You’ve received the invitation. The RSVP is mailed. The gift has been purchased. Now, what to wear for the big day? Navigating proper attire as a wedding guest can be tricky, especially for us ladies. From time of day to type of venue, there are many factors to consider before planning your outfit. Here are a few tips to help you look appropriately fabulous at your next wedding.
The Basics: Follow these tips for any wedding
- Never where white to a wedding. White is reserved for the bride, so women should avoid wearing predominantly white or anything in the white family on the wedding day, as well as pre-wedding celebrations, such as engagement parties, bridal showers, and rehearsal dinners. Guys are exempt from this rule….if you are attending a Southern summer wedding, by all means, break out the white linen suits. If the bride and groom request a color theme, they will let you know in advance to prepare accordingly.
- Don’t draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons. You want to look fabulous (especially you singles who are on the prowl), but don’t stand out so much that all eyes are on you instead of the couple (e.g. keep the revealing club clothes in the closet). Other taboo clothing includes: baseball hats, sports jerseys, golf tees, shorts, and jeans.
- When in doubt, dress up, not down. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and dress up. You don’t want to be the guest everyone talks about being too casual.
“Be yourselves and have a ball, that’s what it’s all about, after all. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancing shoes!” - Vince Fontaine, Grease
Timing: Follow these general rules on wedding attire based on time of day
Daytime & Early Afternoon Wedding
Unless the invite states otherwise (read: formal), you can be a little more casual for a day wedding.
Women: If the wedding is during the daytime or afternoon, the event will most probably conclude before 6:00pm, so wear ‘afternoon dress.’ This type of attire would consist of a dress, dressy skirts, or pants and a blouse….you can leave the cocktail attire at home.
Men: For your daytime/afternoon look, wear a sports jacket or blazer with slacks. A tie is optional. During the summer, this is also the perfect time to show off your seersucker, as it is not meant to be worn after 6:00pm (although, in New Orleans, we forgive those who do).
Evening Wedding a.k.a. after 6pm
Usually, for an evening wedding, the invite will state “Cocktail Attire.”
Women: This is your chance to pull out that cocktail dress, in the back of your closet, that you’ve been dying to wear. Pair it with heels and a statement piece to complete the look.
Men: Dark suits, white linen suits in the summer, or ANY suit would be appropriate to join this cocktail event. PS- don’t forget to jazz things up with bowties, pocket squares, cuff links or fun socks to compete with your date.
“Black Tie” vs. “White Tie”
These might be the easiest wedding categories of all. Especially for the guys, it’s all spelled out!
Women: For Black Tie, although some ladies might wear a formal evening gown, in New Orleans most women will choose an upscale cocktail dress. On the very RARE occasion you receive a White Tie wedding invitation, you will be expected to wear formal, floor length evening gown. Accessorize it with your best jewelry and possibly long gloves.
Men: For a Black Tie occasion…..TUXEDO!!! Buy one, borrow one, or rent one, but definitely WEAR ONE!! And don’t forget the patent shoes or velvet slippers. For White Tie, you have a lot to consider, so unless you own a set of tails and know how to use them, let the professionals set you up. There are several well-informed LOCAL vendors that will know exactly how to outfit you from the black tailcoat with matching trousers to the white pique wing-collared shirt and white vest.
About Vanessa Van Vrancken
Vanessa Van Vrancken is an event planner and “wedding architect” at The Balcony Ballroom, a wedding and event venue in New Orleans. Established by her parents in 1974, Vanessa and her family have planned over 10,000 weddings.
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