(Closed) Spin-off: what usually dictates dress code?

posted 7 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 3
Member
66 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: November 2011

So far, no one has asked me what to wear to my wedding. But I think it’s a regional thing coupled with venue. Where I’m from, not many people really go all out for weddings in the first place. But a fancy hotel wedding vs a hall wedding will really dictate what they decide to wear.

Post # 4
Member
5762 posts
Bee Keeper

I think what dictates it is the style of the invitation as well as the venue. Although it may not be clear to everyone, since we had people ask if they could wear sundresses and flipflops to a ballroom wedding (because it was in June,I guess), and at a beach yacht club, my brother asked if he could wear shorts!

Post # 5
Member
4485 posts
Honey bee

By default, all weddings are semi-formal. Casual or formal is dictated by the overall vibe of the wedding that is planned. In rare cases, the venue may have a dress code that is required for anyone who enters.

Time of day/season, etc are irrelevant. It is a breach of etiquette to make any mention whatsoever in the invite telling how guests must dress, or dictating the dress code at all.

Trivia: while it is considered customary that evening weddings in this day and age are more formal and daytime weddings are more casual, it was only a few decades ago (and beyond that) where the opposite was true, contrary to popular belief.

Post # 6
Member
1699 posts
Bumble bee

Formality is a continuum, not a definate style, that differs from one social circle to another. Each of us can describe what we consider to be “appropriate everyday wear”, “sloppy not-to-be-seen-in-public wear”, and “Man, I-only-get-this-dressed-up-to-see-the-Queen wear”. In the world of traditional etiquette, these are well-defined:

– “formal” means black tail-coat with matching trousers with a white piquet shirt with stand-up collar worn with a white bow-tie and white vest (in the evening) or a cutaway morning-coat with striped trousers and white shirt worn with a Windsor or Ascot tie (before six o’clock);

– “semi-formal” means a dinner-jacket with matching trousers and white shirt with fold-down collar worn with a black bow-tie (in the evening) or stroller-jacket with matching trousers and white shirt with fold-down collar worn with four-in-hand tie (before six o’clock);

– “informal” means a two- or three-piece business suit with windsor or four-in-hand tie; and

– “casual” means sports-jacket or blazer with contrasting trousers.

For ladies the equivalents are

– full-length evening dress with jewels and gloves (in the evening) or silk tea-length solid-coloured dress with pearls, hat and gloves (before six);

– “semi-formal” being cocktail dress or evening dress with shoulders covered and fascinator and/or costume jewelry (in the evening) or tea-length or shorter silk or other tailored fabric dress with pearls, hat and gloves (before six);

– “informal” being business suit or tailored dress with pearls or beads; and

– “casual” being a sports dress or shirt-waist dress.

Wearing something inappropriate — like wearing a “tux” before six o’clock or wearing a full-length dress with train during the day — is none of the above, and just doesn’t happen. It certainly isn’t considered formal.

The problem with weddings is, that outside of the world of formal etiquette where most wedding guests really live, the terms are not that well defined. For my rodeo-cowboy nephews, “formal” means new jeans, a cowboy hat that isn’t used around the barns or corrals, the engraved silver belt-buckle, a shirt with pearl snaps and the “good” boots. For my urban teen-age grandnieces, a strapless silk mini-dress with fancy stockings and spikey high heels is equally appropriately formal for day or evening, church or club; whereas their everyday “informal” includes yoga-pants and frayed hoodies that I wouldn’t even wear  when NOT in public. Even here on the etiquette board, many people who say they are looking for “formal” would be absolutely delighted if all their gentlemen guests showed up in dark three-piece business suits (which would properly be “informal”). Most women I know have resorted to the general standard that anything with a skirt is formal, and anything worn with pearls is passe.

If it is any consolation, although the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) could have confidence back in 1947 that her guests would figure out how to dress themselves properly for a formal day-time church event, by the time Prince Charles married in 1981 even royal wedding invitations acknowledged that modern people need to be told how to dress. His invitations, like those of his son last April, included the annotation “Dress: Uniform, Morning Coat, or Lounge Suit” on the lower right corner. If the Queen does it, it is considered acceptable in all her realms (alas). But I heartily support any American bride who chooses to hold to the standard that guests should be trusted with their own apparel.

Post # 7
Member
4371 posts
Honey bee

@aspasia475: I’m a bit confused. I thought “semi-formal” meant black tie, and “formal” meant white tie. Is that incorrect?

Post # 8
Member
1941 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

@Ember78: “Time of day/season, etc are irrelevant. It is a breach of etiquette to make any mention whatsoever in the invite telling how guests must dress, or dictating the dress code at all.”

Just curious – our venue has a dress code rule. We had to be in their dress code to even SEE the place when we visited for the first time! So if we do NOT tell our guests that there is a required dress code by the venue itself, wouldn’t that be in poor ettiquette, because there is a very good chance they would not be allowed on the grounds to enjoy our wedding. (not being snarky, like I said, just curious!!)

Post # 9
Member
1699 posts
Bumble bee

@SoupyCat: That is correct — for the evening (and assuming that you aren’t a rodeo cowboy or one of my teenage nieces.) “Morning dress” is every bit as formal as “white tie”, for events that take place before six o’clock. White tie during the daytime is not formal; it is wrong.

“Black tie” technically can be exactly the same tail-coat and trousers as for “white tie”, but worn with a black bow-tie instead of a white one and hence with a fold-down shirt-collar to cover the black tie-band around the neck, and with a cummerbund instead of the white vest. Wearing a dinner-jacket (“tux” — an evening jacket without tails) is more common, though. The semi-formal equivalent for daytime is a stroller suit. A tux during the daytime is also wrong.

Theoretically, what determines which you wear for evening dress is what you are going to be doing. Balls and dancing, or opera are “white tie” events; a dinner without dancing is a black tie event. Ladies wear long dresses with trains and bare arms and shoulders for dancing, and jewels. Dinner dresses should cover the shoulders and forego the train. During the day it is usually morning dress for any sort of ceremonial function and stroller for mere entertainment.

Post # 10
Member
74 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

@WineAndCupcakes:  Our venue also has a dress code, we also had to be dressed accordingly to view the site and for our tasting.  Their dress code is no demin of ANY color is permitted on premises.  We did a pocketfold invitation so we had 4 additional cards to put information on. On the Reception card at the bottom we included a note in smaller font stating  * No demin of any color permitted on premises*

We felt it was ‘better’ on the Reception card than being on the Invitation itself.

We didn’t want anyone being turned away from the ceremony or reception (same location).  We did not think anyone would wear demin at the ceremony but were afraid people may want to change for the reception.  I also put this note on our wedding website.

I am not sure if it matters or not, but we are having a 4 pm wedding.

Post # 11
Member
1041 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2012

We are having a black tie dress code and it will be stated on the invitation, wedding website, and spread by word of mouth by our parents and siblings.

Post # 12
Member
4336 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

but, it doesn’t really matter if you write “informal attire” and you’re hoping for people to wear 3-piece suits, and they show up in shorts!

Who cares what the “proper” definition of a word indication level or formality is, if 95% of the US population would interpret it to mean something completely different?

I think Ember made a good point. The default for a wedding is “semi-formal” (by the *commonly accepted* definition, not that of Aspasia’s,) and I don’t believe that it is proper to dictate to guests at all what to wear, unless the venue itself has a dress code. (eg, some churches require ladies to have their shoulders covered. It would be nice to inform guests of that beforehand!)

Post # 13
Member
4371 posts
Honey bee

@aspasia47: Ok, I do know that tuxes or tails are never ok during the day, and are only evening wear. I was fortunately taught during my formative years the rules of formal dress for day and evening. It just gets really confusing when a bride puts “semi-formal attire” on an evening invitation. If I see that for an evening invitation, I will usually call and ask the bride which on she meant. Will the men be in black tie, or are they going to be in business suits  and the like? This is one of the biggest reasons I did not put any kind of dress code on my invitations (other than also not wanting to dictate my guests dress and putting some degree of faith in them).

It’s a problem when there is such a disconnect of etiquette knowledge between the “older” generation and the younger people, or just sets of people in general. Many of my friends have only finished their education recently and don’t know these protocols. This is not a knock on them, we were just taught different things. I would just hate to see a bride have some guests come in black tie and some in nice jackets and slacks because the term “semi-formal” was interpreted differently.

Post # 15
Member
4485 posts
Honey bee

Semiformal is Sunday Best. Take a look at the clothing that most people wear to church. It’s not super-casual but it’s not tuxedos and gowns either.

Post # 16
Member
1699 posts
Bumble bee

@SoupyCat: It *is* confusing when we don’t all mean the same thing even though we use the same words. I think that is why the royal wedding invitations have become so specific: not saying “formal” but actually spelling out “Military Uniform, Morning Coat, or Lounge Suit”. That kind of note makes me supremely uncomfortable, though.

MisssPumpkinbarry makes the good point that all the family members of the person writing the invitation will likely have a clue what she means. It is the other family, and the friends, who are at risk. And women have it easier as a tea-length plain coloured silk dress with classic pearls fits ambiguously into most situations. Mind you, a gentleman can always wear a plain dark business suit with white shirt and conservative tie, as an acceptable option in any circumstance. Like the lady with the pearls, he won’t turn any heads and he won’t look like he moves in the first circles, but he needn’t be embarrassed.

And, while you might think that *is* what people wear as their Sunday Best to church, a quick look at the people coming home around noon on Sunday will reveal that most of them went to the gym, not to church anyway, and those that did go to church seem to have been wearing golf and tennis clothes, with a fair sprinkling of bluejeans.

I like the option of peer pressure and word of mouth, but if the venue had a dress code and guests might be turned away, I would either emulate the Lord Chamberlain’s painstaking annotation, or include a separate dress code sheet with the envelope and pretend (hard) that someone else, other than the guest, might set it aside and use it to prompt any required reminders.

The topic ‘Spin-off: what usually dictates dress code?’ is closed to new replies.

Find Amazing Vendors