How to Dress for an Evening Wedding

Five Methods:Dressing for a Formal (or "Black Tie Optional") WeddingDressing for a Semi-Formal WeddingDressing for a Black Tie WeddingDressing for a White Tie WeddingDressing for a Casual Wedding

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.

Method 1
Dressing for a Formal (or "Black Tie Optional") Wedding

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    Wear a dark-colored evening gown.[1]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.[2]
    • 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.[3]
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    Accessorize with jewelry.[4] 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.
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    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.[5]
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    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.[6]
    • Sequins are generally considered to be too showy for a night event. It's best to avoid them.[7]
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    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.
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    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.[8]
    • 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.

Method 2
Dressing for a Semi-Formal Wedding

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    Put on a black dress or cocktail dress. A simple black dress is very versatile and should fit both the semi-formal and evening conditions of the ceremony. Unlike a more formal floor-length gown, you'll also be able to dance in a cocktail dress, meaning you won't have to store a second pair of clothes if you don't want to.[9]
    • Cotton or jersey fabric is perfect for a semi-formal dress.[10]
    • Dress up when in doubt. There’s a lot of grey area in what is expected for a semi-formal event. In any case, it’s better to overdress for an occasion than to underdress for it. In one instance, you'll look awkward. In the other, you'll look flat-out disrespectful.
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    Wear a dark suit. A dark-colored suit won't go wrong in a semi-formal wedding ceremony. Because it's only semi-formal, you have the option whether to button up your jacket or not. A tailored suit won't be expected for a semi-formal event, but may leave a better lasting impression on the wedding hosts if you decide to go that extra mile.
    • Layer your outfit with a simple dress shirt underneath. It doesn't need to be fancy, so long as it's clean.
    • Wear the tie of your choice. For a semi-formal wedding, there's usually no tie recommendation.
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    Slip on basic leather dress shoes or heels. Leather shoes for men and heels for women are the typical footwear for a semi-formal event. There is a bit more leniency in a semi-formal setting, but you should avoid anything like sneakers.
    • Sandals are an acceptable alternative in lieu of heels if the ceremony is outdoors.

Method 3
Dressing for a Black Tie Wedding

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    Choose an evening gown or cocktail dress.[11] A floor-length evening gown is seen as the most formal form of women's wear for a night event. Aim for a dark-colored fabric to go with the night. Dark blues and blacks are perfect for a night time ceremony.
    • Consider bringing a second set of clothing for the afterparty. Evening weddings often follow shortly after with a dinner and wedding reception. This afterparty tends to be more casual than the proceedings before it. While your reception clothing should remain elegant, you can switch up your dress for a more comfortable set such as a skirt and blouse.[12]
    • If you only have space for one set of clothing, aim for a formal dress that ends around the knee. That way, you'll be free to dance if you so choose.[13]
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    Express yourself at a "creative" black tie event.[14] If the couple getting married want to temper the stuffy formality with a bit of silliness, they may suggest a "creative black tie dress" in the invite. This means you can have a bit of fun with what you're wearing. Patterned ties and colored dress shirts will be deemed acceptable in this case.
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    Use glamorous makeup and a dressy hairstyle. Makeup and hair for women should be more lustrous than it would be for regular events, but you shouldn't take it overboard to the point of looking outlandish. Conservative, elegant makeup tones are best for a wedding ceremony. Exceptions may apply if the couple or ceremony are going to be "alternative" in some shape or form.
    • Waving one's hair is considered glamorous, and works well for white-tie weddings.[15] Curling hair is also a good way to match your look to the situation.
    • Makeup can include bolder colors than you'd normally use on the street, but you shouldn't get overly fancy with it.
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    Wear a tuxedo. A tuxedo is standard fare for men at formal events. If you have the time to plan in advance and funds to spare, get a tuxedo fitted professionally by a tailor. A fitted suit will match your figure much better than a store-bought set, and it will have the added comfort to match. In lieu of a true tuxedo, a black buttoned suit should suffice.
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    Wear leather shoes or heels.[16] Footwear is just as important in a formal setting as the other, more visible parts of your outfit. Dark leather shoes are the expected choice for men, while women may wear dress slippers or heels, depending on their preference and the likelihood of dancing. Whether you're wearing leather soles or heels, it is a good idea to color-coordinate your footwear with the rest of your outfit.
    • For an outdoor night time ceremony, women may wear sandals instead of heels.
    • Black socks are a given if you're wearing dress shoes.
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    Layer your outfit with a white dress shirt. Where with white tie events a pique white vest is the norm, a fine white dress shirt will suffice in black tie wedding situations. Iron it out and put it on underneath your suit.
    • Broadcloth fabric is a good choice for dress shirts.[17]
    • Because you'll be wearing a white shirt, take care not to stain it with food, either before or during the wedding ceremony. Stains are notoriously difficult to get out of white clothing.
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    Sash your waist in a cummerbund.[18] Men may sash their waist in a cummerbund, a silk cloth which typically fits around like a belt. Although it's not always expected at modern weddings, the fancy flair will make it obvious you've put effort into your appearance for the evening.
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    Sport a bowtie.[19] A black bowtie is a perfect centerpiece for a formal "black tie" outfit. Although clip-on versions are available, it may be seen as disrespectful to go the "easy" route. Instead, put in the manual effort for the optimal look. Some black tie weddings may tacitly expect regular business ties. If in doubt however, there are few ceremonies where a bowtie will be frowned upon.
    • Silk, satin and twill are all acceptable fabrics for a black tie event bowtie.

Method 4
Dressing for a White Tie Wedding

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    Dress in a floor-length evening gown.[20] Because the ceremony will take place at night, it is advised that you choose a darker color for your dress. An evening gown should be made from silk or satin, and touch the ground while you're walking normally.
    • High-class fabrics like satin, silk or velvet are perfect for a formal event.[21]
    • Because of the dressy nature of an evening gown, it's often a good idea to take a second, more comfortable dress along with you. That way, you'll be able to dance more fluidly during the ceremony's afterparty.
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    Opt for glamorous hair and makeup.[22] Although makeup isn't essential for women, there's a tacit understanding that attendees to a white tie wedding ceremony will put extra effort into their appearance. Aim for makeup tones that are glamorous without being outlandish. Go to a hairdresser or makeup stylist prior to the wedding and have it done professionally if you're in doubt.
    • Off the shoulder curls are a perfect choice of hairstyle for an ultra-formal wedding ceremony.[23]
    • Makeup should be glamorous, but not overly showy. Aim for red lipsticks, dark mascaras and eyeshadows. Fancy or playful colors should be avoided.
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    Wear a white-tie specific tuxedo. A "white tie" event is often seen as even more formal than a black tie affair.[24] A black dress tailcoat is expected for a white tie wedding. However, due to the specificity of a white tie event, there may be special instructions listed in the invitation, which may require you to buy a set of white clothing. Because white clothing stains easily and usually needs to be purchased specifically for the event, these events tend to be rare.
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    Put on a white bowtie. Bowties are typically seen as a fancier alternative to regular "business" ties. Proper bowties can be purchased at a proper dress store. According to the name of the dress code itself, your tie should be white, in contrast with your black overcoat. A bowtie may be seen as the male equivalent to jewelry.
    • Although you can buy simple clip-on bowties, it's usually seen as better form to put on one that requires manual effort.
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    Wear matching black trousers. Striped black trousers are the expected form of legwear for men. While a single satin stripe is the norm in the US, two stripes are usually expected in Europe.[25] Your trousers should be made of the same fabric as your coat.[26]
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    Layer your suit with a white pique vest.[27] A truly formal outfit for men will come in several layers. Underneath your overcoat, you should have a white pique vest. These may be purchased usually the same outlet you'll buy your overcoat from. Iron out the vest beforehand to smooth out the creases.
    • Pique is a fancy knit fabric with a honeycomb-shaped look.[28]
    • Underneath the vest, a white undershirt is helpful for catching sweat.
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    Accessorize with gloves.[29] For white tie events, gloves are recommended for both women and men. Gloves should be white, to coincide with the white tie. Gloves tend to be expected in the case of dancing.
    • Fancy jewelry is also a great way to add uniqueness to your look.

Method 5
Dressing for a Casual Wedding

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    Recognize the difference between wedding casual and true casual.[30] There is no such thing as true “casual” for a wedding ceremony. After all, weddings are meant to be the event of a lifetime! Although you should ultimately rely on the wedding hosts’ definition of the term, it’s safer to air on the side of caution with business casual. This includes dress pants and a polo shirt for men, and a skirt and blouse for women.
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    Wear a dress shirt or dress. A plain dress shirt is a good choice for men, with a jacket going overtop. For women, a cocktail dress will fit each stage of the casual wedding ceremony.
    • Graphic fabrics may be worn at casual and semi-casual ceremonies.[31]
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    Include a tie if you want to. You don't need to wear a tie in a casual setting. However, it certainly won't be looked down upon, and can add a sense of class to your look regardless of what else you're wearing.
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    Wear everyday hair and makeup.[32] The "casual" aspect of the wedding ceremony will be emphasized when it comes to makeup and hair. Although you may put in the extra effort if you want to, you shouldn't go too far with sprucing yourself up. If the hosts are stressing a casual event, you won't want to attract too much attention to yourself by going overboard.
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    Avoid logos and branded clothing. While being casual means dressing only a bit nicer than you normally would, you should still avoid any sort of clothes that feature brand names or graphic art. Keep your attire simple but elegant.
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    Keep it as casual as the hosts want. If the wedding is meant to be casual, there is such a thing as being overdressed. Do your best to adhere to whatever dress instructions the wedding invitation lays out for you, and it's unlikely you'll run into problems.


  • Look up the venue. The more formal the venue, the more formal your attire should be. Check the venue's website beforehand to get an idea of how fancy it is.
  • Shave or trim your facial hair. Although keeping facial hair in line is recommended for most social occasions, it's important to look well-groomed in the event of a wedding ceremony. If you're planning for an evening ceremony, it's a good idea to shave directly before you go. That way, you'll avoid the "5 o'clock shadow" buildup of stubble that occurs in a day. If you wear a beard regularly, it's still a good idea to trim it a bit. That will make the hair more even across your face.
  • Examine the wedding invitation. While men can usually stick to a suit for the majority of weddings, decor for women tends to be more discerning. Because there is often confusion concerning what mode of dress is appropriate, many wedding invitations will specify whether it's formal, semi-formal or a "black tie event." In the case of a black tie event, you should opt for an evening gown.[33]
  • Aim to purchase clothing that you'll be able to wear again on future special occasions. If budget is a concern, sales sections in stores will vend high-quality clothing sometimes at a severe discount.[34]


  • In case there are any spills, stains or tears, it's a good idea to bring a back-up set of clothes with you.
  • If you have to ask whether it's appropriate or not, chances are it probably isn't.[35]

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