Attire for wedding guests - necessary to specify it's formal?

Is it necessary to specify on the invitations that the attire for guests at a wedding is formal?

The wedding will be at night, and at a non-church location. I’d like to hope that since it’s a wedding, men will show up in suits or even tuxedos, and ladies will be in gowns or dresses. However, one of the people getting married keeps saying “black tie affair” at every chance they can.

Are people really that slovenly these days that they’ll show up in t-shirts, jeans and sandals? Or worse?

It’s just not that much trouble to specify formal wear, and it’ll save you a lot of consternation if you do.

It shouldn’t be necessary to specify that attire is formal. Given that it’s a wedding and an evening wedding at that, I think that most people will know to dress well.

I think it would be (a little) rude of you to not specify on the invitations.

I would specify. People have gotten very lax about dress codes these days. I personally would wear a suit (or at least a jacket and tie) to an evening wedding but a lot of people don’t anymore.


That way if someone shows up, no one can say ‘well I didn’t know!’ If you’re ‘hoping’ you better believe the bride/groom are really hoping everyone will show by stating the dress requirements. Not everyone is considerate enough to check the rules of guest etiquette and such. Black tie required and black tie optional are different too, the couple could have also opted for a semi-casual wedding too.

It really is amazing what people will show up to in a wedding regardless of the time of the day and their relation to the couple. I was rather surprised to see what some friends showed up to at our wedding (but that’s who they are, and it wasn’t that big of a shock).

I have never been to a wedding where people showed up in t-shirts or jeans. Usually the formality of the invitation and the location of the wedding will clue guests in as to how they should dress. Better safe than sorry though.

If there is nothing specified in the invitation, guests are most likely to assume it’s “semi-formal,” which means dresses or skirts (not evening gowns) for ladies, and ties/slacks/sportcoats for men.

So in your case I think it’s probably necessary and entirely appropriate to put “black tie optional” on the invitations.

Really? If you got an invitation to an evening wedding at a swanky place (I’m assuming it’s not at Bob’s Chicken Shack), you’d have to think about whether to wear a suit or a nice dress? Socially aware adults know that wedding=dress well.

If it’s important to the OP, he should probably specify that “black tie optional,” but it’s hardly rude of him not to.

I think there’s a difference between “black tie affair”, “normal wedding attire” and “come as you are.”

If I’m expected to have a gown (“black tie affair”) then I want it mentioned. If I’m going to look like an idiot if I get dressed up (“come as you are”) then I want it mentioned.

Otherwise, I’m wearing a dress and presumably my date is wearing a tie (“normal wedding attire”) and I don’t expect it to need to be specified on the invite.

Apparently you missed this 7 page monstrosity back in January.

To this day, I think of **Jodi **as a small Victorian sofa with shoes.

I’m an adult, but I’m certainly not socially aware or anything. The last wedding I went to, I just wore a jacket and tie and I hardly had the jacket on for a minute. (It’s not on in any of the pictures I’m in.) I don’t even have a suit, much less a tuxedo. If someone wanted me at a wedding that required a suit or better, I’d hope they let me know, in very specific terms. The time and location of the wedding would mean absolutely nothing to me, either. It’s at a swank place? I’ve probably never even heard of it and have no idea it’s swank. Honestly, if a relative was having that kind of wedding, I’d just stay home. From a personal point of view, I’d like you to be upfront about your requirements, so I’d know what to do.

This. There is no “dresses or gowns”. It’s a dressy affair or a very nice dress/gown affair, and if if someone really wants people in very nice dresses/gowns, they best make it clear. Otherwise, a lot of people will show up in “best church clothes”, which is fine for many weddings, even at night at decent places.

True story: my brother had a "destination wedding’, which made the formality level uncertain. My mother asked my future sister-in-law, who responded “well, I am wearing a very simple dress”. My mom assumed that meant like “sun dress”, but my sister-in-law meant “very simple wedding gown”. My mother was underdressed and very embarrassed.

I would specify. I want to know how to dress.

Hey, me too! Only with an orange Le Creuset pot on it.

My sister’s husband showed up for my son’s graduation wearing blue jean shorts and a ripped t-shirt.

Don’t assume. State it outright.

I had friends who I knew only owned jeans and t-shirts, and I was not about to ask them to go out and buy a special outfit just for my wedding. I invited them because they were my friends, and I specifically told them not to worry about wearing jeans. My brother got married on the beach in Costa Rica–and he and the bride were both in shorts. It may not be that people are slovenly or lazy or anything like that, but rather that many people like myself have been to an increasing number of ‘informal’ weddings, so much so that the notion wedding=suit and tie doesn’t immediately spring to mind. In fact, the majority of the weddings I have been to (I’m 35) were NOT suit-and-tie type weddings at all. I think if you want someone to dress a certain way, you should specify.

On reflection, I think that **ZipperJJ **and Manda JO are correct about the difference between normal wedding attire (which around here means nice clothes that you’d wear to church) and black-tie (tuxedos and gowns). If you really want the tuxedos and gowns, you should specify on the invitation. If you just want people to come dressed nicely, there’s no need IMO to specify a dress code. Boors who would wear jeans to your wedding are going to be boors regardless of what the invitation says.

Yes, they certainly are. If you wish for the guests to adhere to a certain dress code, you MUST specify it. Over and over again. And you’ll still get people who show up dressed casually or even sloppily.

Manner are a thing of the past.


If you want people to dress a certain way, specify it on the invitations.

This. If you want something specific, say so. Don’t expect people to be psychic.

I’ve been to, and in, weddings that ranged from penguin suits to beach casual. At all times of the day. Better safe than sorry.

And then the bridal couple will not be quite as married as they would have been had everyone been appropriately attired and will divorce in three years!

I agree with you that people are sloppier than ever these days. The presence of the sloppy people would make me think less of the sloppy people, not of the wedding.

Does Miss Manners have any rule about not specifying attire on invitations? (not that it matters to most - I’m just curious)