These days, more and more brides are skipping dress codes on their invitations. We understand if you don't want to add the already-vague "Festive Attire" to the invite. But, if you want to avoid guests bothering you with closet questions, you might want to consider paying more attention to what goes on that invitation. "Invitations are one of the first things guests formally receive about your wedding, so it's the perfect opportunity to set the stage for the look and feel of the celebration you're planning," says Caitlin Wechtaluk, owner and designer of Caitlin Creative Works invitations and event branding in Rockville, Md. "Use your invitations as an opportunity to communicate what to expect, from attire to the overall vibe you seek to create for your guests."
If you're worried about how to get the dress code across, without spelling it out, there are subtle hints you can include. "Guests can better understand how to dress based on wording, font choices and colors a bride selects," explains Heidi Kallett, CEO of The Dandelion Patch, a luxury stationary and invitation boutique in the DC-metropolitan area. "Any reputable stationer can help guide you through the countless details that will honor your vision and the formality or informality of this important day." Take note of their tips:
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If you are set on a black tie wedding, consider more customary phrasing on your invitation. "When hosting a formal affair, it's best to not stray from the traditional etiquette guidelines," explains Kallett. "The request line should say something along the lines of 'request the honor of your presence' or 'request the pleasure of your company.' If an invitation is worded 'happily invite you to the best day ever' it is usually an indication that the event is not formal."
Make Use of Fine Print
"The very traditional and fine print options, such as engraving, letterpress, or gold foil, are most often used for fancier celebrations," says Wechtaluk. More casual affairs might skip these flourishes in favor of a fun script or chalkboard style print.
Watch the Clock
"Simply put, a formal affair is after six o'clock and the words black tie or white tie are included on the reception card," says Kallett. If your wedding starts after six, expect guests to come a little more dressed up unless you say otherwise. If you're having an earlier wedding, guests may choose cocktail or garden attire as their go-to dress.
Add Special Details
Along with all the information on your invitation, little details— like water color flowers for a garden wedding, wood-textured backgrounds for a barn wedding, or a metallic border for a cocktail reception— can help your guests figure out the feel and style of your reception.
Pay Attention to Color
"While the most formal color for your invitation text is black, darker colors such as navy, plum, and charcoal can still breathe an air of formality," says Kallett. The lesson: If you're thinking about going more low-key, consider using light and poppy colors, or a dark background with white font instead of white or ivory paper.
Fuss Over Your Font
You might decide you love calligraphy, but don't want your guests to think the fancy script means you're throwing a formal wedding when you're actually going for sport coats and sundresses. There are ways to make what you love work for you: "Any invitation with more than two font choices is more informal, and any invitation with lowercase text is the most informal," explains Kallett.
Add Finishing Touches
It's not all just what's on the invitation itself that matters, sometimes it's all about the packaging. "Finishing touches such as a wax seal, personalized belly band, or calligraphy on inner or outer envelopes will often suggest a more formal affair," says Wechtaluk. In the same way, colorful envelopes, quirky envelope liners, and infographics on the details card may indicate a more casual night.