Most wedding invitations include a dress code for the big day, whether it's "black-tie" or "cocktail attire." But what if you can't find any indication of preferred attire, even after scanning every inch of stationery and perusing the wedding website? Are you free to assume you can wear anything you like, or should you try to find clarification? While there's nothing wrong with asking other guests what they're wearing, this guide will help guide you towards the perfect (and most appropriate!) outfit.
Look for Dress Code Clues
According to Jennifer Zabinski, president and founder of Jennifer Zabinski Event, the invitation may hint at the wedding's dress code. "The venue is a good indicator," she says. "For example, a wedding in a five-star hotel ballroom requires more formal attire than an outdoor, countryside, or beach wedding." Similarly, ceremonies held in religious settings, like a church or temple, usually require conservative attire, while evening celebrations are inherently more formal than morning or midday receptions.
Zabinski says the design of the stationery suite may also indicate dress code. Guests should don fancier clothes if the invitation contains formal phrasing (such as "request the honor" or "the second of August twenty eighteen") a traditional design, elaborate calligraphy, or other intricate design details. On the other hand, a modern, lighthearted stationery suite often equates to a laid-back wedding and a comparably casual dress code.
Have a Go-To Outfit
Whether or not you determine the dress code from invitation clues, it's smart to have a go-to outfit for weddings. "For women, a semi-conservative cocktail dress that falls just below the knee is always appropriate. For men, a blazer and dress pants is best," says Zabinski, adding that guests should choose darker colors for winter weddings and lighter colors for spring and summer weddings.
Ranu Coleman, chief marketing officer of Azazie, a special occasion dress retailer, also suggests a go-to wedding guest outfit: a little black dress. "You can never go wrong wearing a little black dress for any type of wedding—it's elegant, flattering, timeless, and looks appropriate in any season," she says. Coleman says women can also play around with prints and light colors during the spring and summer, while jewel-toned cocktail dresses in heavier fabrics work well for colder-weather weddings. No matter what, though, female wedding guests should avoid wearing white or ivory at all costs.
Ask for Details
Are you worried about showing up in a floor-length gown and realizing that everyone else is wearing semi-formal dresses? Then Zabinski suggests reaching out to a wedding party member for clarification. Only ask the bride and groom for outfit advice as a last resort; they already have enough on their plate before the big day!