Within moments of opening your wedding invitation, guests will undoubtedly begin pondering what on earth they should wear for the occasion. They will inevitably wonder if white is off limits and whether suit jackets and ties are expected, which, depending the type of people your loved ones are, may result in a barrage of emails.
Get ahead of these queries by offering concrete outfit advice from the get-go. Include somewhere on your invite (fine print at the bottom works perfectly) a few words about the style of wedding you're having, which will give guests some direction on what they should wear. You may not think it’s your duty to tell them how to dress, but helping your guests with sartorial choices will actually ensure they're comfortable and able to focus completely on the main event (rather than feeling self-conscious about being over- or under-dressed).
We asked Melissa Evans-Lee, style expert and marketing director for Toronto’s Bayview Village for advice on decoding the what-to-wear question for your wedding guests. “Most people don’t know what to wear and it can be tricky to navigate a wedding dress code based on whether it’s a casual or formal affair,” Evans-Lee shares. Here is her fashion advice for you to pass along to your guests based on the type of celebration you are hosting:
Summer Backyard Casual Weddings “'Wedding' and 'casual' in the same sentence is almost contradictory,” Evans-Lee says. “If you don’t clearly define the style for your guests, you will see some very casual shorts!” Evans-Lee explains that this is arguably the toughest wedding dress code for guests to decipher. If it is indeed in a backyard, advise women against heels in favour of sandals or wedges (there will be grass to contend with). Easy, breezy summer dressing is the thing you need to stress to guests—for women, maxi dresses, jumpsuits or floral dresses are perfect. Sunglasses, sunscreen and a cardigan for after the sun goes down are also advised. For men, dress pants paired with a polo shirt or light linen dress shirt is apropos.
Destination Beach Weddings Two words: beach chic! This is the dress code you need to enlighten your guests about says Evans-Lee. Sleek sundresses, bling-encrusted sandals, dramatic sunhats, movie star-worthy sunglasses and stylish shawls for cooler nights are perfect. For men, think light summer suits in linen, sans tie.
Formal Evening Weddings “My definition of formal is that it’s an opportunity to dress up,” Evans-Lee explains. If you decide to have a formal affair, you need to let guests know that that means pulling out all the stops. For women, it’s a cocktail gown or evening dress; for men it’s a suit and tie—and if you want tuxedos, you must specify black tie.
Sunday Brunch Weddings “I love the idea of a wedding transpiring over Sunday brunch,” says Evans-Lee. You have to be clear with dress expectations though, since many guests will assume a level of informality as it’s not in the evening. For women, suggest beautiful day dresses in bright colours or print, or even classic little black dresses. For men, dress pants and a jacket are perfect.
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