Every little girl dreams of her wedding, whether it’s a simple ceremony in her parents’ backyard or an elaborate formal affair at the local country club. Informing guests about the proper attire for the wedding is important for a picture perfect wedding and reception. Plus, making guests aware of proper dress alleviates the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what to wear, and eliminates guests’ fear of being underdressed or overdressed.
1. Your invitations will help to set the tone for your event. If you select formal wedding invitations with white or ivory paper and use script printing this will convey to your guests the weddings formality.
2. Choose a formal wedding and reception location. Plan the wedding and reception in a location that indicates formal attire, such as a church or synagogue. Follow the ceremony with a reception at a country club or hotel ballroom. Selecting an outdoor or garden wedding with a reception at someone’s house or restaurant indicates a less formal affair to guests.
3. Know the difference between “formal” and “black tie.” Asking for formal attire can mean black tie, but some guests may interpret it as their “Sunday best.” For others, “formal attire” means a black shirt and slacks or no tie with a tuxedo for men. For women, it could mean cocktail dresses or evening separates. State what you want. Indicating “black tie” on the invitation tells guests that appropriate attire is tuxedos for men and evening gowns for women.
4. Choose which phrase to use on the wedding invitation, “formal attire” or “black tie.” Place the chosen phrase in the lower left-hand corner of the wedding invitation. Use a different font from the invitation, and a slightly smaller text size than the invitation’s last line. Try two or four points smaller, depending on the size of the invitation. Do not capitalize the word “tie.”
5. Place the information on the reception card. Another option is to consider placing dress attire for the evening on the reception card. Place “black tie” or “formal attire” in the lower left-hand corner. Use a different and slightly smaller font. Consider working the dress attire into the wording on the reception card, something like, “A formal reception will be held at seven o’clock.”
A Black Tie invitation calls for formal attire. Men wear tuxedos, women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.
Formal usually means the same as Black Tie, but in some trendier cities like New York or Los Angeles, it could mean a black shirt, no tie with a tux. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.
A White Tie or Ultra-formal invitation requires men wear full dress, with white tie, vest, shirt. Women wear long gowns.
Black Tie Optional
A Black Tie Optional or Black Tie Invited gives you the option of wearing a tuxedo or formal dress, but it should clue you into the formality of the event, meaning a dark suit and tie would be your other option. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.
Creative Black Tie
Creative Black Tie leaves room for trendy interpretations of formal wear. He can go more modern with a tux — maybe a black shirt, no tie. She wears long or short dresses or evening separates.
Sometimes, themed parties call for dress codes like Texas Black Tie or other variations of Creative Black Tie. In that situation, you can have more fun with it, choosing a dressy look with a theme (for him, it could be a tux with boots and for her it could be a long dress paired with Southwestern style silver belt and jewelry).
Semi-Formal or After Five means that tuxes are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening wedding (after 6 PM) would still dictate dark suits for him, and a cocktail dress for her. Daytime semi-formal events mean a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her.
Business Formal is the same as Semi-Formal for him, but for women it suggests that women opt for more tailored dressy suits and dresses (nothing too slinky or sexy).
Cocktail Attire means short, elegant dresses for her and dark suits for him.
Informal is often interpreted as the same as Casual but it actually calls for the same dress as Semi-Formal — dark suits for him, short dresses for her — especially when associated with a wedding or special event.
Festive Attire is usually seen around the holidays, with the mood of the party being Informal or Semi-Formal. For her, it means to choose looks with a bit of sparkle or holiday bent (i.e. a beaded sweater with black pants, a red silk blouse with a black skirt).
Dressy Casual calls for dressed-up versions of casual looks. For him, it could be trousers and a sportcoat, for her a dressy pants look. Jeans, shorts, T-shirts and other casual looks are not appropriate for Dressy Casual.
Casual generally means anything goes.