Loading...
Simply Chic Simply Chic Blog Home

Exactly What to Wear to a "Cocktail Formal" Wedding

Plus, how to dress for every other wedding

By Glamour Magazine Oct 15, 2012 9:18PM
by Kim Fusaro, Glamour Magazine

While we were chatting in the comments of this post yesterday, Save the Date reader Lauren_F mentioned that she once got a wedding invitation that indicated guests' attire should be "cocktail formal." Her reaction: "Well, what the hell is that?! I know what formal is, I know what cocktail is, but I don't know what cocktail formal is, so I just showed up in jeans and a t-shirt."

Kidding! "Okay, I actually wore a dress."

I agree that "cocktail formal" is a little bizarre! I would take a simple chiffon cocktail dress and jazz it up with some sparkly accessories, like this. (I can't decide if I love or hate the belt. Thoughts?!) And I think I'd try to fashion my hair in some sort of updo. (I'd probably fail, but I'd try!)

Related: 10 Wardrobe Essentials Every Woman Should Own

Forget Me Knot With Straps from Ivy & Aster, $297. ASOS Bug Buckle Metal Waist Belt, $21.11. Faceted Triple Drop Earrings from New York & Co., $14.95. Lulu Townsend Pump from DSW, $49.95.

Regardless of the attire, if you're in your 20s it's hard to go wrong with a pretty chiffon dress in a muted color. The dress above would work for almost any wedding (except black or white tie) and it has a removable belt and removable straps, which make it extra versatile.

Related: 15 Gorgeous Hair Updates to Try

Here are the rest of my "How to Dress for a Wedding" guidelines. I've shared these before, but they're worth repeating!

White tie is the most clear-cut—and the one you’re least likely to see. This is the only time, as a woman, I’d feel obligated to wear a long dress. Guys wear tuxes with white shirts, ties and vests.

For a black-tie wedding, I’m OK with wearing a dressy cocktail dress and nice shoes. (Rory would wear his tux, which—trust me—is super-cute.) The old rules of etiquette said women should wear long dresses, but as long as you’re in the friends-of-the-bride-and-groom group—as opposed to the friends-of-the-parents group—I think a respectable, not-too-short short dress is fine.

There’s also creative black tie, which means guys are still expected to wear tuxes but they can have fun with their tie selection. (If it’s possible to have fun with tie selection ...) Girls can pair whatever they’d wear to a black tie wedding with funky shoes or a bold bag.

Black tie optional means the guys are free to wear a dark suit or tux. Ladies should just wear what they’d wear to a black tie wedding.

Our wedding invites said formalwear, which naturally confused people. Just because our wedding was outside and started in the late afternoon, we didn’t want our guests showing up in dress shorts and button-downs or sundresses. But we couldn’t say “black tie optional” when the groom and his guys would be wearing suits.

My friend’s mother-in-law somehow slipped casual elegance onto their invites. She wanted guys in suits, but didn’t think ties were necessary. After much deliberation, I wore a cotton Banana Republic dress with dressy heels. Variations on this: afternoon elegant, semiformal or Sunday best.

You might also see cocktail attire, which to me means a suit (dark or light) for the guys with ties optional and a fun cocktail dress for the ladies. While I wouldn’t wear something mini to a black-tie wedding, I’d be comfortable going short if the invite side “cocktail attire.”

For a wedding that fell near the winter holidays, I got an invite that said festive attire. I translated that as “something sparkly.” Thankfully, I have a closet full of “something sparkly.” Rory wore a suit and tie.

I’ve also received invites that said shorts & sundresses and beach casual. (Gotta love a New England wedding!) I wore sundresses—and packed flip-flops—for both.

Oh, and a quick word of advice from Miss Manners: “A wedding guest would of course not dream of wearing a long dress in the afternoon.” Something else to consider.

What’s the weirdest attire request you’ve ever seen on the bottom of a wedding invitation?

Photo: Courtesy of Glamour

More from Glamour:
14 Lies Men Tell Women
35 New Ways to Wear Your Jeans
35 Truths About Marriage (According to Guys)

0Comments

beauty tips and style advice

  • Sisley Phyto Lip Twists

    10 weatherproof beauty products to combat April showers

    Sprinkle in these wet weather essentials so you'll be ready for whatever these springtime days bring.

  • Getty Images

    9 key fashion items every girl needs

    Let's face it: winter's bitter cold left us feeling disillusioned with our wardrobes. So with warmer days ahead, it's time to shop for must-have pieces that'll keep your look fresh for months to come.

  • a1

    The 10 commandments of wedding-day makeup

    Every bride deserves to look flawless on her wedding day. So we say: Indulge a little. Book a facial (or six!) and invest in a great waterproof mascara. With this guide, getting ready for your big day has never been easier.

  • a1

    The 9 most fabulous beauty moments in reality show history, re-created

    Reality TV: such a mindless guilty pleasure, mostly filled with questionable spray tans and insane hair extensions. But in honor of the season premiere of one of our favorites, The Real Housewives of Orange County, we decided to celebrate a select few reality stars who’ve displayed legitimately great hair and makeup. Yes, there actually are a few! And we had to go all the way back to The Real World of the mid-’90s to find our first.

  • Delphine Achard

    5 crucial makeup tips every spring allergy sufferer needs to know

    I can’t tell you how many times one ill-timed sneeze ruined all of my hard work with a mascara wand. #allergyproblems.

  • Lucky

    The best drugstore lipsticks

    While we’re not averse to shelling out upwards of $30 for an amazing lipstick, many of our standby lip colors cost a whole lot less than that. The drugstore is full of high-quality, long-lasting lipsticks in gorgeous shades that—wait for it!—ring in under $10. Click through above to shop our favorites!

  • Lucky

    From bra straps to butterfly clips: The 18 hair accessory trends we’ll never forget

    What’s the perfect add-on to your beauty look? A hair accessory, of course! Just when you think you’ve seen it all, every year there seems to be a new “it” hair piece that rules the moment. In the ’50s, a dainty bow-tied head scarf was perfectly housewife-chic. In the ’60s and ’70s, real flower crowns officially became the epitome of boho style—your outfit simply wasn’t complete without a daisy topper. Fast-forward to the ’90s and you had a bevy of creative hair charms and baubles, including butterfly clips, hair wraps and those infamous bra strap headbands (shudder).

  • a1

    The best blush colors for your skin tone

    The right blush can warm up your complexion, create the illusion of cheekbones, and even make you look younger. (Yes, really!) Here, the most flattering shades for fair, medium, olive, and dark skin.

  • a1

    The top anti-aging products $25 and under

    Think you can’t put a price on looking younger? Well, we did—and it’s $25. We challenged dermatologists to find great products that don’t cost even one cent over that amount.

  • a1

    6 things you can wear to look younger now

    You want to dress in a way that’s young and cool but that doesn’t suggest you’re on your way to a One Direction concert. “The trick to looking younger is adding one fashionable piece to a classic outfit,” says stylist Cher Coulter. Here’s how to nail it.

  • a1

    8 aging hair-color mistakes—and how to fix them

    Hair color is one of the most effective anti-aging tools we have—except when it isn’t. Take your dye job too far (or inky, or frosty) and you can add years to your appearance. Three top colorists weigh in on what to avoid.

  • a1

    10 hairstyles that make you look 10 years younger

    News flash: Your youth fix doesn’t have to come in a bottle—or a needle. Your hairstyle could actually take years off (or add them to) your look. Don’t believe us? Check out these celebrities—each one gorgeous, of course, but also looking older due to certain overly perfect hairdos. Anti-aging tip number one? Mess it up a little.

follow us
follow us follow us on facebook follow us on pinterest follow us on twitter
buzzing now on msn living
Loading...
about our blog contributors
Loading...
style videos
editor's picks
Loading...