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How to Set a Wedding Dress Code

Enforcing a wedding dress code can be a little challenging because some guests interpret different phrases to mean entirely different things.

For some, a floor-length boho dress may be appropriate for a black-tie event. But the truth is, the flow-y design may be a bit too casual for a dress code that calls for formal dresses and chic evening gowns. And while it’s definitely not the end of the world if your guests show up wearing whatever they think fits the vibe of your event, if you care about your photos, setting a dress code is something you should seriously consider. That way, you’ll make sure nobody looks out of place.


You may also be doing a favor to some of your guests who would find it easier to choose an outfit when they know what is expected of them.

We reached out to Carats & Cake’s wedding experts who shared their tips on how to get your guests coordinated.

The Grovers

1. Be Specific

“If you are going to be specific about a dress code, especially pertaining to a certain color palette, please make sure you’re explicit in your instructions. For example, ‘Cocktail Attire in Whites, Grays and Blush.’” — Brooke Keegan, creative director, Brooke Keegan Special Events

O’ Malley Photographers

2. Don’t Forget About All Your Events

“If you are having a formal wedding be sure to include the dress code for the other events so guests know if there are any rules for the night before or the brunch. This is especially important if any of your events are at a private club or restaurant where jackets are required, for example.” — Alex Alexander, senior planner, Taylor’d Events Group

Perry Vaile

3. Define Dress Code Terms

“Familiarize yourself with the definitions of common wedding guest dress codes so that you understand what you are asking your guests to wear. From ‘White Tie’ to ‘Casual’, the language can be tricky for your guests to decipher!” — Becca Knuth, managing partner and planner, Asheville Event Co.

Kendra Elise Photography

4. Enlist Messengers

“Start by getting your guests talking. Have your bridesmaids, close friends and family members spread the word about the dress code. If it gets around that most ladies will be wearing full-length gowns versus cocktail dresses, chances are the news of formal attire will spread like wildfire.” — Julie Bunkley, owner and creative director, Invision Events

Christina McNeill

5. Use Pinterest

“For couples looking for a unique dress code, I suggest making a Pinterest board showing inspiration on outfits or accessories. One of our brides wanted to encourage guests to wear fashionable hats to her afternoon wedding, so she put together a ‘lookbook’ of cute fascinators and sun hats with links to various hat shops guests could review. This not only makes shopping easier, but also clearly communicates the look you’re going for and reduces the chance for a dress code faux pas.” — Christina Millikin, owner and creative director, Glow Event Design

Liz Banfield

6. Make It Fun

“Do present your dress code in an exciting and inviting way. At times, guests can give a little push back when asked to dress in a specific way, however addressing the attire alongside fun descriptions and illustrations can get others excited about participating. Instead of saying ‘Please come dressed in blue,’ you could say ‘Please dress in shades of blue to accompany the beautiful lakeshore as we celebrate on the beach of Lake Michigan!’

Have fun with it, and make your guests know how much their attire will impact the look and feel of the day.” — Alicia Caldecott, owner, A Day in May Events

A Bryan Photo

7. List Your Planner

“List your wedding planner as a key contact on your website and in your wedding weekend booklet. Guests are very apt to buzz a professional source for key attire questions.” — Calder Clark, owner and creative director, Calder Clark

Clarence Chan Photography

8. Discuss the Environment

“Let your guests know what to expect in terms of the venue — will it be on the sand, or in a garden? The ladies in attendance will certainly appreciate guidance on how to dress, especially with footwear. Guest comfort is paramount!” — Caroline Dutton, owner,Caroline Dutton Events

Jose Villa

9. Add a Separate Card to Your Invite

“If you truly want your guests to take note of special attire we recommend adding a separate card within the invitation suite that will highlight this.” — Lynn Easton, owner, Easton Events


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