BLACK TIE OPTIONAL — WEDDING DRESS CODE
I am from Florida and have been invited to a black tie optional wedding in Newport. The ceremony is at 1:30 pm and the reception is at 5:30 pm at The Bohlin. Am I supposed to wear 2 different dresses?
The dress code Black Tie Optional is rather confusing. You want to be dressed appropriately, and yet, not overdressed -- nor underdressed. Additionally, having the ceremony three to four hours earlier than the reception leads one to wonder if one needs to dress down for the ceremony and then hours later dress up for the reception: A two outfit wedding? That's thought provoking for most of the guests. The Black Tie dress code request asks all who identify as male to wear a tuxedo. In Newport we're a bit more laid back with the dress code Cocktail Attire being the most popular. Cocktail Attire is a step down from the dress code Black Tie Optional.
First off, I go to the website of the venue to look at recent wedding photos to get a sense of the formality of the facility. Is the reception taking place in a ballroom at one of the fancy mansions, or is it a more casual affair on one of the docks on the harbor?
Secondly, ask the bride or someone close to the bride about the length of the bridesmaids' dresses. If they are long, you can wear a long dress, if the dresses are short, you can wear short. If the reception is on a yacht then you wouldn't wear an evening dress and stiletto heels; you would wear a more comfortable outfit.
By looking at The Bohlin in Newport website (the company organizing the wedding you're attending) photos, you'll see that the wedding may be taking place on a very cool dock on the harbor front under a tent. Most likely not in a ballroom at one of the fancy mansions, for instance. You'll also notice in the photos that many of the men are wearing white (or khaki) trousers and navy blue (or colored) blazers, which is considered Cocktail Attire. Don't be deceived into thinking it is a very formal wedding by photos showing a formally dressed wedding party; the wedding party is overdressed so they stand out and look uniformed in the formal photos.
You would only be expected to wear a formal evening dress if there was to be a seated dinner (called a candlelight dinner) with a starting time closer to eight o'clock.
In a nutshell, you would not be expected to change into an evening gown for a 5:30 reception.
When in doubt wear a lovely cocktail dress or a long dress that is more casual than formal, but still of good quality and design.
Also, the wedding couple's wedding website should make note of the dress codes of the various events surrounding the wedding.
You say the invitation mentions that Black Tie is an option, so, again, you can assume that it is not the most formal of weddings.
Google the actual venue address for photos of recent wedding to see how guests are dressed at receptions at that location: for instance go to Rosecliff weddings Newport that caterers to the most formal weddings and then to the dockside terrace in the marina The Bohlin where more casual receptions are held.
Basically, that seemingly long period of time between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception allows for wedding photos of just the wedding party.
If you go with a short dress, you can wear a hat to the ceremony, but not to the wedding reception; adding jewelry, such as dangling earrings for a more festive evening look at sunset.
Tip: You may be happy that you brought along a warm pretty shawl or stylish long sweater to Newport in late spring.