While I'd like my wedding guests to dress up, I need help figuring out a good way to mention that heels, especially stilettos, aren't recommended for our outdoor wedding.
I'd like to be cute about it, but I'm wondering where I should include the information… should it go on our main wedding invitation, a separate card, or somewhere else entirely?
So you want to tell your guests what to wear, but you don't want to be overbearing, and ideally you'd like to be a little bit clever about it.
You're certainly not the first to find ways to artfully explain a dress code to your guests… in fact, we have a whole archive of posts about wedding dress codes!
Let's review five awesome, non-bossy ways you can give your guests some wedding dress code guidance, especially when your dress code is something less traditional than the usual cocktail dress, tuxedo, black-tie optional stuff that's the norm for formal weddings. (We're all for formal wedding dress codes if you're having a traditional wedding, but here at Offbeat Wed, we're more about casual weddings and cocktail attire vibes than we are about a floor-length evening gown….)
Whether you're having a casual wedding dress code or a full-on costume wedding, the goal is the same: you want to support your guests in a making an outfit choice that feels comfortable AND fabulous at your wedding.
#1: Include a brief PS about your wedding dress code on your wedding invitations
Ok, first things first: If it's clear from your date and venue name that the wedding will be outdoors, you may not need to say anything. For instance, most American guests at a summer wedding located in a garden will assume that they'll be outdoors and can (probably!) be trusted to dress themselves accordingly. Similarly, if your invitation makes it clear you're getting married on the deck of a sailboat, guests will likely understand that they might want to bring a light sweater.
If clothing comfort factors are not obvious from your venue or wedding date AND your dress code is relatively straight-forward (which yours is), you can include a simple PS on your wedding invitations. Something as basic as PS: The ceremony & reception will be on the lawn; choose your footwear accordingly! would do the trick.
I know you said you want to be cute, but cute can be confusing. You want straightforward. You also don't want to be bossy: sure, you could tell them to wear flip flops or wedges, but it's best to just let them know what the environment will be and let them make their own choices
Including a PS on your invitations works best for dress code guidance that is simple and important… heels on a lawn are one example. Outdoor ceremonies during the winter or late summer might be another: “The ceremony will be outside, so make sure you dress for the weather.” Your invitations are not the place to get into elaborate discussions about the nuances between Steampunk and Renaissance attire.
The location of the PS totally depends on your invitation design. If it's a short line, you could include it at the end of your actual invitation. If you're doing a separate card anyway for directions, you could include your dress code note there.
2. Address wedding dress codes in your wedding website's FAQ
Lots of offbeat folks go this route (including me!), using all sorts of adorable wording. Keep in mind that not everyone will read your website, so this isn't a good solution for super urgent wedding dress code stuff like “The ceremony will be outdoors on a ski slope, so bring gloves and don't wear a sundress or you will freeze to death.”
FAQs can be a great place, however, to get into the details of creative attire — especially for theme weddings! FAQs can also be the place to get creative. Here are a couple real-life examples from Offbeat Wed readers:
Q What will I wear!?
A The event is semi-formal, but anything you want to wear we are sure will be ok. The bride requests you refrain from wearing a wedding dress, but if that's really all you have to wear, she prefers that to you going naked (a la Betazoid wedding style).
“Our style is going to be Victorian & Tim Burton-esque. Classic Victorian/Steampunk gothic dress is more than welcome (and encouraged!) for the Ceremony. Or if you'd rather keep things simple, semi-formal attire is requested. You know us – we're not uptight. We only ask that you keep it classy for the Ceremony.”
Here's more great guidance about what to include on your wedding website's FAQ.
3. Show don't tell your wedding dress code
If a picture is worth a thousand words, some visual guidance about attire is the best possible way to get the message across. Creating a Pinterest board may be the easiest way to give guests visual cues about wedding attire, but it's certainly not the only way!
At her father's suggestion, our reader Mari created this adorable visual guide to convey what might be awesome to wear to her “casual lowcountry wedding shindig.”
She distributed the image to guests via email and Facebooked to the guests, and by using pop-culture references, she made the wedding dress code super accessible.
This kind of visual guidance can be extra helpful if you're planning a themed wedding, where guests might be seriously confused. Here's how our reader Jen ensured no one would show up to her Halloween wedding in a “sexy kitty” costume:
4. Offer guests incentives to dress to code
While you can never demand that anyone wear (or not wear) anything to your wedding, some couples have offered amazing incentives to encourage them to dress to theme.
My favorite example of this is when one couple encouraged their guests to “outshine the bride”:
Probably the most “offbeat” aspect of our wedding, aside from our gayness and my burgundy gown (are those things even offbeat anymore? Please!), was our dress code: we specifically instructed our guests to Outshine the Bride. It was right there on our website and in the invitation, and our guests did an amazing job!
The “Outshine the Bride” runway show was easily the high point of the reception! Our friends made great use of the support pole in the center of the room, let's just put it that way. We provided gag gifts (a clip-on veil and a bow tie) for the winners of the runway walk-off. One wore a short, tight, fire-engine red dress, and our gentleman winner wore a white shirt with a full dress kilt! It was great.
Read more about this great idea, and scheme ways that you could offer prizes or gag gifts to guests to dress up.
5. Offer encouragement, NOT enforcement
Above all, remember this: while you can offer encouragement to your guests, it's just not going to feel very good to enforce. You've got enough to do at your wedding without stepping into the role of the fashion police.
Ultimately, your guests will dress themselves. And whether that's jeans and a dress shirt, a jumpsuit, or a white-tie, button up linen jacket, a tux, dark suit, white vest, midi dress, knee-length little black dress, pantsuits, or a floor-length gown… we're guessing they'll be fabulous.
Did you offer guidance to guests about what to wear?