You’ve gotten the invitation, you’ve ordered the gift, now, what to wear? Heather Madden, who has coordinated weddings through her business, Piece of Cake, since 1998, helps us decipher the wedding dress code. She also shows how brides can be sensitive to their guests’ climate needs and interpretative styles:
• The design of the invitation as well as the time of the ceremony often offers clues to the formality and theme, if any, of the evening. It is important to communicate the dress code to your guests both for their temperature and social comforts. They should have the opportunity to dress appropriately for the weather and the formality and that information is best relayed to the guests through the invitation, save-the-date or a wedding website. By communicating this dress code to the guests in turn the bride and groom will help maintain the level of formality they are seeking for the event.
• A meadow ceremony may call for a relaxed dress with more practical footwear and a sweater over your dress, whereas a formal dining room reception may find jacket and tie and gowns more suitable. The time of day of the event is also an indicator of formality, the later in the evening the more formality is implied.
• Ceremonies that are in the wilderness may entail some walking to the site. It is important to prepare guests for these wonderful but unusual circumstances by letting them know if there will be walking involved or if there is a chance of rain or chilly wind. The bride and groom can ask their coordinator to arrange transportation for any guests that would have difficulty with a walk or hike, particularly if the ceremony and reception are in different locations. It’s also a good idea to schedule for time between the ceremony and reception not only for travel but to give guests the option of stopping by their hotel to change shoes for dancing and freshen up a bit.
• Local dialect: “Sun Valley Casual” could mean dress shorts, a short sleeve shirt and flip flops for the guys and a skirt or cocktail dress with sandals for the ladies. It is, in general, a bit more casual or outdoorsy than your typical city casual. This fits in very well for outdoor meadow or mountain top ceremonies followed by a casual buffet or a BBQ dinner reception.
That is not to say that having a wild Idaho setting excludes formality. For the guys, slacks and a vest or blazer over a dress shirt with a tie are striking and sundresses or colorful cocktails and heeled sandals are wonderful for both the ceremony and the potentially more formal reception.
“Formal” means suits for the gentlemen and elegant gowns or evening wear for the ladies. If the event is to be Black Tie, that should be specifically referenced on the invitation.
The most common other style I have seen is Western attire, which is applicable to all the above mentioned levels of formality, even black tie. Another elegant option is more Asian in cut with Mandarin collars for the men’s shirts and silk dresses for the ladies.