Wedding Dress Codes: How to Gently Advise Your Guests on Proper Attire

wedding dress code

Over the years, you’ve likely been to a variety of weddings. Your cousin had a cowboy-themed day, where you wore jeans and boots and your BFF hosted a formal occasion where all the women wore floor-length gowns and the guys were in tuxes.

Now it’s your turn to plan your wedding, and you and your fiancé both want a beach wedding where sandals and casual loafers will be much more appropriate than stilettos and patent leather shoes.

In order to pull this off, you will have to gently let your guests know about your wedding theme and suggestions on how they should dress. With that in mind, let’s discuss the different types of dress codes for weddings, as well as how you can kindly tell people what to wear.

From White Tie to Casual and Everything In Between

white-tie wedding is as formal as you can get — your BFF’s wedding sounds like it was a white-tie affair, with the women in long, formal dresses and heels and the men in a black tux with tails, white vest, formal white shirt, and white bowtie.

The next-most formal wedding is the black-tie affair, which is usually held in the evening. Women usually wear a formal floor-length gown or a dressy cocktail dress or elegant trousers. For men, a tux is still the name of the game, with a black bow tie and black vest. Meantime, a formal or black-tie optional wedding is slightly less formal than black-tie; for women, the dress code is the same, but men can choose from a tux or formal dark suit.

A semiformal or dressy causal wedding is held at different times of the day, which, in turn, dictates what guests should wear. In general, darker colors are worn in the evening and lighter shades are okay for a daytime wedding. Women can go with a dressy skirt and top or classy pantsuit, and guys will be right at home with a suit and tie.

A new trend for dress codes is called “festive attire” — basically, this means party dresses for women in a bright color paired with fun accessories and a suit for men, along with a jazzy tie or pocket square. A casual dress code usually means the wedding will be outside and/or at the beach; women can’t go wrong wearing a sundress with dressy sandals and men will be at home in khaki pants with a collared shirt.

And then for a specific type of wedding like your cousin Haley’s cowboy nuptials, guests are encouraged to dress in a way that supports the “theme.”

Tips on Telling Your Guests How to Dress

Using the guidelines above, you and your fiancé are likely planning a wedding with a casual dress code. While you will share your plans with your attendants, other close friends and family members, you need to get the word out to all your guests. An effective way to do this is through a custom wedding website. By developing your own wedding website, you can relay all sorts of important information to your guests that go beyond the “where” and “when” of the wedding.

For example, you can add “Our ceremony will take place on the beach. Please wear sandals or flats.” Or, “Our wedding and reception will be held on the coast; please consider bringing a light jacket to go over your casual clothes.” Then, when choosing your invitation and the wording to go on it, opt for a more informal card and feel free to include a reminder to dress casually for your big day.

If you field a few calls from friends and relatives who are unsure what to wear, use the above guidelines to assure them their full-length gown and suit can stay in the closet in favor of a summery dress and cotton pants with a lightweight dress shirt.

The Sand, the Sea and Both of You — How Lovely!

A beach wedding is sure to be a beautiful affair. And by talking with your fiancé to decide on a dress code and using a wedding website and invitations to politely communicate to your guests what to wear, everyone is sure to have a festive and comfortable time on your big day.

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