Afternoon Weddings, Evening Receptions

2009_Nicholas_van_Cutsem_wedding

I get a lot of queries from North American brides and grooms about what dress is appropriate for formal weddings that straddle the dividing line between day and evening.  I answer this question in the Guide’s Formal Evening Weddings  page but it’s worth repeating here.

To recap the standard etiquette, if the ceremony and reception take prior to 6:00 PM (give or take an hour) then morning dress is called for.  If both events take place after that time then evening dress is appropriate.

However, when the ceremony is scheduled for the afternoon and the reception for evening then convention dictates that the daytime dress code applies even if it means that morning dress will be worn well into the night. Alternately, the groomsmen can change from morning dress to evening wear between events.  Since wedding guests no longer sport formal day wear in North America invited males may wear the same dark suit to both functions unless “Black Tie” is indicated on the reception invitation.  In that case they too will be required to change into tuxedos before the evening’s festivities.  (Ladies would also be expected to slip into something more formal as it would be déclassé to wear cocktail dresses to a daytime function.)

13 Comments

  1. mike

    so do you feel it is more acceptable to change into evening wear or stay in day wear?

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      If there is an opportunity to change then it is always more appropriate to wear evening wear in the evening.

      Reply
  2. Demetri J. Mouratis (@dmourati)

    4PM wedding outdoors, 6PM reception indoors, I’m the groom. I like more formal than a lounge suit. Morning dress or black tie? Toss up I’d venture.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      What time is sunset on the big day?

      Reply
  3. Demetri J. Mouratis (@dmourati)

    6:08 PM

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      If you truly want a traditional wedding then you can’t justify the wearing of evening dress two hours prior to sunset, particularly in an outdoor setting.

      Reply
    2. Marc

      Move your wedding to 5:00. Does that make it close enough to sunset to justify black tie?

      Reply
      1. Peter Marshall

        5:00 would be much more appropriate for tuxedos (assuming the invitations have not yet been sent!)

        Reply
  4. Alison

    I feel that in the name of tradition, if an event is labelled “formal”, day wear should be morning dress and evening wear should be full evening dress(white-tie). If you wear black-tie in the evening, you should wear the “stroller” in the day time. As both are classed as semi formal.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Good point but I think you meant to say that the daytime equivalent of white tie is a morning coat, not morning dress. “Morning dress” is an umbrella category like “evening wear” that includes formal and semi-formal iterations.

      Reply
  5. Alison

    I agree that the term “evening wear” is now ambiguous. However, “Morning dress” is the traditional term for formal day wear.

    Reply
  6. Kay Roberts

    I have been invited to a noon wedding and a black tie reception beginning at 4pm. Do I need to change into black tie attire after the ceremony? Must I wear a long dress or is a black cocktail dress ok? If it states BLACK TIE on the invite does my husband have to wear a TUX?

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Yes, you will need to change into black-tie attire after the ceremony as wearing it during the day would not be appropriate. (The bride & groom are obviously unaware of this rule considering their request for guests to don evening wear at 4:00 in the afternoon.) You can find the definition of the Black Tie dress code on my main web site here and information on appropriate ladies’ attire here.

      Reply

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