Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you always put the dress code on invitations you send for a party?

Asked by JLeslie (60532points) January 9th, 2012

Do you assume a full meal will be served unless otherwise specified?

I just received an invitation from a friend for her wedding reception at the end of the month (they married new years eve at a destination with just a couple friends in attendance). The invitations says, “food, wine, and dance,” which to me, after living in the Memphis area for several years now, means possibly the food is hors d’oeurves not dinner. I wish I knew to be honest, which it is. My husband and I have been shocked twice at the food at weddings here. The reception is 6:30 on a Friday night, that to me is dinner time. People are working all day, they will be starving.

Also, I had been planning to wear a certain outfit, but now that I have received the invitation, and now know where the wedding will be held, my outfit might be a little dressy. It could go either way really. It is just a community Clubhouse, but can be decorated nicely of course, and the hosts can make it as dressy or casual as they want, but they did not specify. I asked my husband what he planned on wearing, and he said, ” a suit.” I repeated back, “a suit, not a sportscoat.” He replied, “of course a suit, you have to wear a suit to a wedding. See we are just more formally oriented on these things. Don’t get me wrong, one of my closest friends had a church wedding, and told everyone ahead of time to bring shorts amn jeans to change into for her reception at her parents farm and I did just that, wore shorts, it was a blast!

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45 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’m probably the wrong person to answer this, since I have expressed my dislike for weddings in general, but especially this aspect of such events. People showed up to my wedding in jeans, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. I did not specify on the invitation, but the wording was casual and the invitations themselves were simple and whimsical, and it seemed that people took the tone from them. Which is exactly what I had hoped.
Usually, I judge based on the style of the invitation. Is it very formal? The more elaborate and formal the invitation looks, the more likely I am to get dressed up and assume there will be a chocolate fountain at the dessert table.

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Here is the tricky part, the invitation is not very formal, but it is formal enough with a wedding motife and fancy font. It indicates to me anywear from cocktail to semi-formal. She told me a couple of weeks ago she finally printed up the invitations and wanted to bring me one, but her fiance insisted it be sent through the mail. When I heard that my mind went to more formal. But, the invitation does not include a RSVP card, rather an RSVP phone number, and I was surprised by the location of the event. I’m going to stick with the dress I planned on because it is solid black, no beads, but it is very long, which dresses it up quite a bit. My husband can obviously take of his jacket, so it isn’t a big deal. This is just one recent example of not being sure what to wear.

When you had your wedding, why not go ahead and write casual on the card so people know they can come casual, especially if casual attire makes you happy?

I actually did not have the attire on my wedding invitation, you may have seen it in my wedding photos on my facebook (one version is Spanish, but there is an English one) but the language on the card made it seem towards the formal side, but I realize now I probably should have specified. Not sure? I had only two people ask me what they should wear. Not that it was a big deal to me if they came under or overdressed, don’t get me wrong, it is more about the comfort of the people attending, then trying to control what people wear.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie I considered it, but I think mine was one of those examples where it was quite clear. It was a small event, the invitations were not at all formal, and the location was obviously casual. We got married at my parent’s house, in Ohio, in February, which meant that it would be indoors. Weddings at a home could easily be an outdoor, garden event, more formal than getting married in my mother’s sitting room… but, not in February in Ohio. :)
Everyone showed up dressed appropriately. But, I also think that the multiple factors made it more obvious than the example you gave. I’m never sure, either. I hate guessing.

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Yeah, I think a formal invitation that does not specify black tie means come semi-formal to formal. This particular invitation I speak of implies to me cocktail to semi-formal. My husband and I will probably be on the dressier side than some of the group, but not oddballs. Hopefully.

What do you think about the food part of the question? Is it normal to you to go to a wedding and just have appetizers? These are upper middle class people. He has three Porsches, a boat, a condo in FL, he can afford a couple grand to feed everyone. He will have food, but what I mean is the couple grand between just having appetizer type food to having more entree oriented food. I have absolutely no idea what it will be. In FL, MD, NY, MX I would bet money it would be dinner, especially since it is at dinner time on a Friday, but here, no clue.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie I have never been to a wedding where there wasn’t a meal, so I have never even considered anything else as a possibility.
I always prefer to be a bit dressier, because it is easier to undo. For example, if your hair is in an updo, simply letting it down in the washroom is enough to look less “formal,” but trying to pull off an updo if you feel like you are under-dressed… that’s a different story. :)

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Ok, so we are on the same page with the food. Isn’t it odd they actually mention the food on the invitation? That to me also makes it less formal, but I know why she did it, she wanted to let everyone know there will be dancing, because this particular group of people usually do not have dancing parties, but those other parties are not weddings.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie are you close enough that you could just ask her? I mean, if she wanted to give you the invite, I’m assuming you are pretty good friends.

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Oh sure, I can just ask her. I am just using it as an example. If she was not my friend I would just have to guess. I have been to a wedding in Memphis at a very formal venue that was only appetizers, and a woman who worked with my husband who attended said that is very common, and I have been to other parties where I would assume food would be brought in, but instead a few friends or relatives of the host just brought some dips and chips and appetizers. Yet, I have also been to dinner parties that had tons of food. I don’t get the pattern here, or lack thereof.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie yikes, neither do I. This is why I dislike this sort of thing. It seems like life, in general, would be so much easier if people skipped the formalities and just said what to expect.

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf I think in their smaller social circle they do know what to expect, when it is a wedding or larger party people are invited who have a variety of expectations, because they are not all from the inner circle. So, I guess many times for the host they are just assuming everyone does understand, because they have not thought through that people from other parts of the country, or other socioeconomic situations, even different religions and nationalities have different expectations.

SavoirFaire's avatar

To me, “food, wine, and dancing” sounds like “hors d’oeuvre to take the edge off your appetite, alcohol to take the edge off your dignity, and dancing to the edge off your work week.” That is, the wording suggests something more like a party than a standard reception (which perhaps makes sense given that the actual wedding will be long past).

This could be completely wrong, of course, but that’s the sort of impression I would get from the invitation. On the food part, for example, I would have written “dinner” if there was going to be an actual meal. I also don’t think I’d advertise the wine if it wasn’t more of a party. All of this suggests something less formal, but still possibly semi-formal (because of the occasion).

Assuming I couldn’t ask directly, then, how would I go about preparing for the wedding? First, I’d see if I could get into a causal conversation about the recent wedding, steer it towards the reception, and ask about the caterer (which inevitably leads to a discussion—or recitation—of the menu). I’d try to glean as much as I could about the expectations my friend had for the event, which might also tell me how to dress.

If I had to go on pure guesswork, however, I would aim towards the higher end (but not the top) of the dress range that I thought was likely. People who insist on formality typically write it down (as that’s the formal thing to do), so I wouldn’t go above suit coat/dress pants level without explicit instructions to do so. I would just hope for the best as far as the food goes and be prepared to go hungry. I’d make sure my wife ate in advance, though, since she gets hypoglycemic very easily. Better to have her refuse food at the reception than to have her faint on the dance floor.

@ANef_is_Enuf You’d have liked the invitations we sent out. Explicit on dress code (casual to semi-formal, formal wear forbidden), explicit that there would be a dinner with both meat and vegetarian options, explicit that the wedding would be outside and the reception inside. We were pretty clear about things!

marinelife's avatar

I would go with the possibly too dressy outfit. I would not assume casual.

Also, the way that is worded I would assume it is enough food to make dinner.

No, I don’‘t always specify dress or assume dinner.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@SavoirFaire now I feel like a stick in the mud. lol. It does sound good, to me, though. Why not keep it simple?

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire That is exactly how I interpret “food,” I also said to my husband “dinner and dancing” is a more standard way to put it. So, again I was back to probably not dinner. The wine I don’t think to the edge of dignity since it is wine, if it had said alcohol, I might think what you thought, but I find it very very odd to list the drinks at all for a wedding. The dancing is obvious.

I will basically do what you said come with a normal appetite and be hungry if I am dissappointed in the food. I certainly won’t skip lunch though.

JLeslie's avatar

And, by dissappointed, I don’t even mean not enough to get full, I mean crap food I don’t want to fill my body with. I don’t want to eat a whole meal of fatty appetizers, and typically that is what it will be. Dare to have a vegetable, and I don’t mean a plate of crudité. I’m such a snob. ~

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Don’t feel bad for wanting people to say what they mean and mean what they say!

@JLeslie I’m a non-drinker, so specific advertisements of alcohol always strike me funny. I would assume wine or champagne at a wedding, so telling me always comes off as “don’t worry, you’ll be able to get drunk!” I know that’s not what is actually meant, but I can’t help it leaping out at me that way.

And I totally agree with you on the appetizer snobbery. Be proud of your vegetable-demanding ways!

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire I don’t drink either. I kind of looked at it like it is odd to warn or advise or inform someone there will be alcohol available? Do you think it is trying to say wine, not hard liquor? Meaning not a full bar? Dinner and dancing makes some sense, because it might dictate what shoes I wear, and how much appetite I bring with me. I do kind of stereotype that heavy drinkers would care less about how much food is there and what kind. But, I am not saying that about this particular party.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@JLeslie Ah, yes! The “not a full bar” explanation makes sense. That’s probably the right way to interpret it. The things that slip my mind. And good point about dancing and the shoes. I only have one pair of fancy shoes, so that’s another thing I’m likely to forget about.

And all the ladies shake their heads saying “men.”

JLeslie's avatar

This particular wedding is 2 miles from my house, so even if I am starving, I can just drive home for 20 minutes. LOL.

cookieman's avatar

I’ve seen this before.

Guys have it simple. I own one suit. If I get there and it’s less formal than anticipated – I remove the tie and loosen the collar.

If the food is lacking, we leave early and go out to dinner.

bkcunningham's avatar

It is just the reception for the wedding that took place last week?

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes, just the reception, they did not get married locally, but wanted to have a local party for their friends and family.

bkcunningham's avatar

I always put the dress code on invitations for events I host and I try as best as I can to give an idea of the food that will be served. My events now are very casual and are more often than not emailed, telephone or personal invites; or all three.

I would think that a reception a week after the wedding would be casual though. The timing of the reception would indicate more than hors d’oeuvres. The wine on the invitation indicates it won’t be a full bar so that, to me at least, is another indicator of more casual than formal.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I never do. I think that’s obnoxious.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve made the mistake a few times before of not putting a dress code on, assuming people would just know by the event it was formal but….

The food thing is one that stumps me too and again, I’ve been guilty of not saying if it was buffet, nibbles or table service. oops!

Trying not to come across as pretentious can backfire. I now believe it’s worth the risk the feathers of a few to make it so the whole know exactly what, where, when and what kind. Somewhere along the line, I suspect the 60’s and 70’s it was decided basic ettiquette was even too much to impose on your fellow socially forward citizen.~

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir know that I did not even tell my bridal party what to wear, they picked their own dresses, but I think putting the attire on an invitation helps the people attending feel more comfortable. My husband and I typically do not rent a tuxedo for him when an event is black tie, he just wears a black suit that he already owns. It’s not like someone is going to be kicked out of the party, it just helps give a guideline.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie But what are you suggesting with these guidelines? Philosophically?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think it just says, “we’re having an event and here’s how we’d like you to celebrate with us.” If you don’t like the dress code, you can always decline and congratulate them some other time and some other way.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SavoirFaire It is baffling to me that people are okay with not having people come if those people don’t like to ‘abide by dresscodes’.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. We had a very loose dress code precisely because we’d rather have people come than not come. We still put something down, though, because people find it helpful.

Some people might care because they have feelings about what is appropriate to these situations: if they’re having a fancy church wedding, they might take it as a sign of disrespect for themselves (and possibly their God) if you don’t dress up. Then the ball is in my court as to whether I dress up to be with them or wait for another occasion. But to dress down and show up anyway would just be rude (and so I would be disrespecting them).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SavoirFaire All these arbitrary things give me the shivers is all I’m saying. It’s so social…I know, I know…I’m a sociologist…but people make up so much crap to box themselves in.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir If we had to make every single life decision consciously, we’d never manage to get out of bed without forgetting to breathe. I just don’t see anything wrong with someone saying “I’d really like to have a formal party where everyone gets dressed up.”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SavoirFaire I guess that’s fine and, obviously, people do this but I’m more into ‘this is a costume party, wear that’ kind of thing that I am into ‘look how ‘proper’ we are, we can’t have any ‘skanks’ hanging around our holier than thou church event’ kind of thing.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, do you wear just any old shoes when you tango? Also, congratulations on your degree and your job. Did you wear normal attire for your ceremony to receive your diploma or did you go for the ceremonial clothing typical for celebrating the achievement?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bkcunningham I didn’t say I don’t participate in societal norms, I say I dislike them…I have to live my life, can’t deal with people bothering me half the time about deviating from norms and so I go along…yes, I wear special tango shoes for tango…I also ‘dress like a woman’...I call it my ‘barbie moment’...it’s dress-up…I don’t put meaning into it…I did wear a graduation gown because without it I wouldn’t graduate…so it’s a battle…but I wouldn’t make my own wedding that kind of battle…I think requiring ‘appropriate job wear’ is ridiculous…it only reinforces the status quo…and sexism…and dislike of ‘deviance’ like tattoos.

bkcunningham's avatar

Most of my invitations say BYOB or swimsuits and towels. I get what you are saying.

cookieman's avatar

So wait…skanks and church don’t mix?!?!

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’ve never thrown any party that required a specific type of dress. It would never occur to me to include a dress code… unless it were a costume party.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie, is there a reason you can’t simply ask your friend about the dress and the food? If you are close enough to attend her wedding, I can’t imagine she wouldn’t welcome your question.

bkcunningham's avatar

@dappled_leaves, she did answer that very question way back up there. ^^

“Oh sure, I can just ask her. I am just using it as an example. If she was not my friend I would just have to guess. I have been to a wedding in Memphis at a very formal venue that was only appetizers, and a woman who worked with my husband who attended said that is very common, and I have been to other parties where I would assume food would be brought in, but instead a few friends or relatives of the host just brought some dips and chips and appetizers. Yet, I have also been to dinner parties that had tons of food. I don’t get the pattern here, or lack thereof.”

dappled_leaves's avatar

@bkcunningham Jeepers, I must have glossed right over that! Thank you.

bkcunningham's avatar

You are welcome friend.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir @SavoirFaire I would never tell someone not to come if they did not have the suggested attire. To me it is only a guideline, again to help the guests. Sure it is also a desire of the host for what type of feel she wants the party to have, but it is almost never a strict requirement, except for maybe white tie, but that is so out of most people’s realm. If sweats are 1 and white tie is 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say if the host specifies whatever 7 would be, people would feel reasonably comfortable anywhere from a 5–9 most likely. Someone who shows up in jeans and everyone is in suits and dresses will likely feel uncomfortable or self conscious. I did not tell the people in my family who stood up with me what to wear to my wedding, but they all were about the same in terms of the 1–10 scale, just not matchy matchy. The men all wore tuxes though I think? I’m not sure about my BIL, I have to look at the photos.

jca's avatar

I like the idea of knowing as a guideline, because for me, I don’t want to dress up unless I have to. If I knew what the hostess expected, I would not go to the event unsure of myself. I am one who always prefers black jeans when I can get away with it!

JLeslie's avatar

I was at a dinner part last weekend with people who will be at the reception I talked about above. I asked two of the women what they think the attire is for the reception, and how they interpret food, wine, and dancing (the newly married couple is on their honeymoon, so I can’t ask them). One woman is from TN and the other has lived here for many many years. They agreed that food would probably be heavy appetizers, and that wine to them means a full bar. One of the women, Diane, is close with the woman who is organizing the reception, Ann, who is taking RSVP calls for the bride and groom. Diane said she would call Ann and ask her, and Ann said cocktail to semi formal. She expects men will wear suits or sportscoats. Also, there will be appetizers, and then a full dinner following.

Ok, then today Diane calls me to say her husband spoke to the groom, they are back home from their honeymoon, and he plans on a wearing a tropical shirt to the party, and some people might be there in jeans. Needless to say, Diane is calling Ann tomorrow to let her know what the groom said, and see WTF.

I don’t care either way what the dress expectations are, I just want to know what they are. No matter what Diane and I agreed that what we were originally going to wear is now too dressy.

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