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From Black Tie to Casual: Wedding Dress Code Explained



Story by Angela Reeves

Weddings, charity events, and even small gatherings are often planned and created with a theme in mind which flows all the way down to the attire of the guests in attendance. There’s nothing worse than being invited to an event and not having a clue what to wear, especially a wedding. Typically, the invitation will provide some help as to appropriate attire, although that itself can still leave you with questions. With any event, the time of day, location, and season all play a factor in what to wear. Below are some general rules to go by and professional tips from FHG Clothiers in Bowling Green.

Black Tie / Formal 
A black tie, or formal event, is the dressiest of all options and is typically an evening event. Apparel should be simple, clean, understated and elegant. 

Women: A floor length ball gown should be worn with minimal, elegant accessories.

Men: A tuxedo with a peak lapel or shawl collar and a bow tie, paired with a cummerbund, vest, or suspenders, white tuxedo shirt with cuff links, and patent leather shoes should be worn. If a watch is worn, it should have a white face with a black or dark metal band, however, a true black-tie event, no watch would be worn because the guests should be more focused on enjoying the evening than the time.

FHG Pro Tip: Always opt for a tied bowtie instead of pretied. The difference is very noticeable!


Black Tie Optional
When an invitation states black tie optional, typically the host will be in a true black-tie attire. They have likely chosen black tie optional to not rule out guests who may not have a full tuxedo and ball gown. 

Women: A floor length ball gown or dressy cocktail dress is recommended.  Accessories should still be minimal and elegant.

Men: If a tuxedo is not worn, a dark suit in the colors of black, charcoal, or true navy is an appropriate substitute. A long tie, not bowtie, should be worn with a white shirt. The shoes can be tuxedo shoes or a nice dark dress shoe. Accessories should be kept conservative focusing on dark and classic.  

FHG Pro Tip: The intention is to blend into the tuxedo crowd and not stand out.



Cocktail Attire

When invited to a cocktail event, the attire is still dressy, however you have the option to dress a little bolder. 

Women: Wearing an elegant short dress or dressy pantsuit, or the classic, little black dress, works great for this setting. You can accessorize for your mood and type of event and be a little more creative with the full outfit. 

Men: A solid suit with a tie or bowtie can be worn, or you can opt to wear bolder patterns or a sport coat, instead of a full suit. Socks, shoes and accessories offer more option for flair.

FHG Pro Tip:  FHG’s Lifestyle Suiting works perfect in this category with fun, plaid suits instead of your traditional solid colors



Semi-Formal / Dressy casual

A Semi formal event can be the most confusing for guest attire. Many things between formal and casual may be appropriate, so it is always best to ask for clarification if you are unsure what to wear. 

Women: There are many options to wear including a dress, skirt with blouse, or dressy pantsuit. Fashion jewelry is appropriate, but make sure to not overdo it. 

Men: A suit, sport coat or blazer can be worn. Let your personality shine with shirts with patterns and bolder colors. 

Pro Tip: A tie isn’t required but when in doubt, take one!



Casual
If an invitation says casual, keep in mind the type of event and what type of casual they may mean. Depending on the location, jeans may or may not be appropriate. If you wear jeans make them dark and dressy. 

Women: Casual dresses, skirts, khakis, or dress pants all can be fitting with casual dress shoes or flats.

Men:  A button down shirt or polo with a five-pocket dress pant or other more casual dress pant is always good for casual for men. 

FHG Pro Tip:  Men, always dress according to your date!  You need to be prepared to change your outfit on the fly, if necessary.

If an invitation doesn’t specify the attire, never hesitate to call and ask or send an email to clarify. In general, the earlier the event, the less formal. When in doubt, a woman can normally get by with a black dress and minimal accessories and for men, a basic navy or grey suit with a tie which can always be left in the car.

For more attire advice and great men’s clothing, visit Tyler, Tim and Kacy at FHG Clothiers at 861 Fairview Avenue in Bowling Green. 

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