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Wedding Crash Course


Traditional wedding dress codes are a common courtesy from the happy couple. However, we now are navigating more complicated themes. Thematics that utilize almost any trendy location or topic paired with the term ‘chic.’ Examples to be wary of can include but are not limited to; “country chic”, “desert chic”, coastal chic, and so on. My advice, avoid looking like Dumb and Dumber, and channel your inner Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

Themed parties are a great time, a costume-centric wedding… not so much. So stick to the classics. Below are the most common wedding dress codes, live it, learn it, love it.

1.White Tie

White Tie 

  • Level of formality = (most formal)
  • Definition: The most formal of dress codes, guests are asked to wear white ties.
  • What to Wear: Like it suggests, literally  wear a white tie. An appropriate suit will have an evening tailcoat and matching trousers.  Pair these with a vest or cummerbund, and wing-collar shirt. *Reminder: these should all be white. Shoes should be polished, closed-toe shoe in a relatively shiny leather- calfskin or patent leather is fine.

2.Black Tie

Black Tie

  • Level of formality =
  • Definition: Black tie = break out the tux
  • What to Wear: go for black, it’s a safe bet no matter the theme/venue of the wedding. Accessorize with a classic bowtie, maybe a plain pocket square. For shoes, two options here, black and polished or velvet/satin loafers for those of you looking for a little extra.

3.Black Tie – Optional

Black Tie Optional 

  • Level of formality = 
  • Definition: You have the option of going black tie (see above), or the option of another very formal suit.
  • What to Wear: Optional, meaning you can opt in to black tie, but also you can jazz it up a bit more (See Gosling example above). If you’re avoiding renting a tux, go for the most formal suit you have in a dark color. Don’t over accessorize, stick to dark and simple accessories.  I encourage sporting a bow tie with a black suit, it adds some dimension and takes your suit to the next level without without wearing a tux.



  • Level of formality = (not as formal as Black Tie Optional) 
  • Definition: Not as formal as Black Tie Optional, but close runner up.
  • What to Wear: You don’t need to be in a tux, but you should be wearing a suit and tie. The time of year will dictate color/fabric of your suit. Fall = heavier fabrics and darker colors, Spring/Summer = Lighter fabric and more beige or light grey colors. *Reminder: suit should match + wear a collared shirt



  • Level of formality = (formal but fun)
  • Definition: A dress code dedicated to cocktail hour, envision tasteful fun.
  • What to Wear: A suit is more loosely defined in this category, pieces can be mixed and matched. Stick to dark colors, but you can go add in some subtle patterns. Live a little, pair proper trousers with a different color blazer. *Reminder: wear a collared shirt.


  1. Casual
  • Level of Formality: (low, but have standards)
  • Definition: Casual – wedding, does not = off duty casual.
  • What to Wear: Do NOT under any circumstances wear your go-to, day off, trip to the grocery store ensemble. You CAN wear a pair of well-fitting dark jeans, with NO rips/distressing with a nice button-down. Option 2: a pair of khakis, paired with a plain T-shirt, (not worn alone) must add a blazer. Pair your final look with driving shoes or a nice pair of leather loafers.

Should you still have unanswered questions, Esquire has a few more codes you may encounter.


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