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Wedding Dress Codes 101 | Destination Wedding Planner

Decoding wedding dress codes can sometimes feel like trying to read a foreign language. In a world where couples are more empowered than ever to curate a wedding that feels distinctly "them," typical dress codes may not fit the bill. Gone are the days of simply choosing between black tie, cocktail/semi-formal, or casual - make room for festive, Charleston Charm, and the like! While we love to see couples stick to those tried and true favorites, sometimes something different can feel fresh. To make selecting a dress code for your big day easier (and to ensure the guests understand the assignment!) we're sharing our crash course in wedding dress codes.

Edmond Sumner
Danielle Harris Photography

Couple's Choice

First, as the couple, it's time to determine your wedding dress code. Brides magazine created a helpful graphic that is the perfect jumping-off point. While the graphic doesn't include every option (in a world of choices, that would be impossible), it breaks down the basics. Each of these options will likely be an easy Google search for your guests, but we recommend doing the same before committing to one of them as your wedding dress code. This ensures that your vision, and the guests' execution of that vision, will be in line with one another. If a quick search of "Semi-Formal Wedding Outfits" doesn't bring up results that click for you, try out the others and see if something else might make more sense.

When selecting your dress code it's important to keep a few key details in mind; wedding location, season, and overall style. These may help you select, or at the very least narrow down, the dress code that will be best for your wedding. Factor in weather, environmental factors, and the time of day as well when selecting a dress code. Juxtaposition can be fun, but often guests will use all of those various factors to frame their choice of attire. Some of the most stunning weddings you'll see on Pinterest and Instagram are so eye-catching because every detail, down to the attire of the guests, has been carefully selected and curated.

Chloe Luka

Dressing for Destinations

Destination weddings are unique for a variety of reasons, and dress code is one of them! Dress codes for destination weddings can range from your typical black tie to festive, tropical, and even as specific as "Charleston Charm." For couples, providing additional information on your wedding website can be a great accompaniment to the dress code noted on the invitation. Thoughtful details like notes on the dress code can ensure your guests can pack everything they might need before they jet off to your destination wedding.

A dress code that honors the spirit of the locale or a subtle theme can be a great way to create a truly unique destination wedding. A tip for guests dressing for these unique dress codes: to avoid looking like you're going to a costume party, the style experts at Vogue recommend keeping it simple. This may mean selecting one key piece, the dress, a tie, or a piece of jewelry to fit a theme, and then keeping the rest a bit more toned down. So whether the dress code is Beach Formal or Creative Black Tie, you can fit the bill but not stand out.

Beach Formal
Stoffer Photography

Start Spreading the Word

The first hint of the dress code may be a subtle visual cue found in the invitation suite you choose. Something as seemingly simple as the style of invitation can be the first glimpse guests get into your wedding day vibe. A very formal invitation pairs well with a black tie dress code, while a more eclectic and casual invitation can indicate a more casual dress code.

As we mentioned above, sharing additional dress code notes via your wedding website is always a good idea. If you're having a multi-day destination event, be sure to also include any dress code notes for various events, especially when guests are traveling. The more information you can share the better! Leave the overarching punchy description for the invitations and the details for the wedding website.

how do i tell my guests my wedding dress code
Sweet Caroline Photography

Curating the look and feel of an event can start at the initial invitation that goes out and trickles all the way down to a group of guests dressed to the nines in a specific style. Choosing the perfect dress code for your wedding day is one of the many little decisions that can pack a big punch. Making sure that dress code choice is easy for your guests to understand is key (especially if you want to avoid fielding endless inquiries), but with clear invitations and supplementary information on your website, a cohesively dressed group of guests is one less thing you have to worry about!

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