Getting the wording on your wedding invitations just right can be tricky. And there is more to it than just figuring out how to write the names and the specific wording for the event. In many cases, a wedding will have a particular dress code, either officially or implied. These are some tips on how to include a dress code on your wedding invitation.
Who needs a wedding dress code? More people than may realize it. For instance, your wedding venue might require that gentlemen wear jackets to dinner. How embarrassing it would be for a male guest who showed up wearing a nice shirt and tie without a jacket, only to be turned away or forced to wear an ill-fitting loaner from the venue's coat closet! It would be much better to add a simple notation like "jackets required" or "formal attire" in the lower right hand of the invitation than to risk having one of your guests be humiliated.
Very casual weddings can actually need stated dress codes as well, to ensure the comfort of the guests. If you are having a beach wedding, your guests might appreciate being forewarned that the ceremony will be on the sand so they know to leave their high heels at home. Having a very relaxed reception around a bonfire? Print the words "casual attire" on your invitation so that people show up dressed comfortably. The last thing you want is for guests to be dressed in such fancy clothing that they cannot relax and enjoy the festivities which you have planned.
Then there is a black tie wedding. Traditionally reserved for weddings which start at 6pm or later, black tie is the most formal wedding other than white tie (which should only be held on winter evenings and are exceedingly rare). There is a lot of angst among brides about whether is it acceptable to put the notation "Black tie" on their wedding invitations. Many brides or their mothers fear that to request black tie will mean that people won't want to come or that their guests will be put out by the hassle and expense of renting or purchasing a tuxedo.
While it is nice for a bride to consider the comfort of her wedding guests, omitting the notation "Black tie" from the invitation is really not the best way to handle the situation. You know your family and friends; if it would not be completely outrageous for them to dress formally, go ahead and request black tie attire if that is what you really want. Sure, some of the men might gripe a little about having to wear a "monkey suit", but for the most part, people will appreciate the elegance of your formal wedding. In fact, your female wedding guests might really like the chance to get all done up in their prettiest dress and wear some sparkly crystal wedding jewelry.
The dress code "Black tie optional" has become widely accepted on wedding invitations, but personally I think it is a bad idea. Why? Because then nobody knows how to dress. Your female guests will be left to agonize over whether to wear a floor length dress with opulent crystal wedding jewelry or something shorter and less fancy. The men will be wondering if they will be the only guy to show up in a tuxedo...or the only guy to show up without a tux. Spare your guests the guesswork, and simply request black tie if that is your desire. Otherwise, put no notation regarding attire, and trust your guests to dress appropriately based on the time and location of your wedding.