Weddings have changed a lot in recent years. They are no longer the predictable and strictly formal occasion with traditional restrictions or boundaries. Weddings nowadays have so many different styles and formality levels which is wonderful but can also be confusing for guests. A common question for family and friends to ask is, "What's the dress code?" The wedding stationery, wedding time (evening versus daytime), and location (beach versus church) may give some clue as to whether the wedding will be formal, casual, or somewhere in between but these are hardly concrete indications of the dress code. Probably one of the most embarrassing feelings as a guest is to arrive the day of the wedding and suddenly realize that you are either horribly under or over dressed.
One way to help your guests plan and feel at ease is to just flat out state what the dress code is on the invite or your wedding website.
- Formal (black tie/white tie) - usually this requires a specific kind of suit and tie or tux for men and an evening gown for women.
- Semi-Formal - probably the closest thing that most people can relate to is prom. Suits and ties for men and gowns or cocktail dresses for women.
- Informal - could mean something like a nice polo shirt with kakis for men and cocktail dresses for women. Probably something you'd wear on a nicer date.
- Casual - could mean nice t-shirt and jeans for men and an everyday kind of dress for women.
- Costume - specifies if there is a theme or a "look" to the wedding and for the wedding guests (i.e. "vintage" look, 1960's/Madmen look, nautical look, etc).
It should go without saying that guests should dress respectfully and cleanly regardless of casualness. Categories help but as you can tell there are often some overlaps so it's helpful to be as specific as possible so guests will have a better idea of what "Informal Dress Code" might mean to you. In addition to written communication of the dress code, verbal communication is also important. Older guests and family will probably ask the couple's parents for guidance so explaining thoroughly to both sets of parents would be wise. Otherwise they might communicate incorrect information like a bad game of "Operator."