Wedding dress code: 5 clever ways to tell guests what to wear

By on Aug. 1st
While I'd like my wedding guests to dress up, I need help figuring out a good way to mention that heels, especially stilettos, aren't recommended for our outdoor wedding.

I'd like to be cute about it, but I'm wondering where I should include the information… should it go on our main wedding invitation, a separate card, or somewhere else entirely?

-Kenzie

So you want to tell your guests what to wear, but you don't want to be overbearing, and ideally you'd like to be a little bit clever about it. You're certainly not the first to find ways to artfully explain a dress code to your guests (we have a whole tag archive of posts about wedding dress codes!). Let's review five awesome, non-bossy ways you can give your guests some dress code guidance.

Include a brief PS on your wedding invitations

Ok, first things first: If it's clear from your date and venue name that the wedding will be outdoors, you may not need to say anything. For instance, most American guests at a summer wedding located in a garden will assume that they'll be outdoors and can (probably!) be trusted to dress themselves accordingly. Similarly, if your invitation makes it clear you're getting married on the deck of a sailboat, guests will likely understand that they might want to bring a light sweater.

If clothing comfort factors are not obvious from your venue or wedding date AND your dress code is relatively straight-forward (which yours is), you can include a simple PS on your wedding invitations. Something as basic as PS: The ceremony & reception will be on the lawn; choose your footwear accordingly! would do the trick. I know you said you want to be cute, but cute can be confusing. You want straightforward.

Including a PS on your invitations works best for dress code guidance that is simple and important… heels on a lawn are one example. Outdoor ceremonies during the winter or late summer might be another: "The ceremony will be outside, so make sure you dress for the weather." Your invitations are not the place to get into elaborate discussions about the difference between Steampunk and Renaissance attire.

The location of the PS totally depends on your invitation design. If it's a short line, you could include it at the end of your actual invitation. If you're doing a separate card anyway for directions, you could include your dress code note there.

Address the issue in your wedsite's FAQ

Lots of Offbeat Brides go this route (including me!), using all sorts of adorable wording. Keep in mind that not everyone will read your website, so this isn't a good solution for super urgent dress code stuff like "The ceremony will be outdoors on a ski slope, so don't wear a short dress or you will freeze to death."

FAQs can be a great place, however, to get into the details of creative attire — especially for theme weddings! FAQs can also be the place to get creative. Here are a couple real-life examples from the Offbeat Bride Tribe:

Q What will I wear!?
A The event is semi-formal, but anything you want to wear we are sure will be ok. The bride requests you refrain from wearing a wedding dress, but if that's really all you have to wear, she prefers that to you going naked (a la Betazoid wedding style).
"Our style is going to be Victorian & Tim Burton-esque. Classic Victorian/Steampunk gothic dress is more than welcome (and encouraged!) for the Ceremony. Or if you'd rather keep things simple, semi-formal attire is requested. You know us – we're not uptight. We only ask that you keep it classy for the Ceremony."

Lots more great guidance about what to include on your wedding website's FAQ.

Show them what you mean

If a picture is worth a thousand words, some visual guidance about attire is the best possible way to get the message across. Creating a Pinterest board may be the easiest way to give guests visual cues about wedding attire, but it's certainly not the only way!

At her father's suggestion, Tribesmaid Mari created this adorable visual guide to convey what might be awesome to wear to her "casual lowcountry wedding shindig."

She distributed the image to guests via email and Facebooked to the guests, and by using pop-culture references, she made the dress code super accessible.

This kind of visual guidance can be extra helpful if you're planning a themed wedding, where guests might be seriously confused. Here's how Offbeat Bride reader Jen ensured no one would show up to her Halloween wedding in a "sexy kitty" costume:

Offer incentives

While you can never demand that anyone wear (or not wear) anything to your wedding, some couples have offered amazing incentives to encourage them to dress to theme. My favorite example of this is when one couple encouraged their guests to "outshine the bride":

steph_runway2.jpg
Probably the most "offbeat" aspect of our wedding, aside from our gayness and my burgundy gown (are those things even offbeat anymore? Please!), was our dress code: we specifically instructed our guests to Outshine the Bride. It was right there on our website and in the invitation, and our guests did an amazing job!

The "Outshine the Bride" runway show was easily the high point of the reception! Our friends made great use of the support pole in the center of the room, let's just put it that way. We provided gag gifts (a clip-on veil and a bow tie) for the winners of the runway walk-off. One wore a short, tight, fire-engine red dress, and our gentleman winner wore a full dress kilt! It was great.

Read more about this great idea, and scheme ways that you could offer prizes or incentives to guests to dress up.

Finally: Encourage, don't enforce

Above all, remember this: while you can offer encouragement to your guests, it's just not going to feel very good to enforce. You've got enough to do at your wedding without stepping into the role of fashion police. Ultimately, your guests will dress themselves.

Did you offer guidance to guests about what to wear?