posted 3 years ago in Dress
Post # 3
2132 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013


SEMI FORMAL:  I’d probably wear a dress, maybe a patterned sundress with cute shoes.

 BUSINESS CASUAL:  Slacks and a nice shirt

COCKTAIL ATTIRE: fancier cocktail dress and heels

CASUAL:  Nice jeans and a nice shirt, maybe a cute cotton dress.

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL: Long formal dress.  

Post # 4
2546 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

SEMI FORMAL: same as cocktail attire

BUSINESS CASUAL: silk button down-nice jeans or leather skirt-blazer

COCKTAIL ATTIRE: knee-length or shorter dress

CASUAL: anything tht i might wear to go to a restaurant or the movies

BLACK TIE OPTIONA: cocktail attire if i want to or long dress if i want to

Post # 5
2731 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: October 2014 - Disney

I believe ettiquette wise attire should be based on the time of the wedding unless otherwise stated. Our wedding is at 5pm the reception is 6pm under the stars and fireworks we cut the cake. We expect black tie attire. I dont feel its necessary for us to list this despite things being outside because its a night time wedding and all food etc despite halloween theme will be exceedingly formal.

Post # 6
3217 posts
Sugar bee

@dewingedpixie:  Black tie refers to more then just style of dress.  Please only ask people for black tie if it is an actual black tie event.  Black tie is starting after 6pm, full open bar with top shelf liquor, gloved dinner service, live band + .



SEMI FORMAL- this doesn’t mean anything to me.  I suspect that you would mean it to mean no jeans, but dressy slacks and button shirts, or sun dresses, with minor hair and make up for women and khakis and button shirts for gents.

BUSINESS CASUAL-same as semi formal.  This isn’t really a social style of dress for a wedding.

COCKTAIL ATTIRE-women in cocktail dresses or classy fabrics, not sun dresses, full hair and make up.  Gents in suits and ties

CASUAL-anything goes.  Jeans with a nice top, sun dresses, pretty much anything.  No hair or make up requirements.

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL-redundant, as it’s always optional.  But I would expect that there was a high level of formality.  Plated dinner (maybe no gloved service), Band, Open bar (possibly not top shelf).  Ladies in gowns if possible, cocktail attire if not.  Gents in minimum of a dark suit, tie, but wedding party in actual black tie dress.



Post # 8
2449 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@elliptical2013:  You are correct. Liquor, food, band do not dictate a black tie event. Black tie is after 6pm or after sundown during the winter. 

Post # 9
975 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2014 - Banff, Alberta

SEMI FORMAL – This would be the most popular I think. No jeans or t-shirts, nice dress pants, dress shirts, I wouldn’t wear a sundress but a nicer dress. I think this would go without saying for a wedding. No one is going to show up in ripped jeans. 

BUSINESS CASUAL – Dark wash jeans are acceptable, dress shirts. Not the right wording for a wedding. 

COCKTAIL ATTIRE – cocktail dress (better than sundress), suit jacket, tie optional?

CASUAL – jeans, t-shirts, anything goes

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL – super formal, the highest it goes because can you demand people wear extremely formal attire? 

Post # 10
3217 posts
Sugar bee

@elliptical2013 You cannot dictate that people dress black tie and then not host a proper black tie event.


It would be off to have a black tie event and then not have the BP be dressed in black tie attire.   I would be upset to be told black tie, to show up with hubs in a tux, me in a gown with full hair and make up and find myself out of place.


A black tie event is the 2nd highest level of formality. Only white tie is more formal.


Post # 11
2787 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2013



SEMI FORMAL: cocktail or kneelength dress, I know some that would wear a short dress as well. Something that looks nice. 



This is something I would wear. Modest but nice.


If you state semi formal, don’t get surprised if some girls show up in this




BUSINESS CASUAL: Honestly a dress I could wear to work





COCKTAIL ATTIRE: see semi formal, I would say the same, about.



CASUAL: umm for me I would still respect the wedding and wear a dress. Maybe a summer dress. 



Don’t be surprised if most people show up in this, or even more casual (graphic tee and no heels)





You will get any thing from a nice semi formal



To actual black tie



I would wear something like this maybe, if I could afford (it’s BCBG, so it’s acceible, could be pricey, but affordable on a sale…I have worn a BCBG dress to a black tie optional wedding



I really like the dress. any chance for me to dress up is a chance i will take


Post # 12
3217 posts
Sugar bee

@atlbride2013:  They may not dictate it, but they certainly are a consideration. 

No matter what dresscode people dress in, you cannot have a proper black tie event with a buffet, or cash bar. 

You also cannot ask people to dress in tuxedos and then not host them appropriately.

Post # 13
2449 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@andielovesj:  when you go to the Opera, do you dress semi-formally even though there is a cash bar? But anyway, having a cash bar at a wedding is poor etiquette to begin with, no matter what you’re wearing. As for a buffet, my old coworker went to a very elaborate black tie wedding in NYC with a buffet and a chef cooking in front of everyone, it was done very beautiful and appropriately. 

Post # 14
347 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

What I would wear to the following:

SEMI FORMAL: cocktail dress, strappy sandals

BUSINESS CASUAL: suit skirt and silk shirt, strappy sandals

COCKTAIL ATTIRE: cocktail dress, strappy sandals

CASUAL: sundress, wedges

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL: floor-length dress, strappy sandals

Post # 15
3217 posts
Sugar bee


If the chef is cooking it, it is not a buffet but stations.  They are different.  Though under most strict guidelines not a full black tie affair.  There is nothing elegant about carrying your plate across the dance floor, trying to make sure not to fall.

The opera situation is different, because it’s a business arrangement, not a social engagement.  If you were really wealthy and rented out the theatre for a private opera function then I would expect that would include the free open bar.

Post # 16
187 posts
Blushing bee


SEMI FORMAL: Semi Formal on an invitation can go two ways. Semi Formal is traditionally the same as Black Tie (One step down from “Formal” or White tie). Some context would be important here as it is common now to see semi formal describe something closer to business casual. Think Semi-Formal dances in high school. If it is on a proper wedding invitation it could easily be referring to Black Tie. If you are trying to decide what to write I would avoid this as it is ambiguous across social groups and generations.

BUSINESS CASUAL : something you can wear to work in a white collar, non-business or finance offoce environment. Typically khakis and a button down for guys, a dress, slack/top or long skirt/top combo for women.

COCKTAIL ATTIRE: Suit and tie for men, lighter suits are acceptable, as are colored or patterned ties. Women should wear a dress (typically single color) that ends above the knee.

CASUAL: anything goes

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL: essentially black tie but a dark suit is an acceptable substitute for a tuxedo.  Men can wear a dark suit, matching necktie (instead of bow tie) and a white shirt.  Women ahould still wear a floor length gown. This is common in social circles where many men would not own a tuxedo but the host still wants a formal look. Other people interpret this closer to cocktail attire so if this is the look you are going for consider an FAQ on your website.

All that said as you can see in this thread some people will interpret each dress code as slightly less formal than it should be.


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