The Guide to Style for Guests
For most guests, figuring out what to wear to a vow renewal can present a real challenge. You are presented with a variety of clues from the style, location, and time of day. Follow our guide to prevent being under-dressed or over-dressed!
- Beach or Outdoor Chic: Relaxed attire is the typically norm for beach or outdoor chic vow renewals. Men can opt for linen pants, khakis or a summer suit with a button-down shirt. Tea-length or knee-length sundresses are a good choice for women. You can even accessorize your outfit with a sunhat or small parasol if the ceremony will be held in direct sunlight. Be sure to opt for terrain appropriate shoes!
- Casual: Think business casual, not weekend at the lake casual, unless directed otherwise. In general, men should opt for khakis or dress pants with a button-down shirt. Women can wear a sundress or skirt with a cute top.
- Semiformal: This is the most common and trickiest type of dress code. Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should opt for a cocktail dress. This applies even if it’s an outdoor evening celebration.
- Creative Black Tie: Creative black tie allows guests to add some color to their attire. Men should wear tuxedos with a colored bow tie or a patterned vest if you like. Women should wear a formal cocktail dress or ball gown in a pattern or bright color. Often with creative black tie, a theme is involved (for instance, 192o’s, 1930’s, or even a masquerade ball) so guests should follow the couple’s wishes as closely as possible.
- Black Tie: Black tie is the standard for elegant celebrations. Men should wear tuxedos, with black ties and waistcoats (not tailcoats). Women should wear a very elegant cocktail dress or a long ball gown. As a rule, the more formal the location and setting, the longer the dress should be. While bare shoulders are permitted, women may still want to bring a lace bolero or pashmina to wear as they arrive and leave.
- White Tie: The most formal dress code and generally reserved for state occasions. Men should wear tuxedos with white ties and white waistcoats (not black) and jackets with tails. Women should wear a ball gown possibly with a train. Often bare shoulders are not appropriate, so plan on wearing a lace shrug, silk bolero or pashmina with your gown. The invitation should state explicitly if white tie is expected over black tie. If the invitation simply says “formal attire,” guests can assume black tie.
If the venue has a dress code, this information should be included on the invitation. If the venue doesn’t give you a solid clue, you can always ask your hosts for guidance. For formal weddings, it’s important to follow the dress code down to the last detail.
Time of Day
The location and style of vow renewal give you the strongest clues, but the time of day is also a very helpful indicator for selecting your attire. Morning vow renewals tend to be the most casual, with the level of formality increasing as the day progresses. In general, vow renewals held after 5 p.m. should be presumed semi-formal, unless otherwise stated. It’s also important to take the time the reception ends into consideration when choosing your attire. In example, if the ceremony is at 2:30 p.m., yet the reception includes a full dinner and dance and won’t be over until nearly midnight, semi-formal attire would be appropriate in most cases since you will be dining and dancing into the evening.
Remember, dressing appropriately for the celebration is a sign of respect!