I just received an invitation for a wedding. The ceremony is at 7pm and the reception will be at a fancy downtown venue. The invite itself is formal but does not specify "black tie."
Is black tie an option? Can I wear a long dress and my husband wear a tux?
From the context of the invitation and from what the guest already knows about the type of family hosting the wedding, we could hazard a guess that this event has a high level of formality, and as such, a floor length gown for the ladies and a tux (though perhaps with a straight tie, not bow tie, to tone it down a bit) would be appropriate.
Conferring with Emily Post on the subject, her website notes, "Do not mention gifts or attire on the wedding invitation. If necessary, "Black tie" may be written in the lower right on a reception invitation."
And yet, they don't tell us at what point in the evening Black Tie Time actually starts!
Let's nip this in the bud and speak with a real, live expert: Jennifer Edwards Milam, owner of Reveal Event Style and consummate wedding and etiquette authority.
The official decision: A wedding is black tie if the ceremony starts at 6pm or later. While some couples will choose to follow Emily Post's (archaic) etiquette rules and not print the actual dress code on the invite, Jennifer advises her brides to include it on their invitations (or at least on the wedding website), to put their guests at ease.*
And there you have it.
So now, dear reader, you can go forth and shop for that new formal dress with impunity!