Ask Allie: Ensuring Proper Dress Code at a Wedding

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I am getting married in October in the early afternoon. Where I am from is a very casual place–people routinely wear jeans to church and a nice outfit for a woman often includes khaki pants. How do I kindly tell people that I expect them to dress up? I'm not talking black tie–just dresses for ladies and collared shirts/ties for gentlemen. Is this totally bridezilla of me?

how to enforce dress code wedding

My own wedding started at 7pm and took place at an historic mansion. I made the assumption that folks would understand it was a nice affair and dress the part. However, I had some show in jeans and casual pants. At the time I freaked out, I was short on food and high on champagne and the idea of having a gentleman in a NASCAR jacket and Levi’s in my pictures made me think my wedding was positively ruined. Luckily a loved one gave me some food for my belly as well as some perspective. When I came back from my honeymoon and looked at my pictures, I saw these people in these casual outfits, but I also saw the love on their faces as we walked the recessional, officially husband and wife.

Recently, we attended a wedding that had a specific dress code. I had never heard of the specific term and Googled it to know what to wear. We ended up as some of the most dressed up people at the event and felt a bit awkward, even when a fellow dressed-up guest whispered to me that we were some of the only couples who adhered to the dress code.

What’s the point of my anecdotes? Two things – one, your wedding will not be ruined by guests in jeans and sneakers, and two – even when you request a certain dress code, people won’t necessarily adhere to or understand it.

Mention Dress Code on the Invitation
Etiquette states that you may mention the dress code for your wedding in small letters in the lower right-hand corner of your invitation. When doing so, choose a description that is standard and familiar to most. For a daytime wedding, semi-formal is considered a dressy afternoon dress or pantsuit for women; dark suit or dark blazer and trousers for men.

Mention Dress Code on a Wedding Website
Another way to encourage dress code in a subtle manner is to have a wedding website. Here, you can go into more detail, even with a FAQ page about parking, local hotels, favorite tourist attractions in the area, and dress code for the wedding. I found this line from a post on Offbeat Bride regarding dress code adherence and found it firm yet friendly, “Semi-formal attire is requested. You know us – we're not uptight. We only ask that you keep it classy for the Ceremony.” This way you’re letting your loved ones know their presence is what is most important, but to dress in a semi-formal manner is showing class and respect for the actual purpose of the Big Day.  A wedding website is often free with registry or wedding message board sites; a simple free WordPress or Blogger blog can also accomplish this and be customized to fit the style of your wedding.

In Closing…
My final suggestions? For every glass of champagne have an hors d’oeurve on your wedding day, and for every freak out (for there will be freak outs on things far worse than dress code), look around at all those lovely faces of people who are so happy for you two and love you so much. No matter what you do, someone will dress inappropriately and something will go wrong, but focusing on the fun and love will keep you balanced (and so will the hors d’oeurves!).

P.S. Long after the wedding, I found out that that guy in the Levi’s and NASCAR jacket wore that outfit because Karl gave him that jacket as a present. Karl won it at work and wasn’t into NASCAR but knew this gentleman was a fan. What I initially saw as clueless was one of the most respectful and sweet outfits worn at the entire affair. 

P.P.S. You are not being bridezilla, you are being a normal bride who wants her wedding to be fabulous! I hope my tips can help, and I hope you have the wedding you desire. Best wishes!

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