Telling Guests What to Wear

(I heartily apologize to those whose comments were erroneously deleted — please feel free to repost!)

All right, I don’t think I have to tell you that it’s a no-no to call up your guests to (ahem) remind them that ties and heels are de rigueur. Nor do I have to remind you that while you can give your FMIL wardrobe suggestions, you cannot choose her wedding day outfit for her. Heck, these days, many brides-to-be are even giving their attendants plenty of leeway when it comes to what to wear!

That said, there’s nothing wrong with obliquely pointing wedding guests in the right direction, especially if many of them have never been to your reception venue and don’t have a contact in the wedding party to press for more info. So what’s the easiest way to tell guests what to wear? Simple — choose telling wedding invitations, like these from Two Paperdolls.


This invitation is a twist on the classic ecru one-sheeter with pearly ink, so I’d choose an updated take on the forever chic little (color) dress. The chosen fonts range from serious to fanciful, which suggests this wedding will be more formal than not. If I was unsure, I’d choose accessories I could shed easily, like kid gloves or a big sparkly necklace.


Can you say beachy? I would surmise that this wedding will be less formal in tone than the one above, though I might not dress very differently. A little black dress might become a little pale blue dress, and, depending on the venue and time of year, I might top it off with a be-ribboned straw hat.


The bride- and groom-to-be who chose this invitation are probably masters of doing their own thing, and I would expect to see an unusual wedding cake or dessert, a unique wedding color scheme, and fun wedding favors. I might dress a little funkier for this wedding — while still adhering to the formality level indicated by the time of day and venue. Perhaps a dress with a bold pattern or color.


Hmmmm. After looking at this wedding invitation, I might just ring up someone close to the couple to ask what I ought to wear. On one hand, the invitation is quite elegant, but on the other hand, there are numerous playful touches that speak to the possibility of a slightly less formal, somewhat more theme-y wedding. I’m thinking adventures or safaris…I could see myself choosing a more somber color scheme when picking out my outfit.


Now, this invitation clearly states “Black tie optional,” but if it did not I’d assume that I’d fit in just fine in a brighter, more elaborate ensemble. The intricacy of the invitation says more than the fonts — concert poster? — but it was obviously carefully designed and cost quite a bit. Formality aside, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable going just a touch overboard in my clothing choices at this wedding.

In the end, try not to worry too much about what your guests will wear to your wedding wedding. While the hints you dole out through your loved ones, through your wedding invitations, and directly will indeed make most of your attendees feel at ease in their chosen garb, there will always be a few anomalies. You may have relatives who show up to every event in faded jeans and bolo ties — if they don’t feel uncomfortable, there’s no reason for you to sweat it.

Likewise, if you yourself are a wedding guest who is worried that your perfect navy blue dress isn’t summery enough for an upcoming palm tree wedding, just breathe. There is a lot of leeway in ‘proper dress,’ and it’s better to be sliiiiiiightly too formal than way too casual. When it doubt, just call someone in the know — e.g., a bridesmaid, the MOB, or the bride herself if you know she’s not swamped — and ask if what you’re thinking of wearing is appropriate to the formality level of the event, the venue, and the season. VoilĂ ! Problem solved!

5 Responses to “Telling Guests What to Wear”

  1. Twistie says:

    Invitations are indeed often full of great clues about how to dress. The time of day and location of the ceremony should help you choose the right outfit, and the level of formality of the invitation should fill in the remaining blanks nicely.

    If you’re still in doubt, then asking advice is great. But unless you’re really sure she’s got the time, don’t ask the bride herself. Chances are she’s got more than enough on her plate without trying to act as a fashion consultant for the entire guest list.

  2. Twistie, where were you when I had two moms breathing down my neck begging me to tell them what to wear? They were sending me pictures of outfits…my mom even put on a fashion show!

  3. Twistie says:

    I was in California. But if you and The Beard get married again, feel free to tell all mothers involved to consult me.

    (cracks knuckles)

    Oh, yeah, I can consult.

  4. A.J. says:

    What is it with comments getting erased? Hmmm…
    Anyway, this article makes sense. I did try to choose an invitation that lent a feeling of dressy-casual, I guess I kinda knew subconcsiously that people would get clues from that. I was more consciously thinking of the entire “feel” of the wedding, which I guess carries with it expected attire.

  5. WordPress makes it really easy to zap legit comments right along with the spam, A.j.!