Singaporebrides | Fashion

September 2015

Wedding Dress Codes and What They Mean

Wedding dress codes can be a tad confusing at times, since not everyone knows or has the same understanding of what attire ‘smart casual’ actually refers to.

Being a wedding guest is a tough job. You’re left on your own to figure out what the dress code on the wedding invite means and are expected to dress appropriately for the wedding. And if you can’t figure out what ‘smart casual’ means (a problem we’ve all had at one point or another in our lives), you end up calling other guests to suss out what they were wearing to the wedding so you can dress in a similar attire. Let us help you dress appropriately for any and every wedding hence forth by deciphering some common wedding dress codes in Singapore.

Here are five most common dress codes encountered in Singapore:

White Tie

There is no room for debate for the most formal attire of all dress codes. Men are required to wear a black tuxedo with a tailcoat, formal white shirt, white vest and tie, white or gray gloves, and black formal shoes. The ladies should be dressed in a formal, floor-length evening gown. While its unlikely to encounter a ‘White Tie’ dress code, it’s still good to know how you should be dressed for such an occasion.

Black Tie

Image cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Ryan Polei

A less formal variation of a ‘White Tie’ attire, men should be dressed in a black tuxedo without tailcoats or a smart-looking black suit, formal white shirt, black tie and vest, and black formal shoes. The ladies can choose between a formal floor-length evening gown or a shorter, dressy cocktail dress.

Black Tie Optional/Formal

Here, the men have more outfit options. They can opt to be in ‘Black Tie’ attire or a less formal no-tuxedo-no-vest-no-tie suit. For the ladies, a long dress, formal cocktail dress or dressy separates will do the trick. Jazz up your outfits with cufflinks for the men, and statement accessories and clutches for the ladies.

Semi-Formal / Smart Casual

A Rustic-Retro Garden Destination Wedding

The dress code that confuses the most people. A semi-formal or smart casual dress code for men means they don’t have to turn up in a black tie and suit. Instead, a formal shirt with a pair of dark-wash jeans or dress pants and leather shoes will do the trick. For a suave casual look, swap the formal shirt for a crisp white T-shirt (preferably a V-neck for a little sexy) and throw on a dark coloured blazer.

For the ladies, a chic cocktail dress or dressy separates will do the trick. Opt for lighter and less formal materials like chiffon and tulle for a not-too-dressed-up-but-still-dressed-up look.


You’ll most likely encounter this dress code at an outdoor or beach wedding. But just because the invite says ‘casual’ doesn’t mean you turn up in bermudas, tank tops and flip flops. Take a cue from the venue and time of the wedding. An outdoor wedding calls for a casual shirt with a pair of dark-wash jeans and dress shoes, while khaki coloured pants and a pair of loafers are more suitable for a beach wedding. Ladies can turn up in a dressy separates or a casual sundress, keeping in mind to pick an outfit that is light and airy to complement the warmer and more casual atmosphere.

Some Important Ground Rules:

Dress codes are not the only guidelines you should follow when picking out an outfit for a wedding. To master the art of dressing up for a wedding, here are five ground rules every guest should adhere to:

Rule #1: Never wear white to a wedding, unless an all-white dress code is specified. The bride should be the only one wearing white on her big day and you don’t want to be remembered as ‘the guest who wore white to so-and-so’s wedding’, so don’t turn up in a long white dress. To be safe, avoid all shades of white, ivory, champagne and blush entirely as well.

Rule #2: Don’t wear a tuxedo unless it is a White or Black Tie event. Like the blushing bride in a white dress, the groom should be the only person in a black tuxedo.

Rule #3: It’s better to be over than under dressed. It’s normal for different individuals to have different interpretations of what ‘smart casual’ or ‘semi-formal’ means. If you’re not certain how casual you should go with your outfit, err on the side of caution and dress more formally than you think is required. But do pay attention to where the wedding is being held – turning up at a beach wedding in dress shoes or a long satin dress will make you stick out like a sore thumb.

Rule #4: Dress appropriately for the venue and occasion. If part of the wedding’s going to be in a church, your attire shouldn’t show off too much skin or cleavage. If you are insistent on wearing it, at least bring a shawl to cover up while you’re at the church. Bear in mind that a wedding party is not the same as a night out with the girls at the club. Keep the tight and skimpy outfits for another time and put on an occasion-and-venue appropriate outfit.

Rule #5: Pay attention to your footwear as well. It’s important to complement what you’re wearing with an appropriate pair of footwear. Take the formality of the wedding and its venue into account when determining what shoes you should be wearing with your outfit. Wearing loafers or sports shoes to a formal, ball room wedding is a big no-no. Likewise, a pair of stilettos or high heeled shoes may not be the best footwear for an outdoor wedding on the lawn or a beach wedding.

Credits: Feature Image: Tim and Sabrina – You Found Me by Chris Ling International Photographers