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Wedding Guests: Wedding Guest Attire Cheat Sheet

We'll help you decode the dress code.

Photo: Punam Bean Photography

Has a wedding invite ever left you clueless about what to wear? Don't be baffled -- the info you need is likely there. You just have to know how to interpret the invite wording. Here's your cheat sheet for what to wear.

The invite says: "White Tie"

This is the most formal of all wedding dress codes (think state dinners and the Oscars).
He should wear: A tuxedo, a long black jacket with tails, a white pique vest, and a bow tie. Black, formal shoes and even white gloves for dancing are appropriate.
She should wear: A formal, full-length ball gown in a neutral color like dark brown or black. Glamorous makeup and dramatic jewelry and hair are appropriate.

The invite says: "Black Tie"

This is the next most formal wedding dress code and usually means the wedding is an evening affair.
He should wear: A tuxedo. A black bow tie, cummerbund, and patent leather shoes are also suggested.
She should wear: A chic cocktail dress or a long evening gown in a dark, neutral color like brown or black. The bride, wedding party, or friends can help answer questions about the appropriate dress length.

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: A long dress, a dressy suit, or a formal cocktail-length dress in a dark, neutral tone like brown, gray, or black.

The invite says: "Beach 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.

The invite says: "Semiformal" 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. 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 with a button-down shirt or polo.
She should wear: A summer sundress or a skirt or pants with a nice blouse. Makeup and hair can be natural and everyday.

See More: Going to a Wedding?