Decoding Wedding Dress Codes For A Bridesmaid

Last updated on : November 18 2022



It's a universal truth that getting chosen as a bridesmaid is an honour. Whether the bride picked you because you are a dear friend or you are a last-minute choice to fill the entourage, the fact that you are one of the vital persons chosen for a memorable day is an irresistible request.

The difficulty enters the scene when it comes to the dress code. And that is why together with Cicinia France, we made this quick guide to help you understand the different wedding dress codes so you can choose your bridesmaid dress. 

How To Choose A Bridesmaid's Dress For Different Wedding Dress Codes.

We've listed ten common to not-so-common wedding dress codes and your best choice of bridesmaid dress for each.  

1. White-Tie

Among the wedding dress codes, this is the most formal one. To easily imagine what this looks like, bring your imagination to a White House state dinner. A bridesmaid should wear a formal floor-length evening gown. Pair your dress with jewellery, heels, and an elegant clutch. Look even fancier by wearing a pair of white gloves. 

2. Black-Tie

This wedding dress code makes most guests frown and confused. It's a formal wedding held at night, and a bridesmaid should wear a formal floor-length gown that does not reveal the ankles at the hem. 

You might wonder what colour should the bridesmaid dress be. A floor-length black gown is an elegant and classy option that is surprisingly appropriate for this type of wedding. If you are thinking of a black piece, do not hesitate. 

Another colour that is unofficially banned is red. Others say it's a colour one should avoid wearing since it upstages the bride, especially the one with a shouting bright orange hue. But for a black-tie wedding, red is acceptable as long as it doesn't overpower the bride.

3. Formal Or Black-Tie Optional

Seeing a black-tie optional on a wedding invitation can be confusing. This dress code means you can wear an evening gown or a formal cocktail dress instead. 

There is not much difference to a black tie code for a bridesmaid enrolled in this type of wedding. A bridesmaid should wear a floor-length gown, a fancy cocktail dress, or a dressy pantsuit. 

However, a slight difference to a black tie is that a bridesmaid can wear a piece showing her ankles.

4. Cocktail

It's not a drink but a wedding dress code that is a small step above semi-formal. It is not as formal as black-tie optional or black-tie, but it is popular because it considers comfort amidst elegance. Arguably this is the leader of all wedding dress codes. 

Instead of a floor-length dress, a bridesmaid can wear a tea-length, knee-length, or midi dress. This ensemble will work anywhere and anytime the wedding may be. Pair your dress with your go-to heels or dressy flats, a nice pair of earrings, and a classy clutch. 

5. Semi-Formal Or Dressy Casual

Considering the time of the wedding is essential in choosing a bridesmaid dress. Darker and more formal colours are expected for an evening wedding, while lighter colours and fabrics are fit for a daytime event. 

Also, a semi-formal dress code will most likely not require you to be in a floor-length gown. If you attend this wedding as a bridesmaid, you can wear shorter hemlines, bold prints, or elevated separates like a festive top paired with tailored dress pants.

Work out with your bride if she can allow you to wear a sleek jumpsuit or tailored pantsuit with refined accessories. Explore ruffles and slits too. 

If the perfect bridesmaid dress search gets daunting, your best choices are a below-the-knee dress or a dressy skirt and top paired with heels, wedges, or formal flats.

6. Festive

You might scratch your head when you see this wedding dress code written in the invitation. Aside from it being a relatively new dress code in the wedding scene, it leaves room for interpretation. No, this doesn't mean dressing for the holidays. 

This dress code allows a bridesmaid to have fun and play with her look. It also gives a colourful spin to semi-formal wear.

By default, wearing a dress or formal pantsuit will be your best bet. You can also sport this dress code with a put-together and stylish look with either polka dots, patterns or bright colours. You can also wear cocktail attire with bolder colours and pair it with playful accessories and heels.

Even if this is a playful dress code, be wary of the climate. A heavy fabric might weigh you down and drain your energy.

7. Casual

Wedding day

The likelihood that this wedding will be outdoors is high. Expect more laid-back attire requirements - a summer sundress with wedges or dressy sandals is perfect for a bridesmaid. 

For a casual wedding in the daytime, find comfort with a dress in airy linen. On the other hand, opt for a longer piece for a night-time wedding. 

To give you an idea of how you should look, imagine meeting the parents of your significant other for the first time.

8. Beach Or Destination

The beachfront with blue to green waters mirroring the blue sky creates a perfect backdrop for a sunrise or sunset wedding and excites any bridesmaid invitee. 

To partner with this excitement, wear a cotton sundress and partner it with a nice pair of sandals, wedges, or espadrilles. If the sun gets too hot, top your look with a fashionable sunhat.

Although some stylists will recommend shirts and pants in linen for a tropical wedding, be cautious with them because they wrinkle easily. You might not find an accessible dry cleaner to press it back out.

9. Concept

Concepts and wedding themes have taken weddings by storm. In effect, some couples host weddings with a specific theme, such as The Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Peaky Blinders, and many more. 

You probably have seen viral wedding photos online with bridesmaids in costumes instead of the typical dresses. You took a minute to guess if they were indeed bridesmaids or women attending a cosplay event. 

Bridesmaids in velvet robes with broomsticks instead of bouquets highlight a Harry Potter wedding. Dazzling women in huge ballgowns that make you think if they, too, are brides make you look back to Alice in Wonderland. 

This wedding dress code will consume your time, especially if you are still getting familiar with it. In this case, look for inspiration by watching the film, reading the book, or researching the concept.

10. Come As You Are

A dress code can be bothersome, especially if it's too particular, leaving you with limited choices. But having no dress code at all can be as confusing. 

Some couples like to make their wedding day as boundless as it can be to the point that they allow their bridesmaids to wear anything that makes them comfortable. 

Since this can be confusing, look into context clues to decide what to wear. You can consider the level of formality of the invitation, venue, time of the day, season, and even religion of the ceremony. 

Remember not to wear a white dress. This rule, of course, changes unless the couple requests. 

Further, avoid wearing anything too revealing, sexy, or flashy. Remember that some ceremony venues, like the church, have their respective dress codes too. 

Even if it's a no-dress code event, opt for something that is not overly casual, like jeans and sneakers. Do not be that dressed down; instead, wear something out of the ordinary.

When in doubt, find peace by wearing a knee-length cocktail dress.

What Happens If You Do Not Like The Bridesmaid Dress Code?

This question is tricky. Essentially, comfort will still win over any standard. So, if a bridesmaid's dress code makes you uncomfortable, communicate with the bride immediately. Express to her your qualms and hesitations in an instant. Remember that wedding planning includes what seems to be an endless list of to-dos.

Agree whether you will step down from being her bridesmaid and be a wedding guest instead, compromise, or settle with dress alterations.

Otherwise - Why Follow The Dress Code?

Even though you are the one doing the bride a favour by being one of her bridesmaids, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have the upper hand on the dress code. 

Following the dress code are a sign of respect for the couple, the other attendees, the officiant, and the event itself. Your dress must be respectful and appropriate but still makes you feel comfortable.


Dress codes come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. And with the unexplainable rise of creative, imaginative, and unconventional wedding themes, dress codes seem to get trickier. 

Even the so-called "familiar" dress codes have evolved over the past years. Also, there is a thin line separating many of them.  

That is why it's best to arm yourself with the information to make the bridesmaid dress search a walk in the park, and you can exude the right amount of confidence on the wedding day.

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