Couples often spend weeks, even months, searching for the perfect wedding dress, the bridesmaid dress that’s flattering for all, and suits that make the men look dashing, but also complementary to the rest of the wedding party. It’s no small task, but there is one more piece couples should be thinking about when deciding on attire, and that’s what they expect their guests to wear. Does this situation sound familiar -- you’re invited to a wedding from a super casual, down to earth couple. Their invitation arrives looking more glam than you expected- black and white, with diamond accents. You open it up to find that their wedding is in a park pavilion in October. What do you wear? Is this a formal affair, or casual? Is it really outside that late in the fall, or is this an enclosed area? The questions go on, and on. You end up asking all of your friends/family trying to get some insight to the event, and finally go with your best guess of a black cocktail dress and heels. That goes with everything, right? Nope. You arrive to find its way casual, and you feel super overdressed. Ugh.
Don’t put your guests in this boat! We’ve all been there, and it’s not fun. We know all of the attention is on the bride and groom, but there’s nothing worse than feeling like “that” guest, you know, the one that didn’t get the memo and looks out of place. It’s become very common for couples to put a small note regarding attire in the invitation, or on their wedding website. Not sure what lingo to use? Here’s a great guide from The Black Tux, custom suit and tux rentals online, to help clue your guests in on what they should wear. Read on for our tips and some parameters for each category.
Casual: This style can be great for daytime, or even morning/brunch weddings. You aren’t expecting guests to be any more dressed up than their day-to-day look. More than anything, you want guests to be comfortable and simply there to enjoy the day with you. Note that this category could lead some guests to wear jeans, nice looking sneakers, untucked shirts, etc. If you’re ok with that, awesome! If not, the next category may better fit the look you’re going for.
Semiformal/Dressy Casual: First, yes, “Dressy Casual” is a very real thing and it is becoming one of the most popular styles for outdoor, summer, and daytime weddings. I love this term because I think “Semiformal” takes people back to their middle school years when a semiformal dance was the equivalent to prom. It may cause guests to overdress for the occasion, similar to how you got way too excited for your first "real" dance and went all out and showed up in a formal, floor length dress to your 8th grade dance (Come on, I know I wasn't the only one, right?!). Dressy Casual is a more relatable term. It will suggest to wear more than jeans, and for the girls that dresses and skirts are more appropriate. While flats and sandals definitely fit this category, dressy casual also allows for wedges and low heels. Dress pants with a button down are more appropriate for the guys, and adding a tie or bow tie will complete the look for the occasion.
Beach Formal: I won’t spend too much time on this since it’s very seasonal, and a bit more self explanatory. Guys, a full suit (light colors) without a tie is perfect. For girls, sundresses, sundresses, sundresses. If the wedding is actually on a sandy beach, you may want to make sure that’s clear so guests wear appropriate shoes. And if it’s on a more typical, rocky PNW beach, make sure that’s clear, too.
Black Tie Optional: This is definitely a step up from Dressy Casual, without suggesting that your guests need to go out and splurge on a new gown or tux. An extremely popular option for indoor, winter, and more formal weddings. For your guests, it’s a time for them to pull out that outfit they only wear for special occasions. Long dresses are appropriate, but also a classy cocktail dress can do the trick. For the guys, a full suit should be their go-to option.
Black Tie: While Black Tie Optional allows for the girls to get more creative, I think Black Tie events are where guys can really shine. For this type of event, I’d lean toward a tux, but it doesn’t need to be black. One of my favorite things this season are deep, earthy tone jackets, as well as alternative fabrics like velvet. No one can resist a guy in a well fitted and stylish tux! For the girls, while Black Tie Optional may cause the debate between a cocktail dress or a long gown, I’d lean toward the long gown for a Black Tie wedding. If you’re debating which fits better for your wedding, Black Tie or Black Tie Optional, just remember that Black Tie is taking it one small step further than Black Tie Optional, and sets more of an expectation, rather than a suggestion for your guests.
White Tie: You want guests to pull out all the stops, and you’re giving them the go ahead to dress to the nines. For the guys, a tux is a must. For the girls, long gowns, heels, and that extra special jewelry are all appropriate. Your wedding is the event of the year and you want guests to dress for the occasion. If you’re splurging to host a super formal event like this, you should absolutely make sure your guests know to dress for it. No one wants to show up dressed casually to this affair!
A few additional tips for the soon-to-be-newlyweds:
1) If you’re going for an overall look or theme that’s more specific than this, make sure you’re clear about that in the invitation. If you want everyone wearing tans and whites for your beach wedding, don’t assume that will be understood by just listing “Beach Formal” on your invitation, especially because no girl is going to opt for a white dress on someone else’s wedding day unless they are told to do so by the bride herself.
2) Make sure you’ve made your vision clear to your wedding party, family, and close friends, and then ask them to spread the word. Sometimes guests don’t want to ask for help, or admit that they don’t know what to wear. Proactive conversations can help clue in these guests to the appropriate attire, as well as provide them with some suggestions.
3) Let people know about the weather, especially out-of-towners. For my own wedding, the majority of guests were coming from the Midwest, where June can easily be 90 degrees. June in Seattle, not so hot. I repeatedly told people to bring layers, gave family and friends weather updates the week leading up to the wedding, and sent some packing suggestions. We had an outdoor wedding in a state park by the beach (a rocky, typical PNW beach, not the sandy, vacation type), so I needed them to be prepared for a climate many hadn't experienced before.
4) Finally, at the end of the day, you’re going to look fabulous, so don’t stress too much about what everyone else will wear. Again, this is your day and all eyes will be on you. If you’ve done your part to let your guests know what to expect and what to wear, that’s all you can do, and it’s up to them to make the appropriate selection. Hopefully these guidelines will help!
* I can't post this without noting that this title is the cheesiest, and yet, the best. I hope you can all appreciate the time I spent putting that rhyme together for you :)