I know it’s hard to believe but, people used to actually get dressed up….all the time. Men never left the house without a hat (not a baseball hat) and women always wore stockings and heels. Of course with that dress code came a plethora of problems like hat hair and girdles.
Today, it seems, people have trouble knowing how to dress to even go to the grocery store. I see more flip-flops than I can count in the summer months. I see high school and college children wearing pajama pants to school and generally speaking – females are the worst offenders. Maybe it’s just me – but I have no interest in seeing anyone’s bra, underwear or jammies.
So in this day of casual wear how do you tell your wedding guests that jeans are not acceptable (even with a dinner jacket for men) and that you fully expect them to dress appropriately? It is not that hard, actually. The place to let your guests know what is expected of them is in the invitation. The following terms are perefectly acceptable on the invitation:
“Beach Attire”– If you are having a destination wedding on the beach, your female guests should wear a sundress, casual separates (cruise wear) and they CAN wear dressier flip flops or sandals. The beach is no place for stilettos. Men can get away with a nice shirt, maybe Tommy Bahama or a stylish DaVinci bowling shirt (think Charlie Sheen) with summer pants. I would still advise against jeans, it ruins the look of the super-cool shirt.
“Casual Weding Attire”is not jeans, flips flips, or tank tops. Think if it as a a job interview only with better accessories. A nice skirt and blouse with heels. Hosiery is optional in summer months but, wear a bra if you need one. No one needs to see your jiggly parts moving around on the dance floor. Whatever you do – don’t forget to check for VPL – visible panty lines. No need to break out the rhinestones and glitter, that’s equally inappropriate. Men can expect to wear nice slacks and a dressier button down or polo shirt with a sport coat – tie not necessary.
“Informal Wedding Attire” is a step up from casual. A nicer dress, made of nicer fabric – something you would wear to a college graduation or to meet the first lady. Think of the outfit Michelle Obama wore when she met the Qeen of England. Floor length is out. Men should wear a suit but still no need to wear a tie if the shirt is nice enough. For a preppy look try a navy blazer with Khaki pants and a pastel Foulard tie. Foulard is a woven fabric with a small, symmetrical print.
“Formal Wedding Attire” is dressy, what you would wear to the opera or a State Dinner. Cocktails dresses, long dresses and dressy evening separates. As always don’t forget to have the right undergarments. Men should wear a dark suit and tie, tuxedo not necessary.
“Black Tie” or Ultra Formal is defined as cocktail or long dresses for women and tuxedos for men. Break out the fine jewelry, sparkly accessories and beaded purse. Men do not have to wear a bow tie as long as they have a tuxedo or a fine suit with contrasting fabric on the lapels. Dress like you are headed for the red carpet at the Academy Awards.
If your guests do not have the good sense to know the definition of Casual Wedding attire, how do enforce the dress code? That is entirely up to you. You could either have security to make sure everyone is up to par and those who aren’t are turned away or you let it go and tell the photographer not to take photos of anyone dressed inappropriately. If you have a website, this would be a good place to further explain your expectations to your guests.
Lets face it – you can’t legislate good taste. With any luck at all, you could have someone dressed so oddly that it will entertain you for years to come.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago