What to Wear to An Evening Wedding

Style Tips

Look your most chic self at the next wedding you’re invited to.


Finding the Right Wedding Guest Dress

You may be interested to learn that one of the hottest tickets in retail right now is wedding guest dresses. This should come as no great surprise as so many couples opted to postpone their weddings due to the pandemic. So here we are, nearly two years in, receiving wedding invitations like mad. And that brings us to today’s post… wedding guest dresses—a topic that often instills outright panic!

With that in mind, we’re taking the guesswork out of wedding guest dress shopping and sharing exactly what to wear to an evening wedding.


Black-Tie and Cocktail Wedding Guest Attire

In this blog post, we’re going to focus on your most prevalent needs by covering dresses for two categories of nuptial events—cocktail and black-tie.

Let’s bring some clarity to the subject, as often the timing of these events is a source of confusion in terms of how to dress. Also, knowing what is expected in terms of appropriate dress is critical to your level of confidence. That said, I’ll provide you with a few details that will help you determine your style direction more easily. This, in turn, will boost your confidence and bring tremendous peace of mind.


When to Wear Cocktail Versus Black-Tie Dresses

Cocktail attire can be worn to both afternoon and evening weddings. For afternoon weddings, your looks can range from extremely casual to cocktail, with comfort.

When it comes to formal evening weddings, black-tie is always the first choice, but cocktail works here too. For evening weddings, your cocktail attire should be very dressy instead of the more casual afternoon cocktail look.

Regardless of the type of wedding, always remember that this is not the time to show a ton of skin. Doing so reflects a lack of respect toward the bride and groom and is considered in poor taste.


Style Tips to Keep in Mind for Evening Weddings

Many of us are unsure of what to wear when it comes to the evening wedding. Invitations often include a clever but uninformative description of the attire expected, which can be intimidating and confusing.

So, how do you decipher how to show up looking your chicest and most appropriate best? Allow me to illuminate.

Evening weddings start no earlier than 5 p.m. The norm is 6 p.m., but more recently, there has been some fudging with that time.

When it comes to an evening wedding, formal attire is best—even if that is unstated in the invitation. You can wear a cocktail dress to a black-tie wedding but be sure to choose a more formal cocktail option versus a casual dress. Long gowns are usually the norm.


What Colors are Appropriate for Weddings?

Can you wear black to a wedding? Yes. Can you wear white? Please don’t. Can you wear red? Yes, but please keep it to the darker shades of red.


Do I Buy My Guest Wedding Dress by Season?

Over the years, I have noted that when thinking about cocktail and black-tie events, especially weddings, most women think about buying for the season.

The truth of the matter is this; weddings are seasonless—as are most events. In other words, you don’t need to shop for a fall wedding. Instead, you need to shop for a wedding, keeping in mind the proper dress code for that wedding.

The idea behind shopping for weddings is to find simple, stunning, seasonless dresses. Believe me when I tell you that they are compliment magnets. I repeat—you do not need to look for a fall-looking dress for a fall wedding. If you shop well, the fabulous dress or gown you buy will get you through any season. You may need a wrap or coat for a fall or winter wedding, but the dress itself is essentially evergreen.


How Can I Find a Wedding Guest Dress on a Budget?

Here’s a tip that I share with all my clients. If you buy a stunning but simple and understated dress, you can wear it again and again. You can change your hair, shoes, and accessories, and no one realizes you have on the same dress.

We all tend to be very involved in our own little worlds. Unless someone wears something garish or ostentatious, no one remembers the details of what someone else was wearing. We only remember the impression that person left on us.

This brings me to a budget-friendly tip. When purchasing your fabulous wedding guest dress, be sure to go with an understated style. By following this philosophy, you can wear your chic dress repeatedly by simply changing your shoes, hair, earrings, and bag. I love (and live) this concept and have helped endless clients apply this principle, so I know of which I speak.

I have shopped a wide range of price points for this blog, so be sure to note that as you look around.


The Secret to Finding the Perfect Shoe for an Evening Wedding

And now, shoes. What is appropriate here? Can you wear sandals? Yes. If you are wearing a floor-length gown you need to be in a pointy-toe pump. You can do strappy ankle straps, but a closed toe is mandatory for a formal gown, no matter the event.

Additionally, if this is a formal event, your pumps need to be satin and not leather. It is absolutely a reflection on you of “not knowing” to be caught in leather pumps while wearing an evening gown.

There is also a category of short black-tie dresses which I haven’t yet discussed that works beautifully. One caveat: you must absolutely know the difference between the very formal short black-tie dress and the cocktail dress. There is a massive difference in the level of dressiness and presentation. And, as with the formal gown, you will definitely want to wear that satin, pointy-toed pump.

Short Black-tie versus Cocktail wedding guest dress looks.
Short Black-Tie (left) and Cocktail (right) looks.


If you are wearing cocktail, I would encourage you toward pointy-toe pumps, for the formal wedding but you could do a delicate strappy sandal. Stiletto heels rather than chunky heels are also mandatory. The chunky heel does not work for cocktail or formal events. Period. End of story.

If you are still confused or have other questions regarding evening weddings, please feel free to reach out to us at info@beiconicstyle.com. We are happy to help

Shop Black-Tie Wedding Guest Dresses 

Let’s start with black-tie. Here’s where we feature formal gowns as well as a few short black-tie options. 

Please note the difference between cocktail and short black-tie is formality. Short black-tie is definitively more formal than cocktail. It can be mini, knee-length, or midi but again, it is more formal looking than cocktail. To clarify, short black-tie has more punch and presence in its details and fabric. And remember that satin in your pointy-toe pump is your go-to shoe for all formal attire, be it long or short.

Shop Cocktail Wedding Guest Dresses

Where cocktail is concerned you will see a wide variety of styles and price points. There are many options from which to select.

As far as length goes, I have shopped mini to midi. You will see a few more casual dresses that could be perfect for an afternoon wedding and a jumpsuit that would work for cocktail attire.

The only thing that matters here is your comfort zone for chic and confidence.

Shop Handbags and Shoes for Your Wedding Event

Last, but not least, I’ve shopped the perfect shoes and bags to complete your look.

And I’ll say it one last time, remember that satin pumps are critical for formal looks. I’ve shopped some for you in addition to a couple of satin bags too. FYI, the satin bags are good for cocktail as well.

I hope that the tips I’ve shared in this post will help cement the foundation of your shopping knowledge where weddings are concerned.

Weddings are so much fun! And now you have the confidence to shop knowing that you’ll be ready to present your chicest, best self with what you’ve found here.

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