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We’ve all been there – it’s the day of your friend’s wedding, and you’re scrambling into the kitchen to find the wedding invitation, saying “What should I wear?”  Once you find it, held down by the pizza delivery magnet and an orange letter Z on the refrigerator door, you read through it and find the phrase “black tie optional” is your only clue on what to wear. While this code-like language may not mean much to the average wedding guest, the useful guide below will help you decipher what this dress code means for you.

Decoding Wedding Attire-04-01

Black Tie

Black tie is usually meant for formal evening weddings. A safe bet for the gentleman is to wear a tux. For the ladies, a cocktail dress or long gown will be appropriate. Girls can go fancy on the hair and makeup for a black tie event as well.


A Formal wedding can also have several other aliases, such as Black Tie Suggested or Black Tie Optional. For this type of event, a guy doesn’t necessarily have to wear a tux, but if he does, he won’t feel out of place. If a tux isn’t his style, a dark-colored suit and tie will suffice. The wedding will be formal and fancy, most likely held in the evening. Ladies can wear a long gown, a cocktail-length formal gown or a nice suit.

Beach Formal

If you are invited to a Beach Formal wedding, be sure to keep in mind that it is an outdoor event – i.e., anything can happen with the weather. Even so, keep the style of your dress formal. For guys, a summer-friendly suit and sandals are permissible. For girls, a formal sundress with flats or sandals is a safe bet.


Semi-Formal weddings can vary depending on what time of day the wedding is held. If it’s in the daytime, lighter colors and slightly more casual style is acceptable. However, for an evening semi-formal wedding, it’s best to stick to darker colors and a more formal look. For guys, this means a suit and tie, and for girls, a cocktail dress or nice skirt and blouse.


You can get away with a lot of different looks when dressing for a casual-style wedding, but it’s best to keep to the safe side and aim for Business Casual. Stay away from jeans, tanks and shorts. For guys, the best route is to wear dress pants with a polo or a button-down shirt. For ladies, a sundress is fine, as is a blouse with a skirt or dress pants.

If there isn’t a clear statement about dress code in the invitation, there may be more information on the couple’s wedding website, if they have one. If your search still turns up zero results, make an educated guess based on the invitation, its wording, the location and venue of the event.

Are you facing a wedding dress code dilemma? Share with us on Twitter and Facebook, and we’ll help you crack the code.

About Roberts Centre

Roberts Centre is home to the region's largest convention center, a luxurious Holiday Inn hotel, and Ralph's American Grill. The flexibility of our space, combined with our location between three major cities in Ohio, makes us the perfect venue for weddings, banquets, meetings, pet shows, and other special events.

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