The purpose of requesting specific guest attire is two-fold. First, you want to encourage guests to dress appropriately for whatever experience you have in store for them. Second, their attire should naturally express the event ambiance as a whole. That is to say, guests dressed up in tuxedos and ball gowns are already primed for a more formal affair.
When considering what type of attire to request, consider the venue itself. Is it a grand ballroom or a whimsical outdoor vineyard? Whether or not the venue includes amenities such as air conditioning, shade or luxury bathrooms, can have an impact on your dress code as well. Additionally, how reliable is the weather in the season you’ve chosen? How greatly would unexpected weather impact the guest experience of your event? Will guests be indoors or out? Will they be walking on grass or gravel paths? You want guests to be comfortable so they can be truly present and engaged in the event experience. So, here’s what’s what:
This is the most formal and conservative of all dress codes. Ladies are expected to wear a formal floor-length evening gown, no cleavage, covered toes and sleeves. Bold patterns are discouraged. Men should wear a tuxedo, a long jacket with tails, a formal white shirt, white vest and bow tie, white or gray gloves, and black formal shoes.
This is much more common than white tie. It is still a formal dress code, but with a bit more flare encouraged. Ladies should still wear a formal floor-length gown, but open toes, bare arms and bold colors and patterns are ok. Men are expected to wear a tuxedo with black bow tie, black vest or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes are suggested. For summer weddings a white dinner jacket and black tuxedo trousers are acceptable. Gents may also technically get away with a conservative black suit, rather than tuxedo, in a pinch.
Formal/Black Tie Optional
This attire is slightly less formal than Black Tie. For ladies a long dress, dressy separates or a formal cocktail-length dress are appropriate. Men are expected in a tuxedo or a forma dark suit with white tie and conservative tie. We typically encourage clients to just go for it with Black Tie or Cocktail Attire as the option for Black Tie can sometimes confuse guests as to which direction to go. We say, either go for it, or don’t!
Cocktail (aka “Semi-Formal”)
Ladies should wear a cocktail dress or a long, dressy skirt and top. Attire can be more playful and accessible for guests. A suit and tie are still expected for men, color of which is dependent on the season and time of day (darker for winter/fall/evening and lighter for spring/summer/daytime).
Guests are given the opportunity to have fun and play with their look. Opt for cocktail-party attire featuring bolder colors and fun accessories. Ladies, go for a cocktail or party dress in a bright color, paired with playful accessories. Men, we still recommend a suit and tie, but have fun with the shirt, tie and/or suit pattern.
This attire is typically requested when the wedding will be held outdoors or in a very laid-back setting. For ladies, long or short sundresses are appropriate. Men, you can ditch teh suit and opt for dress pants or khakis with a button-down shirt, tie optional, and a sport jacket or sweater.
This refers to attire that aligns with certain cultures and customs; an example would be a traditional Indian wedding. If you opt for this distinction, be sure to give guests some more information describing what is appropriate, respectful and expected.