Bet they wish they'd worn sandals… Photo by Violet Marsh Photography

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?


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… in fact, we have a whole archive of posts about wedding dress codes!

Let's review five awesome, non-bossy ways you can give your guests some dress code guidance, especially when your dress code is something less traditional than the usual cocktail dress, tuxedo, black-tie optional stuff that's the norm for formal weddings. (We're all for formal dress codes if you're having a traditional wedding, but here at Offbeat Bride we're more about casual wedding and dressy casual vibes than we are about cocktail attire or a floor-length evening gown….)

Whether you're having casual dress code or a full-on costume wedding, the goal is the same: you want to support your guests in a making an outfit choice that feels comfortable AND fabulous at your wedding.

Come for Maleficent, stay for Indiana Jones at this gorgeous fall costume wedding

#1: 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. You also don't want to be bossy: sure, you could tell them to wear flip flops or wedges, but it's best to just let them know what the environment will be and let them make their own choices

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.

A Hallowedding costume party with a gorgeous purple and black gown
These guests were at a hallowedding costume party

2. Address the issue in your wedding website'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 bring gloves and don't wear a sundress 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 Offbeat Bride readers:

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.”

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

A Hallowedding costume party with a gorgeous purple and black gown

3. Show don't tell

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, Offbeat Bride reader 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:

4. Offer guests incentives to dress to code

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”:

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 white shirt with 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.

Costume wedding party GOALS
Photo by Allebach Photography

5. Offer encouragement, NOT enforcement

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 the fashion police.

Ultimately, your guests will dress themselves. And whether that's jeans and a dress shirt, a jumpsuit, or a white-tie, button up linen jacket, a tux, dark suit, white vest, midi dress, knee-length little black dress, pantsuits, or a floor-length gown… we're guessing they'll be fabulous.

Did you offer guidance to guests about what to wear?

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

  1. For our outdoor ceremony we just said ‘wedding and reception to be held in the grass, so dress for comfort and for class’

    • I like the rhyming. It’s clever and subtle, and it doesn’t sound forced.

    • Dont know about this comment. It implies your guests dont usually dress classy! I would just say ‘dress code: formal’ or ‘semi-formal’ and at the end of invitation something like ” our wedding will be outside so please make sure you are dressed comfortably.”

      • I wish people would stop freaking out about “implications” of what guests MIGHT think. I highly doubt ANYONE thought it meant that they don’t dress nice most of the time, they probably all just had a chuckle and moved on. Seriously the uptightness of some people on bridal web forums has made this process so exhausting.

  2. We just have a FAQ page with all that info on it. Hopefully people explore the site when they rsvp! (and hopefully they DO rsvp…)

    • Feeling the SAME way. We have a few specifics we want people to know! Hoping they read and read again as we will post and update.

  3. I decided to put the dress code on my website

    “What to Wear:”
    “This is a picnic style wedding in a beach/wooded area so dress for the weather and the terrain.

    No stiletto heels unless you want to sink in the grass and fall down! If you really wanna wear them then bring on the heels extra entertainment for us :-)”

  4. This is what we put:

    “Too often, shopping for wedding clothes is a stressful and expensive affair. We don’t want a single one of you to have to worry about that! So the dress code is as follows: Wear whatever you feel the most beautiful and comfortable in. Is that a tuxedo? A prom dress? Linen slacks? Excessive amounts of glitter? A plaid shirt and jeans? Drag? There is NO wrong way to dress. Our loved ones are a diverse, creative, gorgeous bunch of people, and we want you to be your diverse, creative, gorgeous selves! And yes – you can absolutely wear white. The bride won’t be!”

  5. A friend of mine at work (who is getting married the week before I am!) told me about these little miraculous inventions that allow women to walk in grass and on uneven surfaces easily with heels.


    My joy hit the damn floor! Now my choice of bridal shoes for my outdoor wedding is no longer limited, and I can recommend these to my guests if they feel the need to wear heels. 🙂 Best of all, they’re super uber affordable, so I can get some for my bridal party too.

    • Hey, that’s a great idea, but do they work? Let us know when you’ve tried them out!

  6. We put a very short line at the bottom of our invitations stating the dress code (for the older/computer-illiterate folks) and then posted a longer description in the FAQ on our wedsite:

    “We are calling our dress code ‘wedding flexible’. This means you should come in whatever makes you feel comfortable and fabulous. You may want to wear shoes that are easy to walk in, as the ranch has a mixture of paved floors, gravel and dirt paths…and we expect everyone to dance!”

  7. Our FAQ
    “What should I wear?: We are not terribly fancy people, and are therefore not having a “formal” affair. That being said, the Chart House is a nicer restaurant… so… don’t come naked.”

    “The ceremony is on the beach? But, I’ll get sand in my shoes!
    Don’t worry, we will have a shoe area. You can be barefoot!!! YAY.”

    Personally I don’t really care if people come in shorts and flip flops… it is the beach… my mom will be horrified I’m sure. LOL

  8. We got married in an art museum with concrete floors. Instead of advising guests against wearing high heels, we put out a box of flip flops in a variety of sizes and a rainbow of colors ($1 per pair at Old Navy) and labeled them “Sandals of Relief.” They were incredibly popular; by the end of the evening there was only one unclaimed pair.

    • This might be the most brilliant idea I’ve ever heard. Cheers to “sandals of relief”

    • at my bat mitzvah , my mom bought the kids and adults socks if their shoes got too painful. I’m thinking about doing the same thing with the sandals though since this is an outdoor wedding. It works great. and the guests are always thankful especially if they haven’t broken into their new heels.

  9. This is what I have on my wedsite FAQ:

    What should I wear? Are they doing one of those fancy theme weddings where I have to come in costume?

    The wedding does not have a particular theme, other than “An Eclectic Hodge Podge of Happiness,” and you are welcome to wear whatever you would like. It is being held in a backyard in August, so it is suggested you dress comfortably, and avoid spiky high heels. Heather is describing her attire as “punk rock fairy princess” and Lorne is describing his as “steampunk without the gears.” Check out Heather’s blog (http://rewondered.wordpress.com), as she will be posting pictures there as she completes items and attire for the wedding. If you really want to wear a costume, by all means go ahead!

    • Of course, our wedding is pretty laid back and we have a very wide variety of friends and family, so the whole thing will be pretty eclectic. 🙂

    • “An Eclectic Hodge Podge of Happiness.” That sounds so incredibly fantastic.

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