How to Avoid Dress Code Confusion for Your Wedding Guests

Updated 12/16/15

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*Wedding dress codes aren't what they used to be. "Cocktail Attire" and "Black Tie" have evolved into more creative options like "Boots and Ballgowns," "Creative Black Tie," "Beach Casual" and "Whimsical." But wait... what does that even mean? Making sure your guests show up dressed the way you'd like them to might mean providing a little more information than a brief note on the invitation. Our experts weigh in on how to help your guests avoid dress code confusion. *

When it comes to standard dress codes (cocktail, black-tie optional, formal attire requested, etc.) most guests will know what to pull out of their closet, or will find an explanation with a quick Google search. Says Callie Brackett, co-founder of We Tie the Knots, "If you wish for the attire to be formal, make it clear to your guests by telling them 'black tie' — short, sweet, and specific." Adjectives like "fabulous," "colorful," "creative" and "festive" added to a more standard dress code will encourage guests to bring their A-game without getting too confusing.

If you want your guests to get a little more creative (or are hoping they'll embrace your luxe ranch theme), feel free to use a more fun description and then provide specifics on your wedding website. A brief description of the attire you're looking for, like men in denim, sports coats and bolo ties or women in brightly-colored cocktail dresses with a note that reads "no black, please!", will help decode your dress code. Hoping everyone will wear ivory, cream, and neutral hues to your beachfront affair?

Assure your guests that the bride does, in fact, want everyone wearing white. This is also the place to include advice on footwear, especially if you'll be marrying in the sand or on a lawn. Be sure to arm your parents, maid of honor, and best man with all the details so they're prepared to field any questions, as well.

And a quick tip to guests: "When in doubt, it's better to be over-dressed," says Brackett. "You'll feel much more comfortable in a floor-length gown at a cocktail reception than in a sundress at a white tie bash!"

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