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 couples’ gain. I promise I never counted the number of suits before now!)
During the wedding planning
Despite providing what we hoped were fairly specific wardrobe instructions on our invitations and wedding website, we did have some struggles throughout the wedding preparations with getting everyone on board with our “evening formal” dress code.
The first hiccup came when my sister visited our ceremony site to double-check our map and decorations. After the visit, she reported back to the Reflective Groom and me that our once lush, grassy lawn had become sandy after a spell of dry weather. She advised we tell everyone to bring flip-flops. Knowing that flip-flops at a wedding would cause my groom to have a fit, I gently reminded her that we are looking for a formal dress style on the day, because it’s traditional to the Reflective Groom’s culture. She grumbled her disagreement… and a month later I found out she’d been telling guests that our ceremony would be sandy and they should go barefoot. Guh! This prompted us to add to the dress code page of our wedding website, “Note for your footwear that the ceremony is outdoors, on grass (and also some sand).” That way we were at least warning people there was some sand to contend with!
The next problem came from our mothers. My mother told me over the phone that she’d found some black flats and trousers to wear for the big day. Er… flats? Trousers? Admittedly, she has never been one for dresses or heels, but I thought maybe she’d pull out the sartorial stops for the first wedding among her children. However, she sounded so proud that she’d finally found an outfit that I didn’t know what to say. I mumbled something like “Well, we are going for formal, so as long as it’s quite dressy…” She assured me, “Oh, yes yes, it’s very formal.”
A few weeks later we visited my in-laws-to-be, and my mother-in-law very excitedly informed us that she’d bought three new dresses as possible candidates for her wedding day outfit. This was a relief after the concern about my own mother! However, when she showed us her frock options, we saw that all of them were boldly patterned summer dresses. She was clearly excited for a beach wedding! The Reflective Groom and I could only respond with “Oh, erm, maybe… maybe that one?” Afterwards at home we were at a loss for what to do. Do we say something? Do we drop hints to his dad about it? Eek!
On mothers, my own also informed me that my cousin’s husband always wears a bandanna on his head; it’s just his signature look. My groom was startled. “But… he wouldn’t wear that to something like a wedding, would he?” I told him that the reason my mother knew this was because she had seen him wear the bandanna at another family wedding. I seriously considered contacting my cousin about it, but could never bring myself to do it… it felt too impolite!
The Reflective Groom and I discussed what to do if people do turn up to the wedding not dressed appropriately for our theme, and our conclusion was: nothing. Our venues didn’t carry strict dress requirements, and it’s not likely our out-of-town guests(90% of the guest list) would have brought a spare outfit that was more formal than the one they’d already chosen… so there really wasn’t anything to do about it.
On the wedding day
So how did it turn out? Luckily we have some nice group photos of all our wedding guests for documentation! Let’s start with the men, who were leading the pack when it came to nailing the formal theme. Of the 30 or so men in attendance, all but four appropriately came in a dark suit and tie. Of those four, two of those had long-sleeved dressy shirts with ties (that is, only missing a jacket). The other two were wearing long-sleeved casual shirts and jeans; one accessorized it with colorful snakeskin cowboy boots, and the other gentleman – my cousin’s husband – of course wore his bandanna. (Other guests were heard to whisper, “Who’s the pirate?”, which made us feel a little sorry for him.)
The women were a different kettle of fish entirely. Only about 10 out of 40 women wore a dress that would fit “evening formal”, and the others took more casual options. A half-dozen or so women wore business-style dresses. Floaty summer gowns dominated! Our mothers’ outfits definitely were not formal (and in fact closer to “smart casual”) but because all the women had decided not to go dressy, our mothers very much fit in.
So, in the end, despite all our best efforts to communicate our “evening formal” dress code, I think the beachside ceremony location is what ultimately guided most (especially female) guests’ wardrobe decisions for the big day. As Giant Invitations advised in their recent guest blog post, your ceremony and reception locations definitely communicate something to your guests about the formality and therefore dress code for the event. Choose a dress code that fits in well with your locations, or – if the dress code is very important to you – choose venues that fit with your wardrobe wishes.
The other key learning – though a rather obvious one – is that you cannot control what people wear to your wedding, so you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it. You and your partner can come up with a dress code, and share it in your wedding communications, but after that you simply have to leave it to fate. It is likely that you two have enough tasks to do in the lead up to your big day, and enough family stress or guest dramas to deal with as is. My advice: pick your battles! Whether or not your guests have an amazing time at your wedding will not be impacted by the outfits they happen to be wearing, so it shouldn’t impact you either. Your guests may commit a fashion faux pas or two, but – most likely – they won’t realize. Whether or not it ruins your day (or, far more likely, just your mood) entirely depends on your reaction to it. So don’t worry about wardrobe on the day; remember that at your special day you’re there to celebrate with your guests, not their outfits.
Ultimately it is up to your guests what they wear, and having invited them to your wedding, you are unlikely to send them home just because they chose to wear something inappropriate. There will always be someone that wears something you don’t think is suitable, but the chances are they honestly won’t realise.
What dress code will you choose for your wedding day? Have you been to nuptials where guests didn’t stick to the dress code?