Candles, moonlight, stars…. An evening wedding is the ultimate in romance and feels like something straight out of a fairytale. Since it usually takes place after 5 p.m., it’s more formal than a daytime wedding, which may leave you wondering how to dress if you’re a guest.
Here’s a rundown the various dress codes from semi-formal to formal for an evening wedding, and what you should wear for each. I’m including both men and women to help you visualize because what the woman wears needs to be in sync with the formality of what the man is wearing.
How you should look: Dressy, Party, but still classy.
Gentlemen: Dark suit
Ladies: Black or colorful cocktail dress to the knee, or just above the knee in chiffon, silk, taffeta with minimal or no beading. Your other choice – wear dressy separates like a dressy taffeta skirt and blouse or a flowy chiffon pantsuit.
If your wedding invitation does not specify one of these codes, then err on the side of being overdressed, or simply call the bride and ask to clarify. It’s important that you feel comfortable and confident so you can enjoy yourself at the wedding.
Black Tie Optional -Formal
How you should look: Dressy, Sophisticated, Chic and a little more festive than a formal black tie. Most weddings are like this.
Gentlemen: Tux or Dark suit ( I find most men wear dark suits)
Ladies: You have two choices. You can wear a long floor length dress that is more formal than a cocktail dress but not as structured or fancy as a ballgown. Any color is acceptable.
Or, you can wear a cocktail dress with luxurious detail like sequins, beading or some texture. It can be a little black dress or a colored dress. Make sure the black dress is not somber looking. Add some bold or colorful jewelry and heels.
Black Tie – Very Formal
How You should look: Formal, Upscale and Luxurious like you are a famous person or socialite going to a fancy charity ball or special ceremony. Black Tie is usually the most formal we get in North America.
Gentlemen: Tux with Black Bow Tie
Ladies: Long floor-length gown in a dark color such as black, navy, or brown, and a luxe fabric that is formal enough to complement a tuxedo. Or, a formal cocktail dress that is dark and luxurious. It should be very elegant, meaning it doesn’t reveal too much skin and is no shorter than just above the knee. Think Classic Beauty, not Sexy Siren.
White Tie – Extremely Formal
How you should look: Picture the Royal family in their finest clothes, or Hollywood Stars on the red carpet at the Oscars, or even a visit to a Grand Ball at Downton Abbey, and you’ll understand that White tie is the ultimate in dressing up! White tie Dressing is Rare. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a White tie wedding, it is a grand affair you will never forget, so be sure to look dazzling!
Gentlemen: Tux with Tails, white bow tie, Vest, white gloves
Ladies: Full Length, structured ballgown ( not just a dress) with sparkle or jewels and glamorous hair and make-up. Most women wear bare arms and long gloves. Sometimes Tiaras are worn!
Finally, when in doubt what the dress code is, just ask! There’s no point fretting your head off wondering if you are going to be over or undressed for such a special and joyful occasion. Confidence is key to feeling beautiful and having a good time.
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