Wedding Reception Attire Etiquette

Written by tara m. clapper
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Wedding Reception Attire Etiquette
Formal receptions call for formal attire. (The Glasses image by Jenn from

Wedding reception attire depends mainly upon the formality, tone, venue, season and time of day of the wedding. The couple or wedding hosts should express the level of formality of the reception on the invitation. They should also inform attendants and immediate family members of attire suggestions so that guests may politely inquire as they feel fit.


Some wedding invitations will dictate the level of formality of the wedding with a line such as "black tie optional." As a general rule of etiquette, it's best to avoid denim and tank tops unless specifically stated as acceptable on the invitation. Guests can consult with a formal wear rental shop for clarification on terms such as "dressy casual" and "white tie." If a guest cannot determine the level of formality from the invitation, he can ask one of the attendants.


Unless otherwise specified, a guest is free to select the colour of her own attire. According to The Emily Post Institute, it is now acceptable to wear either black or white to a wedding so long as the garment worn does not look like a bridal gown or a dress the guest might wear to a funeral. Guests should also consider the season when selecting attire colours.


Setting should also influence a guest's attire. Many country clubs serve as reception venues for weddings and have their own requirements, such as a jacket and tie requirement for men. Female guests may opt for bright florals for a spring day or a dark, knee-length dress for an evening cocktail reception.


Clothing must remain usable and appropriate throughout the reception. If the guest is interested in dancing, she should consider a secure garment and comfortable shoes. The bride should also consider this when selecting her dress. A bride may change her dress before the reception or purchase a dress with a bustle.


If the couple is hosting a theme wedding, such as a renaissance event, they should encourage guests to participate but should not require expensive or unusual attire. While guests should remain attentive to the couples' religious institution's requests, it is usually acceptable for men and women to remove hats, jackets and gloves at the reception.

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