Decoding the Dress Code: What to Wear to a Wedding Now

When April Lavalle and Alex Bonillo began planning their upcoming October wedding, one of the first things they decided on was the dress code. Instead of requesting their guests wear more traditional formal or black tie attire, the couple opted for a less casual, and purposefully vague, “cocktail creative.”

They announced their unusual option to their attendees via their wedding website, writing “Cocktail Creative/Semiformal” under the dress code FAQ, and have since received a few questions from guests unsure of what to wear. To prevent any pressure, Lavallee and Bonillo simply “encourage them to wear whatever feels good.”

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“I didn’t want my guests to feel like they had to edit their personal style to fit the wedding setting,” Lavallee said. “We wanted everyone to feel free to be creative with what they wanted to wear.”

Although the couple’s wedding dresses may seem a little unconventional, so-called atypical dress codes are becoming increasingly common in the growth of weddings. About 2.5 million weddings are expected to take place this year, many of which were postponed due to the pandemic.

“Many couples are finding that choosing a unique or unconventional dress for their wedding is an effective way to set themselves apart from the pack,” says Leslie Brickman, a luxury bridal stylist and CEO of One Gown, a concierge styling firm in Los Angeles. Angeles

About 2.5 million weddings are expected to take place this year, many of which were postponed due to the pandemic. (Deborah Szpilman/The New York Times)

Lavalle and Bonillo, 31-year-old actors, producers and writers who live in Manhattan, are excited to see what People has in store for their Brooklyn wedding on October 30. They hope the result is a “mash-up of styles” in Laval that reflects the personalities and tastes of the participants.

The couple will also follow their dress code. Lovell plans to wear a black “party veil” made by her friend, Broadway seamstress Anna Kate Ripp, with her white dress designed by Sara Seven, and Boniello in a gray Balenciaga suit once worn by actor Michael K. Williams owned and purchased it. Harlem Creative Collective.

Navigating these out-of-the-box dress codes can be confusing for guests who are used to renting a tuxedo or wearing little black.

Here’s a guide to explain what’s difficult about this year’s defining dress code.

The desert is gorgeous

A wedding with canyons and cactus as a backdrop can be beautiful, but if the couple isn’t content with guests in bandanas and hiking boots, dressing for the occasion can be difficult. When in doubt, “opt for flowy and separate dresses in bold prints and rich colors found in Joshua trees: greens, shades of orange, rich blues, deep reds and purples,” says Brickman, who suggests wide-brimmed hats and chunky jewelry as accessories. as Think boho meets Coachella. Make sure to dress for the weather by avoiding “heavy fabrics like wool or thick synthetics” and choosing closed-toe heels or flats, adds the stylist. Sand and stilettos don’t mix.

Black tie boho

Guests will want to sport simple yet elegant looks in monochromatic palettes featuring small and subtle splashes of color and bohemian flair. (Deborah Szpilman/The New York Times)

“The black-tie boho dress is clean and sleek with minimal embellishment,” says Jim Frericks, owner of Akron, Ohio-based wedding site Today’s Bride. Guests will want to sport simple yet elegant looks in monochromatic palettes featuring small and subtle splashes of color and bohemian flair. Those in dresses can add some greenery or florals to their outfits for a subtle touch, and attendees in tuxedos can do the same with a colorful pocket square or a pair of fun patterned socks. Photo gowns with tons of lace and tulle, thin suspenders and flower crowns galore.

The beach is formal

While some beach weddings require casual attire, others may request that guests dress for indoor venues. To stay formal while taking into account the sand and sun, choose jumpsuits or “brightly colored floor-length or tea-length dresses,” says Brickman, as well as “suits in lighter shades and fabrics such as linen with a playful tie or cummerbund. ” As for footwear, you want to be able to walk comfortably — “avoid those 4-inch stilettos or leather lace-up dress shoes,” she adds.

Sudden fashion

“Smart casual” or “semi-formal,” a cousin of the “dressy casual” aesthetic, will have guests wear clothes that are “more fancier than what you might wear to work, but less refined than formal and cocktail events,” says Monica Mercuri, The Knott’s assistant fashion commerce editor. “Casual sundresses, jumpsuits and dressy separates with minimal accessories are all great options, while suits and floor-length gowns aren’t necessary,” she adds. And although heels are perfectly acceptable, they’re not necessary if you’re not in the mood. Just what things can be avoided? Jeans, T-shirts, and “any kind of sports,” adds Mercury.

Creative Formal

A slightly more sophisticated version of the dress code requested by Lavalle and Boniello, “creative formals” require wedding attendees to look their best—but with a twist (or several). With this dress code, you want to “mix it up to avoid predictability,” says Donnell Baldwin, a New York City-based stylist, image consultant and founder of the boutique wardrobe styling business Baldwin Style. These can include gowns with sequins and fun patterns, suits or tuxedos with colorful vests, art-printed dinner jackets, and eye-catching accessories like velvet purses or patterned pocket squares. The aesthetic is “for high-colored velvet jackets, burgundy suits and elaborate accessorizing,” adds Brian Sakawa, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based men’s blog, He Spoke Style. As long as the length and style of the dress adheres to the more traditional “formal” dress code rules, you can play with the details and have some fun.

Coastal chic

If you’re planning a wedding with an unusual dress code, communicate your vision to guests in advance, says Michelle Cousins, owner and lead designer of Salt Lake City-based Michelle Leo Events. (Deborah Szpilman/The New York Times)

As the “beachy granny” and “cottagecore” trends grow in popularity, so does “beachy chic” for outdoor weddings. It’s not a particularly formal dress code—no gowns or tuxedos are required—and so guests can focus more on color and fabric than length. This aesthetic is all about calm pastel hues; “Think sea greens, sky blues, soft pinks and reds found in sunrises and sunsets, as well as luscious florals and punchy prints,” Brickman said. Choose soft fabrics, big hats, dressy wide-leg pants, mid-length dresses, and anything with lace or linen.

If you’re planning a wedding with an unusual dress code, communicate your vision to guests in advance, says Michelle Cousins, owner and lead designer of Salt Lake City-based Michelle Leo Events. This can be done on your wedding website or invitations. These details “will make a difference for your guests so they don’t feel in the dark about what’s appropriate,” says Cousins.

Brickman echoed the need for a “cheat sheet” for guests. “Guests want to fit and dress in theme, so help them do that by being clear about your purpose,” she said. “This could be in the form of a style guide on the invitation details card with example photos, or a visual/graphic in a section of your wedding information website.”

However, if you decide to go the route of a full style guide with specific examples of outfits that fall under the aesthetic, make sure to stay flexible. “You want your guests to feel able to wear something that fits their favorite outfit without over-instructing them,” says Cousins.

Most importantly, she adds, make sure guests are aware that assistance will be provided if they’re unsure about what to wear. Let them know that “it’s okay to reach out to the couple or the bridal party or someone in the family to get clarification,” she said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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