Dressing Up or Down?

There are many different types of dress code or attire for weddings. First and foremost, as a host you need to decide what vibe you want at your wedding. A good place for the dress code for the wedding is in the invitation or on your wedding website, you can state what you want your guest to wear. Attire can be anywhere from formal black tie to casual jeans and polos. You can say how you want your guests to dress through a poem or cutesy phrasing. My suggestion, tell them exactly what you want them to wear, so they don’t show up wearing something that does not fit your theme and vibe. Remember this is your day, so be honest with people when they ask you. 

Here are a few Do’s and Don’t’s for Wedding Guests. Know that not everyone knows these tips, so you may want or need to list them on your wedding website or communicate them in other ways.

  • Don’t wear white unless the bride says that you can. Wearing white to a wedding is disrespectful because it is what the bride is wearing, and you don’t want to upstage the bride on her wedding day. She might never forgive you, if you wear something that is similar to her. The only way that you can wear white is if the couple say you can or asks that you wear it.
  • Don’t show up looking better than a bride or groom, as well as wearing something similar to them. Don’t think that you will ever look better than that couple at the wedding, it is not good etiquette.
  • Do follow the dress code asked by the couple.
  • Do tell the couple how good they look in their dress and tux, remember they probably spent a good amount of money on the attire.
  • Do wear something comfortable, remember you will be dancing and having fun. You don’t want to wear something that is the same or similar color as the bridal party.
  • Do try to look your best, there will be photos that the couple will have forever. 

White Tie & Black Tie 

These are for the most formal of weddings. If you choose to require White Tie or Black Tie for your wedding, please ensure your guests are aware with plenty of notice. Guests may need a tuxedo rental company to use. They may want to reserve their dress through a formal dress company, so that no one duplicates a dress. Dresses should be floor-length, with matching heels, jewelry, and an elegant clutch. Black tie can also be the most expensive of attire options.  Your venue may help you with this decision, based on the formality of your wedding. (White Tie is often reserved for White House State Dinner Level Events.)

Formal (a.k.a. Black Tie Optional)

This is a step below black tie, but still very sophisticated. Traditionally, men will wear dark suits (Black or Navy) and women will wear full length dresses, depending on the time of your ceremony. A tuxedo isn’t required, but can be worn. Floor-length dresses, fancy cocktail dresses, or dressy pantsuits are acceptable for women. The earlier the ceremony, the shorter a dress could be, staying below the knee (cocktail, midi, maxi, tea, and floor length come to mind). Dresses are often in deeper or brighter colors, e.g. black, navy, teal, purple, red, etc.

Cocktail Attire

Just between Formal and Semi-Formal sits Cocktail. Men are still wearing suits and suit coats. Women are in shorter dresses, cocktail, tea, midi, or even knee length skirts. This is a delightful balance between elegance and comfort. This is also a nice option for weddings in hot weather months. It’s easier to relax a dress code as the evening proceeds, having the bridal party gentlemen take off their jackets and roll up their sleeves is a signal to your guests to follow suit.

Semi formal or Dressy Causal

In dressing Semi-Formal, lighter colors become more acceptable. Men wearing a dark suit coat with khaki pants and button down shirts makes its appearance here. Women in lighter shades, e.g. pinks, yellows, white-based florals, color block dresses, etc. This attire style can be interpreted in many ways, so I strongly recommend providing outfit examples. On your wedding website or social media site, you could showcase the two of you in the various options.

Business Casual 

This is my favorite attire style. Pressed khaki pants. Polo shirts. Sun dresses. Cute rompers. It also fits a lot of different wedding venues – indoors and out. Allows for comfort and shoe changes. Guests can wear what makes them feel their best, which means you get photos of them, feeling their best, celebrating you and your relationship.

Religious Options

Depending on the location of the ceremony, most religions have some type of dress code for their sanctuary space. First things first, guests will read their invitation and check out your wedding website, if you have one. This is your first line of communication with all of your guests and there are plenty of ways to list and detail how a guest may need to dress for your wedding day. Second, even encouraging guests to avoid more casual fabrics – denim, wrinkled linen, or jersey – or more casual clothing items – shorts, short shorts, mini skirts, t-shirts, etc – can be easily shared. Third, encourage your “Call Tree” to know what’s going on. One thing I suggest is making sure that parents, bridal party, and any “key” family members are in the know about your expectations for your guests. I know, you expect your guests to reach out to you directly, but often, they don’t. So, keep things easy for yourselves and let them in on what you want.

Final Thoughts

The dress code is an important part of the vibe of the wedding, I believe that what guests wear can contribute to the overall look and decor of the wedding. You want to encourage your guests to wear something that you will like because this is your day and you will be looking at these pictures for years.

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