How to Dress for an Evening Wedding
by Stephanie Petersen
Published April 29, 2010 | Updated June 18, 2015
With so many etiquette rules about what to wear to a wedding, an invite may have you wondering what clothing to choose. You want to dress up to be respectful for this sort of occasion, but you don't want to be overdressed. Check the invitation to see how formal you need to be, or ask a bridesmaid or the mother of the bride what the dress code will be. The location given on the invitation will also give you clues about the expected level of formality.
Wedding Dress Codes Defined:
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- White Tie
White tie weddings are the most formal, and when this is on the invitation, you can be sure the bride has an exquisite event planned. You won't want to let her down by wearing less than the finest. A man should only wear a tuxedo with tails, a white bow tie, a white vest, black silk socks, and black shoes. They should accessorize with cuff links and shirt studs in platinum or gold, with diamonds or onyx. A woman will be expected to wear a full-length gown in a neutral tone. Look for a dress with elegant details, like beading. For shoes, choose dress pumps. Long white gloves are welcome. Keep jewelry sophisticated; this is an occasion for diamonds. Try dangling diamond earrings and diamond bracelet or small diamond earrings and elaborate necklace.
- Black Tie
Men's formalwear will still include a tuxedo, but a white vest and tie can be replaced with a black tie and possibly a cummerbund. Women may still choose a floor-length gown, but a cocktail-length dress would also work, so many more formal dresses become options. Jewelry can be as formal as with white tie, although more colorful gemstones will be welcome at this wedding.
- Black Tie Suggested or Black Tie Optional
When black tie isn't required, but the bride has suggested it, guests should opt for a formal look without being as concerned about every detail. Many men will still wear a tuxedo, but a dark suit and dark tie would also be an acceptable choice. Women can wear a long gown, a suit dress, or a cocktail dress. Colors aren't as much of a concern, but you'll want to stay in a darker palette. Jewelry doesn't need to be as fine, but it shouldn't be too casual.
Still a step above casual, a semi-formal dress code leaves many options open. Men can wear a suit and tie or a suit with a sweater and no tie. Women can choose a long or short dress or even a skirt paired with a blouse in warmer weather or a sweater in cooler weather.
For an evening wedding, casual will still mean a little bit dressed up. Don't reach for your jeans, shorts, or tank tops unless you know the bride and groom are very informal people. Men will want to wear dress pants with a button-down shirt (tie optional) or a polo. Women can wear dress pants or a skirt. A shirtdress or a wrap dress would also be casual but still dressy enough to show respect for the occasion.
Wedding Guest Clothing Tips:
Although rules have relaxed a bit over time, most brides will appreciate it if no female guests wear white.
Black, once considered unacceptable for weddings, is now a fine choice for an evening wedding.
For any evening occasion, a clutch is the perfect handbag choice. For formal events, choose an evening bag made of silk, satin, or velvet. As the event gets more casual, so can the materials.
If the wedding ceremony is religious, make sure not to wear anything sleeveless or strapless.