Wedding Dress De-Coded

A breakdown of suggested wedding attire and picks $100 & under 

Black tie. Semi formal. With the shift in the role of fashion in our everyday life and dress code vastly left up to interpretation, it can be confusing when your wedding invitation is stamped with the event’s two-word guideline. Thanks to The Knot, we’ve decoded what each one means… and found options under $100 for all your weddings this season.


Black Tie

“This is the next most formal wedding dress code and usually means the wedding is an evening affair.” According to The Knot, an evening gown is not required but with opportunities to dress up few and far between at this point in our lives, why not go all out with full-length? Dare to sparkle with this sequined number by Rebecca Taylor, or opt for classic black with sex appeal. Add texture to your look with this lace gown from Nicole Miller, or go bold in gorgeous red. We love these glamorous options, but keep in mind that a chic cocktail dress is plenty viable with the right hair and make-up.

L to R: Rebecca Taylor Meteor Shower Gown, $70 at Rent the Runway; Blumarine Scuba Ink Gown, $70 at RTR; Nicole Miller Living A Dream Gown, $80 at RTR; Badgley Mischka Ruby Red Gala Gown, $70 at RTR.



Formal/Black Tie Optional

“This means that a tuxedo isn’t required but the event is still formal enough for one to be appropriate.” Any of the Black Tie varieties above are great for this occasion, but you can opt for a less formal long dress or a more formal cocktail-length dress. A maxi dress in a dark pleated print or a lighter color solid crepe fits the bill. The pencil skirt fit of this Narciso Rodriguez pistachio sheath gets a smart upgrade with a full length exposed zipper on the back, while the coral jacquard dress calls for polished accessories and hair.

L to R: Narciso Rodriguez Pistachio V Sheath, $65 at Rent the Runway; Halston Heritage Lights of Ioannina Maxi, $100 at RTR; TIBI Tropical Mint Leaf Gown, $100 at RTR; Carmen Marc Valvo Rosette Envelope Dress, $85 at RTR.



Semiformal/Dressy Casual

“Depending on the time of the event, you’ll want to dress somewhere between formal and casual. Wear darker, more formal hues for an evening fete; opt for light colors and fabrics for a daytime wedding.” The key to nailing semiformal is in the details. A sophisticated print like Shoshana’s abstract floral or Zara’s marble is a great base for modern shoes and structured accessories. Elevate your traditional floral with this tailored cut from ASOS. Even a simple draped dress can do the job when paired with a slick up-do and shoes in a stand-out color.

L to R: Shoshanna Barbara Dress, $30 at Rent the Runway;  ASOS Pencil Dress With Waterfall Skirt, $80; ASOS Midi Dress With Drape Back Pencil in Pink, $86; Zara Marble Print Dress, $60. 



Pre-Wedding Events

We can forget to prepare for the events leading up to the wedding, so it’s a good idea to stock up on ideas and these adaptable dresses ahead of time. Solid shift dresses or textured fit and flare dresses are easy to change up with accessories and are appropriate for even the most conservative pre-wedding events. A long sleeved shift dress in a grown-up print is perfect for a seated bridal shower luncheon, while a low back maxi dress is suitable for afternoon tea. A romper with detailed shoulders is pretty and polished for a laid-back (read: non-seated) outdoor shower. A silky slip dress is a fun and sultry way to celebrate the couple at an engagement party or rehearsal dinner.

L to R: Wayf Long Sleeve Crepe Shift Dress, $59 at Nordstrom; Zara Long Dress with low back, $100; ASTR Black Pink Print Draped Slipdress, $66 at Nordstrom; Zara Short Jumpsuit with appliques, $89. 


The Single Diaries is wedding guest central. Look no further for your guide to choosing the ideal date or picking the right present. If you’re a bride or a bridesmaid on a budget, check out Style the Aisle for chic bridesmaid’s dress rentals for the big day.

What are your tips for wedding dressing? 


Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.

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