How To Write the Dress Code on Your Wedding Invitations

Sometimes it seems like wedding dress codes should be self-explanatory, but for different types of weddings, there are different expectations. If you want to be extra sure your uncle doesn't show up in shorts and sandals, you need to spell out your dress code expectations on your wedding invitations.

But how do you word it? You don't have to be hip with the fashion lingo. We'll spell it out for ya.

Here are the ways you can write the dress code:

Black Tie

A smiling woman in a long, strapless dress with a slit stands next to a man in a tuxedo with a black bowtie at a wedding.

Photo by @mumuandmacaroons

This means you specifically want all the men in tuxes and you would prefer that the women wear long formal gowns and cocktail dresses. Black tie is reserved for evening weddings, usually after 6pm.

White Tie

A closeup of a man's tuxedo with a white bowtie.

Photo by @merariteruel

White Tie is pretty much as fancy as you can get. It's literally the dress code for the Met Gala, so your wedding has a lot to live up to if you include this on your invitations. White tie means you want white bow ties (who knew?) on white dress shirts under full suits for the men and long, formal evening gowns on the ladies. We suggest pairing White Tie with a no kids rule.

Black Tie Optional

A smiling man in a suit and tie stands with a woman wearing a long gown with a slit, who is resting her hand on his shoulder.

Photo by @tallcaitlyn

You would like to allow the men to wear suits because you understand that not everyone owns a tux, but you still expect the ladies to be in formal evening wear. This is a perfect choice if you want to give everyone an excuse to dress up but you don't want to put TOO much pressure on your guests.

Cocktail Attire

A couple stands together at a wedding. The woman is wearing a pink dress with tropical leaves on it and the man is wearing a dress shirt, dress pants, and a tie.

Photo by @awk_818

Cocktail attire is the perfect dress code request if you just want a little bit of glam. You don't expect floor length prom gowns, but you also don't want anyone showing up in cotton dresses or khakis.

Dressy Casual

A smiling woman holding a purse wearing an off-the-shoulder top with tassels on it and white capri pants.

Photo by @deeannwheredidyougetthat

If all you know for sure is that you want your guests to put some effort in, ask for dressy casual.


A wedding party in an array of maxi dresses, rompers, khaki shorts and short-sleeve button up shirts stands on the beach.

Photo by @reaganaleea

Sand and heels don't mix too well. If you're having a beach wedding, first of all, where's my invite? and second, please don't expect too much from your guests. It's the BEACH, after all. An Island/Beach dress code invites Tommy Bahama style shirts, khaki shorts, and light, summery dresses.

Of course, you aren't limited to these dress codes. If you want everyone in Victorian dresses or superhero leotards or Katy Perry-in-California-Girls-esque outfits, you do you. The dress code should be something that fits your wedding style. And, if you're super laid-back, you don't have to list one at all.

Think you know just what you want your invitations to say? Contact us and we'll start designing 'em!

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