A wedding planner reveals dress code rules guests should follow
Deciding what to wear to a wedding can be tough, especially if there’s a vague dress code.
To decode the wedding guest dress code — and prevent any wardrobe malfunctions— INSIDER spoke with wedding planner Amy Shey Jacobs of Chandelier Events. Jacobs revealed what a dress code really means, when it’s appropriate to swap your heels for dancing shoes, and the things guests should definitely not wear to a wedding.
Make sure you follow her nine tips for proper wedding attire etiquette below.
Let the location of a wedding inform your outfit.
If you’re unsure of how to dress for a wedding, Jacobs suggests taking dressing for the location.
“Is it a seaside affair? A barn? Or a historic ballroom? Generally, the location of the wedding will give you a cue for attire,” she told INSIDER. “You wouldn’t wear a beachy maxi dress to The Plaza Hotel, but you wouldn’t necessarily wear a satin ballgown on the beach.”
For a farm wedding, Jacobs said to “skip the denim and diamonds and opt for your hippest look.” The wedding planner recommends that women wear a maxi dress or a short patterned dress with wedges, and said that men should wear a jacket or gray suit with a checked shirt.
Avoid being too casual.
It is never acceptable to wear denim, rubber flip-flops, sweatpants, or shorts to a wedding, Jacobs said.
“If it’s something you’d question when you’re in the dressing room, it’s best to put it back on the rack,” she said.
Even if the wedding has a “dressy casual” dress code, the wedding planner said there are still some restrictions.
“Unless its requested, we’d say it’s still appropriate to leave the jeans at home,” Jacobs said.
For a “dressy casual” wedding, she suggests that women wear a romper or fitted jumpsuit with sandals, while men should opt for a linen blazer, a crisp white or checked dress shirt, slacks, and loafers.
Whatever you do, don’t wear white.
Jacobs said that guests should not wear white to a wedding unless they’re specifically asked to.
However, if you’re attending a snowball affair — a wedding where everyone wears elaborate white outfits —there’s an entirely different set of rules.
“This is the ultimate white party invite,” Jacobs said, adding that you can go “super glam and super formal” for the occasion.
Arrive to the wedding fully dressed.
While it might sound obvious, Jacobs said that guests should show up to a wedding ceremony or reception in their full outfit — including high heels.
If a reception has a less strict dress code, like semiformal or festive, Jacobs suggests that guests stash flip flops or other dance-friendly shoes in their purse to change into later in the evening.
Know the difference between “black-tie required,” “black-tie optional,” and “white-tie” dress codes.
The differences between black-tie optional, black-tie, and white-tie weddings are small, but important. Jacobs explained the nuances to us.
“Generally, when a couple calls for a black-tie optional, they want you to dress more formally, but they don’t want to put you out if you don’t own or can’t rent a tux,” she said.
For a black-tie option wedding, Jacobs said that women should wear a long dress or a formal cocktail-length dress in a dark, metallic, or neutral tone. She recommends that men wear a dark suit or a tuxedo.
“Traditionally, black-tie events take place in the evening,” Jacobs said. “Think formal, upscale, long, and luxe.”
She recommends that women wear a full or tea-length gown, or a detailed cocktail dress to black-tie events. She also said that men should wear a tuxedo with a black bow tie.
A white-tie event, however, is the most formal type of wedding. Jacobs said that a royal wedding is one example of a white-tie affair.
“When an invitation calls for white-tie it means a tuxedo jacket with tails, a white pique vest, a white bow tie and gloves for the guys,” Jacobs said. “For the the ladies, call your stylist! Time for a formal, Oscar-worthy ballgown.”
For semiformal weddings, dress in a bright or dark color depending on the time of the event.
“Time of day will dictate the best approach for a semiformal wedding wardrobe,” Jacobs said.
During the day, women can experiment with bright colors and unique fabrics, Jacobs said. She suggested that men wear a black, gray, or tan suit with a tie.
“For the evening, opt for a darker suit and a cocktail dress in a dark hue and interesting textures,” she said.