow tie. You also have the option to show off a waistcoat, cummerbund and/or pocket square.

If ‘black tie optional’ is written on the wedding invites, you have the freedom to decide whether you dress up tuxedo style or opt for a formal navy, charcoal or grey suit, if you’re a guy. An upscale outfit is the safest bet for the ladies.

Formal & Semi-Formal

The formal wedding dress code is the most popular option displayed on the personalised wedding invitations that VIP guests receive in the post. Ladies can get away with a luxe cocktail dress, while men can swap the tux for a smart traditional style suit.

As the formality level lowers from high to medium, the dress to impress attire follows suit. Provided that you’re smartly kitted out, semi-formal is more about wearing the appropriate colours for the wedding season. It’s suggested that gents wear darker coloured suits in autumn/winter, and lighter grey or taupe for spring/summer.

Ladies can choose between a chic dress, a glam ultra-feminine trousers suit, or a classy jumpsuit. Embellished with statement jewellery, of course.

Cocktail

Cocktail attire is designed to provide more dress code options for weddings that are not overly formal.

An elegant dress with a shorter hemline, and accent jewellery, is perfectly acceptable for the ladies.

Gents can mix and match the colours of the suit jacket and pants that they wear with a collared shirt. A tie is optional.

Beach Formal

With more couples choosing a destination wedding for their nuptials, guests now have to ponder over what ‘beach formal’ actually means. As a general rule, pay attention to the clue that’s in the dress code definition. If a wedding invitation states the word ‘formal’, consider it to cover the dress code too.

Gents can don a lighter fabric and colour suit, and tie. Sockless smart shoes are fine, but sandals are a no-go.

A pretty sundress accessorised with a straw hat and a cute bag is exactly what female guests should wear. If you’re walking on sand, it’s best to trade in the killer heels for comfy but stylish wedges.

Dressy Casual & Casual

There are no hard and fast rules for the dressy casual code. Yes, gents can wear a suit. But they may also opt for smart chinos teamed with a classic button-down shirt, with or without a blazer. Generally though, your best move is to include a jacket.

Ladies can’t go wrong with a LBD, or a structured pencil, midi or wrap dress. A chic jumpsuit will also tick the right ‘dressy casual’ box.

The semi-low formality level of the wedding that’s casual, allows guests to dress in a style that is more relaxed, but still somewhat polished.

Dark designer denims or khaki pants worn with a button-down shirt or a stylish polo, is the acceptable staple for male VIP guests. Finish with nice loafers or trendy streamlined sneakers.

There’s more fabric, colour and pattern flexibility for females wanting to dress up casual. Take your pick from a dress code list that includes sundresses, midi outfits and jumpsuits.

Freestyle

Many guests are absolutely delighted when the wedding invites don’t include any specific dress code. While freestyling it may appeal to you, other people may to be overwhelmed by the possible number of viable fashion choices.

To be on the safe side, choose a style of dress that is appropriate for the wedding theme. If the bride and groom are getting hitched cowboy style, it’s a good idea to use that as the inspiration for your own outfit. You can always ask the future bride and groom for a dress code clue, if you’re really stuck for what to wear.

As all weddings are special occasions, as a guest your aim should always be to dress to impress. While it’s OK to rock up to a wedding in the latest fashionista garb or catwalk trend, it’s polite to avoid wearing anything too outrageous or flamboyant, if you want to avoid upstaging the happy couple.

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