Decoding the Dress Code

That invitation is just sitting on your fridge, mocking you. The one that says “formal.” Or “daytime.” Or “casual.” Just what do those words mean when it comes to dressing appropriately for an event that is, shall we say, not insignificant?

David’s Bridal ( has a handy-dandy guide to help you figure out what you’re supposed to show up wearing—and yes, not wearing white is one of the cardinal rules (the bride has enough to worry about, she doesn’t need to also wonder if your tan looks better in your summer white than hers does).

A brief breakdown:

Informal, Semi-Formal and Formal Daytime all call for a short dress or suit (you could also swing business attire for a morning wedding). Nothing too fancy, but you want to look like you made an effort.

Informal and Semi-Formal Evening means that a cocktail dress will probably suffice (something like an LBD—little black dress—without a lot of length).

Formal Evening or Black-Tie means something a little snazzier—a longer dress or dressier cocktail attire with plenty of glam extras.

Ultra-Formal or White-Tie means you can go for broke in a long gown, tuxedo and extra glitz (be sensible, though—you don’t want to compete with the dance floor disco ball).

In general, if it feels too fancy, it probably is. If it feels too sloppy (read: never, ever wear shorts unless the invitation explicitly says to) or too sexy (remember, part of the evening will include drunken dancing), just don’t do it. Better to be comfortable than pulling at your hem/avoiding the bride/running from the groomsmen all night.

And unlike a bridal gown, no one’s going to notice if you wear the same dress twice. Or three times. Or to every single wedding you’ve attended since 2004. (Why mess with perfection?)

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