How to Choose Your Wedding Dress Code and Tell Your Guests About It


man at wedding

Your wedding is one of the most exciting days of your life, and naturally, you want everything to be as close to perfect as possible down to every small detail. From the flowers and the food to the venue and the guest attire, every little thing matters, especially if you want your wedding pictures to reflect the look and feel you’re going for. Check out these different wedding dress codes and a few ways to nicely tell your guests what to wear.

Dress Codes for Weddings

For a lot of people, knowing what to wear to a wedding is essentially a guessing game. Phrases like “black tie optional,” “cocktail attire” and “white tie” can be confusing, especially if you’ve never been to a wedding. Here’s a short guide to help you understand exactly what you’re telling your guests to wear.

Casual or Daytime: For the ladies, this usually means anything goes, except jeans, shorts, and tank tops. It might mean they show up in a sundress or skirt with a nice blouse. For guys, dress pants with a button-down polo or shirt should be fine.

Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual: Typically, this kind of attire falls somewhere between formal and casual. This might mean darker hues for an evening event and lighter colors if it’s scheduled to take place in the daytime.

Cocktail Attire: Think somewhat less formal than black tie and black tie optional, but still dressy. For the guys, this means they don’t necessarily have to wear a tux, but a button-up shirt might be their go-to. For the ladies, a classy dress is most appropriate, but they don’t necessarily have to do it up big with a gown. Think little black dress (unless the color black isn’t allowed).

Black Tie Optional or Formal Attire: A suit and tie would be appropriate for the fellas, but it doesn’t have to be a tuxedo (although that would work, too). An evening dress or formal cocktail-length dress for the ladies is most suitable.

Black Tie Attire: This means it’s time for the guys to rent a tux, while the ladies might opt for a long evening gown. Indeed, it’s time to dress to impress.

White Tie: This is the most formal wedding dress code out there (think Oprah’s White Ball). Women might whip out a formal full-length ball gown and the appropriate accessories, accompanied by a fancy up-do and dramatic makeup. Men might do a long black jacket with tails and a bow tie for this type of affair.

Ways to Kindly Tell Guests What to Wear

Your Wedding Website

Your wedding website is a great place to provide guests with updates if, say, there’s a change of venue for some reason. But it’s also the perfect place to let guests know (or remind them) of what kind of attire is appropriate for your wedding. Think about creating a FAQ section of the website, so guests have all their questions answered before the big day. That way, your guests know where to go, what to do and what to wear without bothering you with a million questions.

Wedding Invitations

Your wedding invitations are another place to kindly tell your guests what to wear on your wedding day. Make sure to avoid the word “required” and instead be more suggestive or even playful with it. Hopefully, people will oblige on the strength of your relationship alone. You can also let them know the look and feel you’re going for using subtle clues like font, wording and the colors you use. Most people will use it as a guide to determine how best to dress.

Enjoy the Time of Your Life

Now that you have some ideas about what kind of dress code you want as well as ways to politely tell your guests what to wear, start planning your unique approach. Whether you decide to be subtle in your approach or spell it out exactly in a fun, distinctive way, make sure to do it in a manner that won’t turn off your guests. Be polite but firm and have an amazing wedding day!


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