How to Decide (and Communicate) the Dress Code for Your Wedding or Event

wedding drsesscode

Formal? Business Casual? Black Tie? Smart? Cocktail? When it comes to hosting an event you want to make sure it goes the way you want – and your photos reflect the significance of the occasion. A wedding is often something you’ve thought about and planned in your head for most of your life. A big event, whether business or personal, is something you’ve worked hard to put together and you want to make sure your guests understand the type of event – and dress appropriately. Dress code is a tricky subject, but you and your guests will be happier if everyone understands what you want them to wear to your event. 

What Is A Dress Code?

A dress code is the clothes and style you want your guests to present when they show up to your event. For some events, it might be allowing people to wear jeans and other comfortable clothes, while for others it might be black tie, with women in long dresses and men in tuxes. And of course, there are many different types of dress codes in between. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular event dress codes:  

  • Casual is the type of clothes you’re likely to wear every day and may include sundresses, t-shirts, jeans and other clothing appropriate for the season and type of event. 
  • Business Casual is what you might wear to work in a professional office environment, such as khakis/dress pants/skirts and collared shirts/fashionable shirts. Business casual implies no ties or suits, but still professional. 
  • Business is the attire you wear for a special work event and includes business suits, ties, professional dresses and closed footwear. 
  • Semi-formal attire is for special occasions and includes dark suits and ties and short dresses but no tuxes or formal gowns. 
  • Cocktail attire is dressy and fun and includes suits and ties. Cocktail dresses can be long or short, and are elegant but not formal. For women, this implies fancier accessories, hair and makeup. 
  • Formal/Black Tie is for formal occasions, where you’ll wear a tuxedo with frills or a long evening gown. 
  • Smart attire is a step up from casual, meaning no flip flops but jeans with heels or leather boots are appropriate – no tie required. 
  • Wear This Color is becoming a more common dress code to set the stage for an event that has been carefully choreographed around a specific color. 

Why a Dress Code? 

You may be thinking, Do I really need to have a dress code? Won’t people just know what to wear using their common sense? The simple answer is yes you need a dress code if you care what type of clothes your guests wear, and no, people don’t know what to wear if you don’t tell them. Make it easy on your guests and less stressful for you by telling them what you want them to wear, and you won’t be disappointed by attire choices your guests made. 

For a wedding or any type of special event, you probably want to have a specific look and feel to the gathering. That’s where a dress code comes in. For example, what if you held a white party – and a guest showed up wearing a green dress? Or are holding a memorial service, and one of the guests wears pink? You may have a mental image of the event in your head – but you have to communicate that mental dress code to your guests.  

It’s up to you to choose the specific dress code you want. 

How to Choose a Dress Code

How do you pick which dress code you want? It’s best to think about the kind of attire you want your guests to wear and how you want the event to look to other guests and in photos after the event is over.  

If you want everyone to be at their most comfortable then a casual dress code may be the way to go, but that’s not typical for special events or weddings. A minimum look for most weddings is business casual, but semi-formal is also very common – while other couples choose a casual, backyard wedding or formal black tie ceremonies! But imagine having an outdoor beach wedding in July and your female guests all arrive in high heels and dresses designed for air conditioning! If you don’t tell your guests what to wear, they will end up unhappy and uncomfortable. 

Picture your ideal event in your head. What are your guests wearing? Match that attire to a dress code, and let them know what you prefer. 

Wording Your Invitations

Once you’ve decided on the type of attire you want for your wedding it’s important to communicate that dress code to your guests. You can announce your dress code on your invitations, on an event website or on a separate card sent with your invitation – and even ask someone to be your dress code communicator! 

On a wedding invitation, the dress code can be placed at the very bottom, justified to either side or the center. A separate card can be included with the invitation stating your dress code. Your wedding or event website should clearly state the required attire with the other important information. 

Make sure your dress code is clearly written: 

  • Semi-Formal Attire 
  • Dress Code: Formal 
  • Black Tie Optional  
  • Wear White 
  • Dress for warm weather and sand: flip-flops welcome! 

When you clearly word the dress code, if a guest doesn’t understand what it means they can simply Google it! For some events, the host designates a helper to ensure everyone is aware of the dress code. For example, if you’re hosting a Wear Pink! baby shower to celebrate a new baby girl entering the world, you might ask a trusted guest to make sure all the guests know that pink means pink. 

If you want to ensure that your guests dress in a certain way it’s important to state the dress code clearly. This helps everyone else prepare and feel more comfortable and also ensures you get the look you’re hoping for – and the photos you’re hoping for! 

What If A Guest Breaks the Dress Code?

There’s always going to be that one person who simply doesn’t comply with your dress code. Maybe they want to be a rebel, or maybe they simply didn’t understand. Think about restaurants with a dress code: many restaurants keep a jacket and tie in the backroom for men who aren’t wearing the right clothes. 

For many occasions, you can simply laugh off a dress code faux pas, in others you might ask the offending dresser to step away from a photo, while in some circumstances you may choose to decline to admit them. It’s up to you – after all, it’s your event. 

Are You Planning a Special Occasion?
Anna Hess designs your special event, your way. If you need assistance planning a special occasion, wedding or other milestone event, contact Anna Hess to help you plan every detail, right down to the dress code!