Wedding Dress Codes – Do’s and Don’ts

We’ve all been there….wedding invitation comes in the mail, you have a moment of excitement, and then that sinking feeling hits. What do I wear? What does ‘safari chic’ even mean?! Decoding a dress code can be tough because the rules are different depending on the time of day, location, and bride’s whim. You’re always safe wearing a dress, but it doesn’t need to be full-length unless it’s a very formal wedding. As for color, just about anything goes except for white…that’s the quickest way to piss the bride off!

Dressing for a wedding is so much more than the dress you wear though. It’s accessories, shoes, your hair, your makeup, and, of course, your nails. We’re running through some of the most common dress codes and helping you pick what’s appropriate.

Informal Daytime: Think of this as what you wear to work – a short dress or suit (by short we mean knee length, not booty length!) Tell your man that business attire is OK for morning weddings. Team a full-skirted dress with some peep toes or dressy sandals, a cute little clutch, hair in a bun, neutral eyes, and some bright lipstick. Bright nail polish is not only appropriate, but encouraged.

Informal Evening: For an evening wedding, bust out a cocktail dress. This is the perfect little black dress occasion, but it’s not a funeral, so be sure to add some color with some heels, a bag, or some bright lips. If you rock an LBD, pair it with short and chic dark nails in blood red or navy. An informal dress code gives you a chance to flex your fashion muscles.

Semi-Formal Daytime: As with informal attire, this is a colorful dress occasion, but definitely leave the sandals at home and go for heels. Skip the cheap jewellery and smarten your look up with your favorite silver or gold combinations. Depending on your outfit, you may want to go for a neutral nail – understated chic.

Semi-Formal Evening: Cocktail dress is a must. Black is always fine, as is any other solid color, but steer clear of florally prints and sundress styles for nighttime. Heels, clutch, statement jewellery, and dramatic eyes – you can’t go wrong. Keep nails one color – this isn’t time for cutesy nail art or crazy glitter.

Formal Daytime: Pair your cocktail dress with an updo – make an effort and the bride will appreciate it. Formal and daytime is a tricky combo because you need to dress the part, but dramatic evening eye makeup just doesn’t work in the midday sun. Hair up, lots of lashes, lipstick, your best heels, a clutch, and neutral nails will have you winning best dressed (if there is no trophy, you can secretly high five yourself).

Formal Evening or Black-Tie: You can either break out the long gown, or up the glam factor with your cocktail dress – think beading, luxe fabrics, your best diamonds, a wrap. Keep nails neutral so the attention is on your jewellery or your clutch, and go for big eyes or bold lips. Make a trip to the hairdresser for an updo.

Ultra-Formal or White Tie: Pair your ball gown with some costume jewellery and prepare for a fancy occasion! Nails should definitely be neutral, assuming they aren’t tucked away inside white gloves. Go all out with your hair and makeup because you’re going to want to look like the very best version of you.

A few notes:
It is better to be overdressed thank underdressed – don’t be that guest.
If the invitation doesn’t specify (eek! the stress!) then reach out to the bride, her mother, or one of the bridesmaids. Better to make a quick call or drop an email than get it wrong.
Skip the sequins and the clubwear. No matter how pumping you know the dance floor will be, the ceremony comes first.
Even if the bride says it will be casual, denim is never appropriate, even for a beach wedding.
Make an effort! This is a big day for the bride and groom, so brush your hair, put on a frock, paint your nails and be present i.e. don’t be checking your phone every five minutes. Show the occasion the respect it deserves.

Elise Wright

Elise is a social media strategist from Sydney, now living in NYC, who has a long standing love affair with the beauty industry- especially the nail industry!

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