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I’m So Fancy: Figuring Out Wedding Formality

by Lisa Beth Miller

Wedding invitations should always include a hint as to how formal the event will be. As a bride, groom, or guest, you need to actually understand this terminology in order to appropriately select what you and your guests will wear.

Here are some helpful guidelines:

Photo by Kaitie Brainerd Photography

Semiformal daytime- This level of formality indicates that men will wear suits, usually in a color such as charcoal or navy if the weather is cooler, or in shades of white or khaki if the weather is warm. Four-in-hand ties are also traditionally worn (this means long ties, not bow ties). Women would usually wear daytime-appropriate dresses or suits for a semiformal daytime wedding.

Semiformal evening- At this type of wedding, men may wear dark suits or tuxedos with ties and vests. Women would wear cocktail style dresses. Everyone would look a bit more dressed up and “evening appropriate” than they would for a daytime wedding.

Formal daytime- At a formal daytime wedding, men could wear day coats, waistcoats, or formal suits in season-appropriate tones. Women may wear short, daytime-appropriate dresses or suits. hats and gloves could be added as accessories.

Formal evening- This usually really means black tie. Men would usually wear black tuxedos with black accessories. It is acceptable, however, to wear colored or textured ties and vests. Another option for formal evening weddings is for men to don white or ivory dinner jackets. Women should wear dressy, glitzy cocktail dresses or long evening gowns. Beading and glamorous accessories are encouraged.

Photo b Apaige Photography

Ultra-formal daytime- At this type of wedding, men could wear cutaway coats with trousers in gray tones. gray waistcoats, wing-collared shirts, and ascots or striped ties. Women can step up their daytime look a bit here…think about what the female guests at this year’s Royal Wedding wore! Have fun with hats and fun colors.

Ultra-formal evening– This usually means a white tie. Men would usually wear black tailcoats and white waistcoats or vests, wing-collared white shirts, and white bow ties. For females, glitzy evening gowns are the appropriate choice here. Take things up a notch with fabulous jewelry, wraps, and a glamorous hairstyle.

Of course, there are some weddings that call for a look that is much more casual. For instance, a beach wedding might utilize a toned-down version of semiformal daytime. Guests should still dress up to honor the occasion, but perhaps men could remove jackets and women could wear dresses in lighter, more casual fabrics.

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