Q: My nephew is marrying soon. The couple’s wedding Web site and invitation included the words “black tie attire” in reference to the wedding and reception, which is out of town. My husband was fitted for a tuxedo, and I chose a dressy cocktail dress. Our daughters have cocktail dresses for the occasion. They attend black-tie functions regularly and feel confident in their choice. A week ago, I happened to look at the wedding Web site again and, instead of the previous “black tie attire,” more information was added: “Men wear tuxedos. Women may either wear floor length dresses/gowns or formal floor length evening separates.” Everything I have read, for many years now, has indicated that the dressy cocktail dresses are completely appropriate for black-tie events, and that white tie requires floor-length clothing for women. Does etiquette require that we conform to the information we acquired late, and quite incidentally?
A: Here’s the long and short of it: stick to what you have already chosen. Today, “black tie” gives women the choice of wearing a dressy cocktail dress, a long dress or very dressy separates. It’s always dicey when brides and bridegrooms dictate what their guests wear, especially female guests. It’s fine to have a look or theme in mind, but some couples get carried away and don’t realize that requiring “medieval attire” — or, in this case, narrowing choices to long dresses only — puts an unnecessary imposition on their guests. With all of the other ways for guests to incur expenses (travel; lodging; meals; wedding gift; and house-, pet- or child sitters), it makes no sense to add buying new clothes to the list, especially in today’s economy. This is not even a case of “you must” wear a long gown. It sounds as if the couple became caught up in the “It’s only two weeks to the wedding!” micromanagement frenzy. The last-minute dress-code update on their Web site probably won’t send guests scurrying to by long gowns. You and your daughters will likely have company, and it’s quite possible that other women will wear short cocktail dresses, too. Even if the longs outnumber the shorts, I’m sure you and your daughters will look terrific. Enjoy the wedding.
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