Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and you may want to mark this traditionally lavish, formal and expensive occasion by celebrating in high style. After all, you probably do not want your wedding photos to show guests in jeans, short-sleeved shirts or flip-flops. That in mind, you may request directly on the invitation that guests dress formally, even in black-tie attire.
Though it was once considered poor manners to include the dress code on an invitation, that is no longer the case. Guests should be given instructions on how to dress on the invitation--this ensures that nobody underdresses for the occasion, and it is not considered rude. Traditionally, the instruction should be printed in the lower right-hand corner of the invitation.
Proper etiquette includes establishing boundaries for people without seeming overbearing or forceful. Your focus on the invitation, then, should be on the simple details: who, what, where, when and how. It is perfectly sufficient to include a tiny bit of instruction, such as "Black Tie," to make your point. If guests need more explanation, they can consult you or a member of the bridal party.
Though the old rule of thumb suggested that black tie should be reserved for weddings starting at 6p.m. or later, this is no longer the case. It is now proper to request black tie even if the wedding ceremony begins earlier in the evening, so long as the reception starts at 6p.m. or later. If you are hosting a morning or afternoon reception, however, it may be improper etiquette to request black tie attire of your guests.
When making a request for black-tie attire, it is important to consider not only the time of the wedding, but the location. It may be inappropriate to request that your guests wear black tie if you are holding an informal ceremony or reception--it is considered formal evening wear, and, by requesting that your guests dress in it, you risk giving them the wrong expectations of your wedding.
Requesting Non-Black Tie
Of course, you may wish to specifically ask your guests not to dress in black tie. This can be for any number of personal reasons--perhaps you don't want people to feel obligated to dress up for an informal evening wedding or you want only the bridal party to wear tuxedos. Whatever the reason, it is acceptable etiquette to request non-black tie on an invitation. Simply replace it with "semi-formal" or "cocktail attire" on the invitation at the bottom right-hand corner.
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