Material makes the difference at wedding

Macy's has the Goddess dress by Rachel Roy for $109.

It's wedding season, and it's easy to feel obligated to have a new dress for each celebration. You can look stylish and save money, however, by buying just two of the right dresses.


For black tie and black tie optional events, Emily Post deems a formal floor-length evening gown or a short, dressy cocktail dress appropriate. Formal weddings have a similar dress code: The Knot says a long dress or a cocktail-length dress is appropriate. For these, get a cocktail dress.

The difference is in the material -- think chiffon, silk, satin or taffeta.

On the high end, BCBG has a flattering two-tone black-and-white cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline. It costs about $318. For a trendier look, try the one-shoulder draped "Goddess" Rachel Roy dress. It costs $109 at Macy's. The only rule in color with cocktail dresses for weddings is to avoid white or off-white.

For beach formal or semiformal or casual weddings, get a formal sundress. A Donna Morgan sleeveless cotton sateen sundress in a light yellow-and-black floral print ($99, Dillard's) is a good buy. It has all-figure flattering details: a sweetheart neckline, belt at the waist and full skirt.

Another cute dress that would work is a purple Max and Cleo wrap dress ($118, Dillard's).

Both are bright enough for daytime weddings and would translate well to a night wedding.

Looking for something cheaper for formal weddings? Don't try to save by choosing a maxi dress or jersey-material dress for a formal wedding -- you'll stick out in the wrong kind of way. Try secondhand or vintage stores. You may find a one-of-a-kind outfit.

For a cheaper option for a dressy sundress, go the secondhand route or update something you have with new accessories. Try a nautical-style rope belt, beaded bracelets, embellished sandals, or for a daytime weddings, a straw fedora.

What to wear

Need to decipher the wedding code? Here's what the experts at The Emily Post Institute and The Knot recommend:

BLACK TIE: Tuxedo and bow tie, with cummerbund or vest; formal gown, cocktail dress

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL: Tuxedo or dark suit with white shirt and conservative tie; long dress or cocktail dress

FORMAL: Suit; long dress or cocktail dress

SEMIFORMAL: Dark suit, white shirt, conservative tie; cocktail dress or dressy skirt and top

BEACH FORMAL/DRESSY CASUAL: Summer suit or blazer and slacks; formal sundress, dressy sandals

CASUAL/BEACH CASUAL: Dress pants and button-up shirt or polo; sundress, skirt or pants outfit

SHOES OPTIONAL: Same as casual for men; sundress, toenail polish for women



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