Ask Someone Else's Mom by Susan Writer

Bride Searches for Way to Make Clear It's Going to be a "Formal" Wedding Reception

DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: Both my husband and I come from the New York City area. We and our children moved to South Carolina a few years ago.

Late last year our oldest daughter’s boyfriend asked her to marry him, and she said yes. We’re planning a summer wedding, and our daughter has her heart set on it being a formal affair. We found a venue that will work with us on all the COVID restrictions our state requires. It’s just the kind of elegant setting the bride and groom have in mind, and in keeping with the venue’s atmosphere, they want the guests to dress in formal attire. Our daughter has been working on finding the right way to make this clear on the invitation without coming off as a bridezilla. We’ve lived in this area long enough to know its more casual mindset, which makes for wonderful daily living, but it’s still an adjustment for us Northerners to see that the same casual is the standard for even special occasions.

How can the invitation be worded to avoid offending anyone, but still make it clear we’re planning on this being a dressy event? --- LOOKING FOR FORMAL

DEAR LOOKING FOR FORMAL: Just as it was back in the good old days, it seems not uncommon to include the dress code on a wedding invitation, even in our less formal times. If your daughter prefers to avoid more stringent wording such as the traditional “Formal attire required,” then perhaps the invitation could read something like, “Guests are encouraged to dress in their best,” or the more definitive “Black Tie Preferred,” which would hopefully indicate that guests are expected to err on the side of overdressing.

If the couple has a page on The Knot or another wedding website, some gentle guidance could be included, which might prove especially useful for the younger guests, who are more likely to consult the page leading up to the main event and also perhaps be less knowledgeable about what “black tie” means. They might be relieved to know tuxes or gowns aren’t necessary, but a dark suit or fancy cocktail dress would fit the bill nicely, and be less costly options.

Come the wedding, you may still have some guests show up in more casual attire, but at the end of the day, what counts is the celebration of the start of a new life for a young couple.

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