Every Ambiguous Wedding Dress Code, Explained

Have you ever received a wedding invitation, only to wonder if the people who wrote its dress code were sadists who wanted to see you fail? They were. Don’t fret. You’ll show them. Take a breath and read this guide designed to spell out each ambiguous fashion code in all its seemingly intentional glory!

White Tie
Dress like Mr. Monopoly. Or his mistress. Additionally, stop being friends with these people.

Dressy Casual
Uh huh. Sure. They’ll serve “jumbo shrimp.” The bridesmaid dresses will be “pretty ugly.” The speeches will be “bittersweet.” The officiant will be a “devout atheist,” in all his oxymoronic glory.

Also, this is a trap. It just means “dressy.” Wear jeans and you’ll remember it at 3 a.m. once every six months for the rest of your life. 

Cocktail
They seem lovely. Too lovely. You get nervous around them, don’t you? 

Forget how to socialize. Spill an actual cocktail on yourself. Then yell “See? Cocktail attire! LOL! PUNS!” Finally, remember that you did this at 3 a.m. every two weeks for the rest of your life.

Daytime Semi-Formal
Tie a sweater around your shoulders. Mention tennis. Because on Boxing Day, we’re all Protestants.

Island Chic
Put a tie over your Hawaiian shirt. For femme styles, put a tie over your dad’s old Hawaiian shirt, which you’re wearing as a dress, because you didn’t read the invitation carefully the first time, and it’s way too late to order a “Hawaiian dress” online. And malls aren’t really a thing anymore. And if they were, where even would you find a “Hawaiian dress?”

Hawaiian Shirt “Optional”
Well, yes. In life, it is always an option to wear a Hawaiian shirt.

White Attire “Mandatory”
Accidentally pack gray pants. Have a panic attack.

Flapper Attire “MANDATORY!!!”
This isn’t a trap, per se. It’s a test to see if you “get it.” As a gift, send them a half-finished cigar and a grocery bag full of pink boas. 

See if they “get it.”

Destination Semi-Formal
Forget to pack your belt. Buy a braided hemp one from an island local. Over-tip to an extreme because there’s something icky and imperialist about the whole affair.

Semi-Destination Formal
A New Jersey town literally called Buttsville, somehow two hours away from everywhere else on earth. You thought it was geographically impossible. It’s not. Wear sweatpants on purpose.

Formalish + Please-Help-Us-Finish-Planning-Our-Wedding
Listen. This couple is having a collective nervous breakdown. Send a check with the number to a hotline.

Friday Afternoon Destination Wedding
Listen. This couple is narcissistic. Send the business card of your own therapist. They’ll cause her early retirement, but they need her more than you.

Actually, don’t. You deserve boundaries.

Underpants Formal
Like Scrooge McDuck before us. Gold-buttoned coat. Fancy sailor hat. No pants. Shake that tail feather.

Underpants Casual
Cute. A zoom wedding. Wear a nice shirt with stains only visible on the lower third. Congratulate them. Or apologize for their loss. Or thank them. It’s unclear.

No-Underpants Formal
They seem hot.

No-Underpants Casual
Braid your pubes?

Halloween Wedding
Apologize profusely, but know deep down that they really should have indicated more clearly that they did not want guests arriving as “Slutty Hermione Granger.” 

(But still remember it at 3 a.m. every night for the rest of your life.)

Black Tie
Just don’t go.

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