Planning an After Five Soiree is one way to have a briefer and more intimate event than the traditional all day wedding planned months ahead. Cocktail hour weddings offer an elegant, affordable alternative. Think about it: fewer guests, a shorter hemline and less cake and champagne can sometimes be more.Small weddings are on the rise, especially for the couple with limited time and money issues. Some couples feel more at ease celebrating their nuptials as evening approaches with a few close friends and family present. The dresses featured here are all cocktail length. With some imaginative head chic and accessorizing you'll have your look.

di Egò by Valentini
The cocktail dress is perfect for this wedding of the same name. Defined, its street-length and typically made out of exquisite fabric or has special detailing. Though cocktail hour dressing can go either semi-formal or informal, the later doesn’t imply casual. It simply means you can go with elegant street-length attire; a higher hemline is acceptable and your groom,(again following your lead) can skip the de riguer white or black tie if he chooses, getting into a raw silk or linen suit instead. On the other hand, remember, while attire for the cocktail reception is elegant, its never max formal. Think of cocktail dressing as anything from a chic mini to a fitted floor-length sheath. The fabric can be luxe. The photo above is a good case in point.

Elisabetta Polignano
Peter Langner

Franco Donut in organza and chiffon. Photos by Clé Maraini.
Department stores and boutiques may be the best route to go for the shorter formal. Almost any white dress has potential as long as it works with your accessories, fits within the scene and theme of your wedding and you absolutely love it. Also, if you’re not into wearing white on your wedding day, boutiques and department stores might be your best option. Some stores work closely with up and coming specialty designers. With a little imagination and the help of professionals, you might be able to put some stunning looks together. Also a great option if you don’t want to wait 4-6 months for your gown.

Photos courtesy Vogue Italy