Decoding Wedding Dress-Codes with Events in the City

Funny story,  last month my husband showed up to a black-tie wedding wearing a khaki linen suit.. Apparently I had forgotten to read the fine print on the bottom of the wedding invitation and he wasn’t too happy with me but after handing him a few whiskeys from the open bar, he seemed to care a lot less.  After our epic failure and having received a few similar questions from readers, we wanted to help clarify the many misunderstood wedding dress codes out there and who better to help us with this task then a wedding expert?

Meet Laura Ritchie, not only our fabulous sorority sister, but also the Founder of Events in the City. She’s the go to girl when you are looking to plan your dream wedding. Laura and her team have crafted a well deserved reputation for throwing some of the best and most creative events all over town because of their style, diverse backgrounds in fashion, film, hotels, catering, project management and their miticulous attention to detail.

Laura has seen many guests rock “creative black-tie” like a boss and more than a few wardrobe disasters in their day so we were excited when she agreed to answer a few questions for us.

 Laura helped us break down the most common and current wedding dress-codes around, so next time you are invited to celebrate nuptials… you won’t be left scratching your head or hiding in the photo booth.

Laura Ritchie

Laura Ritchie the Founder and Designer of Events in the City

Wedding dress code decoded

Wearing Sequin ASOS dress with husband Stuart Ritchie

How do you define….?

Black Tie: “For gentlemen, black tuxes that you rent or own. People still will show up in suits but it really should be dark and with a bow tie. For the ladies technically a long formal dress. However in this day and age shorted cocktail attire in the hotter months is acceptable. Fabrics and cuts truly dictate this dress code as well– think satin & sequins, while avoiding cotton and other more “comfy” fabrics.”

Black Tie Optional or Formal: “If you have it, wear it. If the gentlemen has a tux this is a great time to take it out and dust it off, otherwise a dark suit is more than fine with a tie. Cocktail dresses that are short or long are fine. Feel free to wear your perfect LBD and dress it up with accessories only.”

Creative Black Tie: “Think about the venue for the reception. If its on the water, perhaps guys can do seersucker suit or khakis and a jacket. Ladies, same thing….go with the venue and when people usually say “creative” we attribute this to a theme of some sort for the event. If its in a barn, maybe wear boots and cocktail attire.”

Semi-Formal: “Think what you would wear to church. Guys should wear a jacket and ladies should wear a dress but this definitely lends itself to being on the more comfortable side of things.”

Casual: “When the dress code is casual guys can get away with no jacket, no tie as long as you have a buttoned up shirt and have it tucked in, this should be easy. I would say golf wear would also be appropriate if the reception is outside; meaning khakis and a collared shirt. Ladies can get away with a nice pantsuit, blouse and skirt, blouse and silk pants, or a sundress. Remember the venue and the temperature here as a guide as well.”

What’s the best go to dress/ ensemble if you are unsure of the dress code?

“A red cocktail dress that is fitted is always a failsafe go to. Red looks good on everyone and its more exciting than just a black dress. Keep fabric in mind though and something that has give but also a great silhouette that is timeless. Go for a wrap dress, A Line or empire waist….all are flattering. Then adjust your accessories to suit the rest of the theme. If its truly black tie, I would suggest getting your hair and makeup done too as it can really make the difference between your average formal look and going the extra mile. Not to mention you feel great when you look as put together as possible.”

What’s your favorite dress/ outfit in your closet?

“Tough question. I do have a pension for a great jumpsuit. Its a little more funky than a dress but gives me the ability to move like I’m in pants. I’ll usually wear a jumpsuit for a rehearsal that I am orchestrating. And then for a wedding day I actually have some great dresses from Anthropologie that have a great pattern or pockets that give me functionality as well. I have a great black dress with gold jaguars on it that I pair with a animal print belt. It hits right at my waist and has deep pockets, works with opaque tights and heels and with flats too. Its a great talking point but its not too loud.”

Wedding Dress code decoded

Events in the City ladies; Christie Yerks, Laura Ritchie & Megan Pollard

Where’s your first stop shop for an occasion dress/outfit?

Depending on how formal the occasion, I do a big scan online first and check out some places like ASOS where I am pretty sure no one else will be wearing that outfit to the event I am going to. I have been pleasantly surprised with my finds on there and even got a crazy amazing dress for my birthday party last year that I am sure I will have for a lifetime.”

For actually store shopping I typically hit up Tysons Galleria first. I check out Neimans and BCBG. I can always find something between the two that works and I enjoy mixing and matching high and low end pieces.

How would you describe your personal style?

“My personal style is quite eclectic and I think being more petite allows me to pull off both loud and demure so I’m not overwhelming when I come into a room. I love colors, I love patterns, I love jumpsuits, dresses both long and short, I love statement necklaces and fun purses. I really enjoy dressing for my mood. One day it might be skinny jeans, tank and kimono sweater and booties the next could be a DVF jumpsuit, lucite clutch and killer heels. Going to so many events both to work and for work really makes me a chameleon to themes and atmosphere. I also try to get in line with my clients and their personal style so we can relate. I had one client who was a shoe freak. Literally wore the most insane awesome shoes (think Carrie Bradshaw obsessed). So I always made sure I wore fun shoes and a different pair every time. Pretty sure she noticed and appreciate it on her wedding night when her emerald green crystal encrusted pumps were killing her, I switched with her and gave up my black Ash high tops so she could be in heaven.”

 Laura, Thank you for helping us decode the wedding dress-codes!


Michelle & Sarah

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  • Reply
    August 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Perfect timing! I just had a long discussion with my mom about wedding dress code. Specifically, whether or not ‘Black Tie’ puts added pressure, and even more financial strain, on guests.

    • Reply
      Sarah Phillips
      August 18, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Hope the article was helpful to you both! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    All good to know! One thing I struggle with is finding cute/stylish dresses that won’t break the bank, especially for something that might be a 1 or 2 time wear (i.e. dress for a baby bump)…any shops or stores you all recommend?

    • Reply
      Sarah Phillips
      August 18, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      We love H&M and Zara for affordable but stylish dress options! 🙂

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