With today’s casual lifestyles, work, and environments we receive so many questions from guests who are attending a wedding but have absolutely no idea what to wear, what color, how formal etc. We think there is so much confusion as most people don’t know the etiquette for dressing and then add on top of that, once they see and read the etiquette, they don’t like the options. We have put this together to assist guests in determining what’s IN and what’s OUT for wedding guest attire trying to remain true to etiquette yet current in today’s world of fashion.
First, you need to determine the formality of the wedding. This is usually determined in two ways. The first is to know the couple and what their tastes are. Second, you can gather the level of formality from the invitation. The other hint is the time of the wedding. Always keep in mind it’s best to err on the more formal side than to arrive too casual.
Before we start let’s get the DEFINITE DON’TS taken care of. Under NO circumstances should a man wear jeans, tennis shoes, or a polo shirt or short sleeve shirt. Women under no circumstances should you wear white or ivory…and it doesn’t matter if you are accessorizing it with a color sash or jewelry. If you are a date of a groomsmen, do not try to wear the same color as the bridesmaids, as you will appear like you are trying to be in the wedding party.
So What to Wear?
Morning, Noon or Garden Wedding
Men: Suit or Sport Coat, Tie, and White or Colored Shirt. If you would like to wear khaki pants and an open-collar shirt, make sure you wear a sport coat. If the wedding is formal, in a formal garden setting, we recommend that you err on the formal side and wear a suit.
Women: A street dress, which today means a dress one would wear to an after-work industry event. Some women will wear a dress and jacket and remove the jacket later in the day. You will want the dress to be a bit more fun than office attire by adding a satin bow belt, great shoes or a skirt with ruffles as you will want to keep the fabric lightweight and comfortable. As much as we love hats and know women in the US seldom wear them, we do say a hat is a great accessory and also provides shade.
2:00 PM Wedding
Men need to understand there are fewer options available to them when outfitting for a wedding. We have a tendency to advise men that attending a wedding at or after 2:00 PM requires a suit and tie, no sport coats allowed. If the ceremony is in a church or formal place of worship we recommend a suit with a white-colored or white shirt and coordinating tie, especially if the reception includes a dinner starting with a cocktail reception at 5:00 PM men should consider wearing a white shirt. Pocket squares are fun for men to include in their more formal attire and it’s a fun accessory.
Women on the other hand can still upgrade their daytime wedding look to a more polished complete look by adding a bit more sparkle or fun to the silhouette by accessorizing with a chunky or sparkly necklace or bracelet. Some ladies will opt for a more formal fabric such as satin, taffeta, or Dupioni silk to bring a more sophisticated style with a hint of formality. Sometimes women will call this look a cocktail look or a simple black dress. Yes, this is fine, but one thing you need to consider is the length of the skirt hem. For a semi-formal look, you will keep the skirt length at or slightly below the knee. For a more formal look, the length can be just slightly above the knee.
5:00 PM Wedding
The most formal of all weddings take place at 6:00 PM. Our advice is anytime the ceremony is between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM we consider this the most formal wedding and thus should be the attire. For many people they think “Black Tie Optional”, however, this is not proper and when you consider it, either it is or it isn’t “Black Tie” so optional is not an option and should never be used.
Men should consider this time formal so if the invitation says “Black Tie” or “Black Tie Optional” you should prepare to wear a tuxedo and black tie. If the invitation does not state anything such as “Black Tie”, you need to wear a suit, white shirt, tie, and for fun a pocket square for that debonair look.
Women should consider this in two forms of silhouettes for today’s looks and styles of formality. Although etiquette states a formal evening gown for weddings after 6:00 PM, there is a Nouveau evening wear style for women and it’s the short above-the-knee sophisticated look, a very glamorous dress in satin, Dupioni silk, even chiffon, and organza. The design encompasses a very subtle Chanel look, similar to the famous little black dress but now evolving into current trendy colors. Beautiful draping and fabric choices are accentuated with estate jewelry and accessories in the form of clutch purses, wonderful shoes, and yes even wrist gloves. The ultimate evening wedding is considered the White Tie and Evening Gown style wedding where gentlemen wear blacktails, white bow tie and vest. Ladies are required to wear evening gowns to the floor. If the invitation is for a wedding at or after 5:00 PM and it says “Black Tie” plan on wearing an evening gown.
For More Great Fashions Visit:
White House Black Market
Photos Courtesy of Macy’s, J.Crew, Nordstroms, and White House Black Market.
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