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Weddings held in the evening tend to favor formal dress slightly more than those held during the day. Many wedding invitations offer some sort of dress expectation to smooth out confusion over what to wear. If the invitation doesn’t specify dress, call the venue to ask what they recommend. When in doubt, dress up instead of down.
Dressing for a Formal (or “Black Tie Optional”) Wedding
Wear a dark-colored evening gown. While daytime weddings often favor lighter tones for women’s dresses, it’s the opposite for evening weddings. A darker evening gown will reflect the peaceful air of the night. A good evening gown should be flowing and silky. Browsing examples of typical evening gowns will give you a closer idea of what you should wear to the wedding.
Fabrics like silk or satin are well-suited for evening ceremonies.
Watch the length of your dress. A mini is too informal and is inappropriate for most weddings, but especially evening weddings. Wear a dress that is knee length or tea length.
Accessorize with jewelry. Accessories, such as jewelry and handbags, go a long way towards sprucing up your outfit. If the event is formal, dressing yourself in necklaces, pendants and rings can give your look a more distinct style. While these accessories are best kept in moderation, they’ll add uniqueness to the otherwise rigid expectations of a formal event.
Moderate your hair and makeup. Most wedding ceremonies favor traditional taste over flash. Although the party afterwards may be more casual, you don’t want to overdo your hair and makeup. Rather, keep things within relatively conservative bounds. Keep your hair up, and use nude and natural shades for your cosmetics.
Keep the bride in mind. Ultimately, the wedding ceremony is for the bride, not you. For the sake of not upstaging the bride herself, it’s important not to go overboard with what you’re wearing. Generally speaking, you should opt for something elegant that falls short of being flashy.
Sequins are generally considered to be too showy for a night event. It’s best to avoid them.
Wear a dark suit. For men, wearing black to formal events is almost always appropriate. If you don’t wear black, be sure that your pants and jacket match, since this lends an air of formality.
Wear a white dress shirt underneath your suit.
Choose dress shoes that match the color of your suit and belt.
Pick a tie to match your outfit. Most invites will indicate a preference for ties. While the tie preference is generally understood to indicate a broader dress instruction, you should make a specific point of following the tie instruction.
Unless specifically stated one way or the other, you will usually have an option between a standard tie or a bow tie. Bow ties work well in a tuxedo context.
A regular tie should be fine, so long as it’s not particularly flashy.