Even the most modern brides and grooms often find themselves in classic ensembles not so different from those worn by their counterparts generations ago. That's because when choosing wedding clothes, couples are guided not only by fashion, but also by tradition and a dose of decorum befitting the event. Use this wedding etiquette as a guide to wardrobe choices based on the time of day and the level of a wedding's formality. But, remember, it's your big day and you can wear whatever your hearts desire.
Photography: Lang Thomas Photography2 of 8
Daytime vs. Evening Weddings
A daytime celebration is held before 6 p.m., while an evening wedding is held after 6 p.m. or begins a bit before and continues well into the night. The question of formality is less straightforward; it is not a single detail that gives a wedding its style, but all of the elements combined.
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Match Attire to Wedding Style
For example, an evening event in a grand ballroom with a seated multi-course dinner and an orchestra calls for equally impressive attire: for the groom, full dress or white tie; for the bride, perhaps a satin gown with a voluminous skirt and long veil. For an afternoon wedding outdoors with pots of wildflowers, food fresh off the grill, and a lively bluegrass band, a smart suit for him and white pique sundress for her would be charming. In between, there are countless variations. What follows are guidelines for a variety of wedding styles.
Photography: Lisa Lefkowitz4 of 8
Formal Wedding Attire for the Daytime and Evening
For a formal event -- during the day or evening -- a bride can never go wrong with a long, white dress. Strapless dresses are considered formal all the time, however, according to traditional etiquette, a strapless dress is more appropriate for an evening wedding or one that starts during the day and goes into the evening.
As for him, a tuxedo will work for almost any occasion, or your groom has the rare opportunity to wear the distinguished morning suit, with its cutaway jacket, waistcoat, and ascot. White tie attire is only suitable for a formal evening affair, never during the day.
Photography: Q Weddings5 of 8
Semiformal Attire for Daytime Weddings
This sheath gains a modicum of modesty with three-quarter sleeves and espadrille wedges add a quirky, casual feel. A shorter length dress, whether below or above the knee, is also an acceptable option for a daytime event.
If the event will not go into the evening at all, traditional etiquettes suggests staying away from strapless dresses. A dress made out of matte jersey is a great all-around option because it can work no matter what time of day for a semiformal or informal wedding.
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Semiformal Attire for Evening Weddings
For the bride, the same rules that apply for a semiformal event during the day apply for a semiformal evening event -- except for one. Traditional etiquette suggests you keep the shorter length dresses to daytime events only. For him? A tuxedo is appropriate for all but the most informal of affairs for him.
Photography: Meg Hamilton/Rodeo & Co.7 of 8
Informal Attire for Daytime Weddings
For an informal event during the day, it's bride's choice. Short or long, the choice is more about the fabric. You can't go wrong with matte jersey for any semiformal or informal event, and cotton is another good choice for an informal event. Whatever you decide, just make sure that the dress matches the style of the event. You don't want to be overdressed at your own party.
For the groom, a floral tie, worn with a tan cotton-rayon suit, is a cheerful accent for an outdoor wedding.
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Informal Attire for Evening Weddings
Again, for an informal event during the day or the evening, it's bride's choice. You also have the option to throw out tradition with a more casual event. Why not wear a strapless dress with a fuller skirt that falls just above the ankle? You have our blessing!