Whether you’re having a formal or informal wedding, it’s important to kindly let your guests know what they should wear. This isn’t about being a “bridezilla” or controlling how people look! It’s about making sure that guests feel comfortable for the occasion. Since every wedding is different, it’s helpful to guide guests so they aren’t completely lost on what to wear or have a difficult time at the wedding. For example, if you’re having an outdoor wedding at a golf course (like us), you may suggest that guests don’t wear thin heels that will be hard to walk in in grass. Or if you’re having an evening wedding that happens to be outdoor, you’ll want to make sure that guests know if it may be cold. Suggest they wear or bring something warm.
In addition, it’s important to also recognize that many cultural norms for wedding attire is different. For example, I recently learned that here in New Zealand many weddings can be very casual. This includes wearing shorts and maybe even jandals (flip-flops) rather than a suit. However, from what I have personally seen, read, and heard of in the States, our weddings are almost always more formal than that (nothing wrong with casual wedding). We included suggestions on what to wear so that our out of town guests don’t feel undressed based on what others are wearing and based on the look/feel/location/decorations of our wedding (most people hate showing up to an event and feeling out of place based on their attire – I know I do at least).
The Perfect Wedding Guide says that your invite should set the tone for the event but if that feels too subtle, feel free to put dress guidelines on the invitation.
Here are some options and what they mean:
- Black tie invited or black tie optional is a cue to your guests that the men should be in a tuxedo or dark suit, and the ladies should wear evening gown or formal dress.
- Semi Formal indicates that the men should be in a suit or jacket and the ladies should be in an elegant dress or dressy suit.
- Cocktail Attire indicates that the men should wear a dark suit and the ladies a pretty cocktail dress.
- Casual Attire indicates that the men should wear nice pants and a collared shirt and the ladies may wear a simple dress or nice pants.
These are just what this site says. Invitations By Dawn says:
- Casual dress means wedding guests can wear pretty much anything they want. We recommend a summer dress for the ladies and dress pants with button-down shirt or polo shirt for the guys.
- Cocktail Attire, Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual: All three of these phrases are asking guests to dress somewhere between formal and casual. We recommend a cocktail dress for the ladies and a suit and tie or a sport coat for the gents.
- Beach Formal: Beach inherently indicates casual, which is why formal is tacked on to the end — it’s still a classy affair. We recommend a formal summer sundress (tea-length or knee-length) with flats for the ladies and a summer suit with linen shirt, linen pants or khakis and sandals for the guys.
- Formal Attire or Black Tie Optional: These two phrases are very common in today’s weddings. They indicate that the wedding party will be in formal wedding attire, and it’s optional for all guests. We recommend a dark suit or tux for the men and formal evening wear (floor length dresses or evening pant suits) for the women.
- Black Tie usually indicates an evening affair where the men where tuxedos and the women wear formal gowns of any length.
- White Tie: This is the most formal of all wedding dress codes. We’re talking soirees at the White House kind of evenings. The gentlemen dress in long-tail tuxedos and the women don full-length ball gowns. If only we could be so lucky as to attend one of these fabulous affairs!
Hopefully these suggestions help you in deciding how you should guide your guests on what to wear. It’s also important to note that not all guests will “get the memo” or understand what to wear. It’s not about the clothes they’re in but that they showed up to celebrate you and your husband/wife. Just have fun!
Which term are you going to put on your invites/wedding website to describe what your guests should wear?
Mary Taylor <3