Style Me Pretty: Wedding Attire
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A photo of my BFFS and me at a “beach formal” wedding last weekend.

Last weekend I went to a lovely wedding on the beach (above is a photograph of me and my besties; I’m wearing a dress by Hoss Intropia). It was a beautiful ceremony and all of the guests in attendance looked just a nice. In light of “wedding season” (and the all too familiar mystery of “What do I wear to ____?”), I thought I’d put together a post on wedding attire.

While it’s exciting to be invited to a wedding, decoding the difference between “formal,” “semi-formal,” “cocktail,” and “casual” attire as requested by the invitation can leave you wanting to reply, “I don’t.” You may be wondering, “What does ‘casual’ mean anyway? Surely flip-flops and frocks cannot be appropriate…” (And you would be right!) Well ladies, wonder no more… Below, I’ve decoded the puzzling meanings of wedding dress codes.

If the invitation says…

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Black Tie. Black tie (or “formal” attire) is the most formal of all wedding dress codes. Most often, black tie weddings are in the evenings so turn up the glamour and bring on the beads and sequins! I suggest wearing an evening gown (such as the Clementine Gown by Paper Crown, pictured above) or an elegant cocktail dress. Dramatic jewelry is welcome and coiffed hair is a must.

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Semi-Formal. This is the toughest code to crack since it can mean a variety of things based on the time and location of the wedding. When “semi-formal” dress is requested, err on the side of formality and wear a nice cocktail dress or a fabulous blouse and skirt. If the wedding is during the day, opt for lighter colors and fabrics (sorry ladies, it’s the bride’s time to shine so no ivory or white) like the Floral Surplice Dress pictured above. For nighttime, richer, bolder shades work well too–especially when paired with a red lip. The maroon Ruffle Chiffon Dress is a great for an evening wedding.

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Beach Formal. Just because “beach” is included in the name doesn’t mean you can show up wearing any old sundress with boogie board in hand… Rather, it’s a courteous venue notice: Heads up everyone, this is going to be a formal wedding on the beach so dress accordingly! For this type of outdoor setting, you must dress to impress while considering the elements (sand, sun, and water). For an easy yet ethereal seaside look, wear a simple (solid or floral print) chiffon gown like the Ella Gown by Paper Crown (pictured above). Another option is a prim but delicate sundress. As for shoes, I recommend wearing flat sandals (and no, I don’t mean flip-flops) since sand is a factor. Also, the beach can get windy and cool so make sure you bring along a pashmina or wrap to keep yourself warm.

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Casual. Casual usually means anything goes, but in the world of weddings it translates to “business casual.” To achieve the perfect balance of informal chic, wear a sundress or a nice blouse and skirt. The Floral Dress from my LC Lauren Conrad collection for Kohl’s is perfect for a casual daytime wedding, especially when paired with a nice belt. Or, the Floral Ruffle Dress (pictured above) is great too! As for hair and makeup, stick with your natural, everyday look.

Dress code I do’s

  • Subtlety is best. Opt for simple, pretty or romantic looks rather than edgy or sultry ensembles.
  • Simple beauty. Keep hair and makeup natural and pretty. Click here for a complete makeup tutorial on bridal beauty. For my general “wedding appropriate” hair and makeup tips, click here.

Dress code I don’ts

  • The White Rule. This age old tenet says to avoid wearing all white (including ivory), as it should be reserved for the bride. The bottom line here: it’s impolite to upstage the bride so let her be the only one wearing white. Luckily this rule has relaxed a bit. Cream colored clothing and print dresses with white backdrops are usually fine.
  • Black. Try not to wear black to early morning/afternoon nuptials.
  • Absolutely, positively NO jeans and sexy or revealing clothing. No exceptions.

I hope you found this post useful! Now you can share your newfound “wedding attire” knowledge in the Forum.

Dish your best advice and find helpful suggestions by checking out these active discussions…
What should I wear for a summer wedding?
What do you wear to a semi-formal wedding?
Help: Outdoor Wedding
Help: Attending a Wedding

Did you go to a wedding this summer? Share a photo of your outfit by uploading it to your profile page and linking the photo in the comments below!

XO Lauren

P.S. Learn how to upload and share photos by clicking here.

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  • Stephanie

    What if the invite says summer formal?

  • Sandra Dixon

    You should definitely do more outdoor posts! loved it 🙂 your Girls Wedding shoes is gorgeous!