Before: The Dress Code

26 Feb

wedding-dress-codeTwo weeks ago we heard from Giant Invitations about whether to mention a dress code on your wedding invitations (verdict: a resounding yes!), so I thought this might be an apt opportunity for some Reflective Bride reflections on how we went about deciding our own wedding day dress code, and – but of course – how it turned out. It may not be one of the wedding planning decisions that keeps you up at night, but you are probably wondering how many of your guests are going to pay attention to your wardrobe wishes for the day – so here is one couple’s experience!

Deciding it
As explained in a previous post for Weddzilla, the Reflective Groom and I decided quite early on that we would have a formal theme for our nuptials. He and I are from different countries, and in his culture weddings are very traditional events: almost always church ceremonies, seated three-course dinners, and cognac with dessert. It’s most common for men to attend weddings in nothing less than a black suit and tie; three-piece suits and tuxedos are definitely the norm.

summer-wedding-guest-attire-4You might think it was rather easy then to settle on a dress code for our big day, but my groom’s sartorial expectations were in rather stark contrast to that of my home country… where male guests might show up to a formal-wedding-dress-codewedding in a shirt and jeans without it raising an eyebrow. Jeans at a wedding would be unheard of in my groom’s country, and actually considered a little insulting since it implies that you don’t respect the importance and weight of the event. Since our wedding would take place in my home country, and with a beachside ceremony also no doubt conjuring images of summer dresses and barefoot frolicking, communicating and achieving our goals of a formal wedding would be a bit of an uphill battle. (Note that the beachside ceremony came about because my hometown is in a beach city, and we thought the seaside spot would be memorable for all the out-of-towners and tourists.)

With different cultural perceptions of what actually constitutes formality at a wedding, we realized that simply telling guests “formal” would not be specific enough. So we turned to the interwebz for some definitions of different formal dress codes. We didn’t want to demand anything as high-faluting as black tie, white tie, morning suit or lounge suit as the dress code, but wondered if cocktail would only lead to short skimpy gowns. In the end we settled on “evening formal”, hoping that it would bring to mind darker suits and longer gowns.

Communicating it
If you’re going to go to the trouble of deciding a dress code for your wedding day, then you should communicate your desired dress standard to your guests – otherwise the debate was for nought. Your wedding invitation, and wedding website if you have one, are the best opportunities to share your expectations. Also, with a wedding website, you can add a little more explanation of your wardrobe wishes than a paper invitation will allow. Even if you think it’s completely obvious how your dress code should be interpreted, people differ in their individual (and cultural, in my case) perceptions of what constitutes what level of formality, so some elaboration and examples can be helpful. Even the two images above, with visual definitions of “formal”, show how those definitions differ even across wedding websites. Also, if you’re inventing your own dress code terminology for your nuptials (like “1920s glam” or “cowboy casual”) you should definitely add some pointers for your guests!


“Cowboy casual”, anyone? Add some dress code definition to point your guests in the right direction!

So how was it communicated for the Reflective wedding? We added toward the bottom of our wedding invitation, above the RSVP date, “Dress code: evening formal”.
The last text on our invitation was a link to our wedding website, where dress code was the fifth item in the menu (after events, directions and an introduction to the bridal party). On that page of the website we wrote “The dress code for the wedding is evening formal. Men would wear a suit, while ladies might wear a formal dress (anywhere between cocktail- and ankle-length) or evening separates.” And to pre-empt any confusion about the seaside locale, we added in brackets after that “Although our ceremony takes place near the beach, the dress code is not beach casual.” We added the dress code page to the website at the same time that we added pages for the bridal party, registry and transport information, so sent all our guests an email notifying them of the new information (and also asking them at the same time to fill in a survey with dietary requirements, contact phone numbers and which hotel they were staying in).

So how did our execution of the dress code go, in the lead-up to and on the big day? Tune in next week!

(First image from Life Daily, second image from, third image from Polkadot Bride, fourth image from Pop Sugar.)

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One Response to “Before: The Dress Code”


  1. After: The Dress Code | The Reflective Bride - March 5, 2014

    […] Last week I shared how the Reflective Groom and I went about deciding on our wedding day dress code, and then communicating that to our guests. Read on to find out how it all turned out: from the wedding planning right up to the big day! (Warning: this is one of those posts where readers might think, “Whaaat, she’s nitpicking what guests wore at her wedding? What a spoilt brat!” One of the goals of Reflective Bride is to share real, honest insights into how wedding day worries – no matter how small or large – turn out, so I’m analysing this only for other couple’s gain. I promise I never counted the number of suits before now!) […]

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