How to Crack the Dress Code on Event Invitations

 

Has a wedding or event invitation ever left you confused as to what to wear? Themed events and parties are on the rise; Great Gatsby, Disco Glam or Back to the 80’s just to name a few!

These decade-themed parties are pretty straight forward, encouraging a guest to go ‘all out’ in an outfit or costume. Weddings, cocktail parties, galas, fundraisers and New Year’s Eve can be a bit trickier to decipher the language on the invitation. Here’s how to crack the code so you’ll never feel over- or under-dressed again:

Wedding Attire Etiquette

First rule of thumb: as a guest at a wedding, remember that today is ALL about the bride! The beautiful bride is the star, so dress and act accordingly. Although wearing black is no longer considered a faux pas, white should absolutely be avoided. Every religion and culture has customs and traditions; when attending a wedding outside your own culture, reach out and ask for specific guidelines. Your host will appreciate it and you will feel so much more comfortable!

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“Dressing well is a form of good manners.”

Tom Ford

Black Tie

This indicates a very formal event and usually means it is an evening affair.

For him: A tuxedo, a black bow tie, a cummerbund, and patent leather shoes.

For her: A long evening gown or a chic cocktail dress.

Formal or Black Tie Optional

This event is slightly less formal but still suggests dressing accordingly.

For him: A dark suit or tuxedo; conservative, not flashy.

For her: A long dress, chic cocktail dress, or dressy separates.

Semi-formal / Smart Casual / Dressy Casual

This one is a lot trickier to decipher! Take cues from the time of year and time of day during which the wedding or event is being held.

For him: A suit – light or dark, depending upon the season; colourful, trendy shirts and ties. A vest can also be worn as an alternative to a suit jacket.

For her: A cocktail dress, maxi dress, skirt with a top, or dressy pants and a blouse.

Beach Formal

This suggests an elegant beach wedding, so dress to impress while still keeping sand and exposure to sun in mind.

For him: A summer suit with a linen shirt (no ties required), linen pants or khakis, and sandals.

For her: A maxi dress, a lightweight summery cocktail dress or a dressy sundress, and sandals.

Casual

Consider the purpose of the event when deciding what to wear! Jeans, t-shirts, and shorts are acceptable when a casual dress code has been indicated for a friend’s birthday BBQ or a Euchre tournament at the community centre. When it comes to attending a “casual” wedding, unless specified as acceptable on the invitation, steer clear of jeans and shorts!

For him: Dress pants, chino with button-down shirt or polo shirt.

For her: Dress, skirt and top, or a blouse with dress pants.

When in doubt, remember this advice from Karl Lagerfeld:

“One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a Little Black Dress.”

Do you have questions about what to wear to your next special event? Schedule a complimentary Style Success Session with me!


EVENT ETIQUETTE: Ponderings from an Event Planner

 

by Heather Reid

As the calendar turns over to November and we wind our way towards the new year, our attention turns to holiday gatherings and a full calendar of social activities.   Business parties, office soirees, gala evenings and intimate dinner parties all require us to put our best, professional selves forward.  As women leaders and entrepreneurs, we are always being observed by those around us – and we want to come “to the party” prepared and professional.  

Party or GatheringHaving planned countless business and social events during my 22 year career as an entrepreneurial event planner, I’ve seen first-hand the “good, bad, and ugly” in event etiquette and behavior.  When you’ve considered and incorporated my ponderings, I’m confident that you will move through the upcoming season with flair and finesse – all appropriate to your professionalism and persona!  

Be Prepared

  • RSVP in timely manner, and then honour your decision.  If you indicate you’re attending, show up!  If you decline, don’t!  Plans are made by the event hosts and costs are incurred – show your appreciation of the opportunity to participate by keeping your word.    
  • If you are unfamiliar with the guest list, arrange to talk to the event organizers as to who is expected to be there and who they could introduce you to.  Setting personal and professional intentions for each and every gathering is a solid practice to moving yourself and your business forward.  
  • Always carry your business cards, but do not pass it out unless you’re asked for it – and then, present it with the text facing the person you are presenting it to.  On the flip side, if you request a business card – accept it with both hands if possible, look at it, and acknowledge it.  Treat the business card with respect.  
  • A well-timed and well-performed handshake, combined with a genuine smile, is a winning way to be noticed and remembered.
  • Inquire, with the event planner and/or known guests, about the dress code if not indicated – dress one notch above the dress code to stand out.  If you over dress too much – you’ll look like you don’t belong; if you under dress, you’ll look like you will never belong.   
  • If provided a name badge, oblige.  However, be sure to wear the name badge on the upper chest region of the arm that you shake hands with……it aligns the other guest’s eyes with your hand and your name badge

Be Aware

  • Holiday functions are not a time to let loose – you are being observed and are “on stage” so to speak…being observed by coworkers, supervisors, clients, board members and potential colleagues.  
  • At functions that have simple or downsized bar set-ups, keep your libations simple. It is not the time to hold up the line with a complicated drink order or to show off your mixology skills!
  • Position yourself in high traffic areas where you will be able to more easily insert yourself into conversations – ie., hang out near the bar, near the food.  Avoid isolated locations or remaining stationary at a table.
  • If you are not the host – this is not your party.  Be respectful of the host, the purpose of the gathering, and be considerate of the other guests.  Unless you’re the hired entertainment, you’re not there to upstage your hosts!

Be Interested and Interesting

  • Never underestimate the power of being able to introduce yourself to others in a polished and professional manner.   This does not come naturally to most people – so you’ll need to prepare and practice your introduction, and then deliver it in a relaxed and authentic-to-you way.  Captivating introductions are rarely spontaneously spoken!  
  • Be prepared to acknowledge and talk to any level of business professional – front-line to CEOs.  
  • Be prepared to talk about business subjects, but be armed with timely and relevant every-day topics, too.  Avoiding politics, religion and gossip are strongly recommended.   
  • If you are at an event where there is a guest speaker – rather than trying to get to the speaker, approach someone that asked a question or is a support person to the speaker – you will make a meaningful connection with fewer guests “in line” to contend with.  
  • Being ready and willing to connect people to one another is one of the most appreciated skills at a social gathering.  Guests are there to make meaningful connections – and facilitating these will position you favourably!
  • Being present and in the moment – rather than responding to your phone or gazing off at other guests – will gain you more respect in the eyes of the person that you’re with, than you’ll get from those that are the distraction.   Be purposeful and be in the moment.

Be Appreciative

  • Always be mindful and pleasant to event staff – remember, you are being observed – and the way you interact with those “serving” you is very telling!
  • Events are organized opportunities to network – and the rules of dating do not apply to the connections you make.  Don’t wait for the other person to follow-up; follow-up promptly.  Be persistent in your efforts and always respectful of their wishes and time.
  • Acknowledge the efforts of your event host – either in advance or post-event.  A token of appreciation or the simple gesture of a hand-written note is always appropriate!  

Participating in business and social events is both a responsibility and a privilege.  To get the most of your time there, be sure you represent your best self by being:

prepared…..aware…..interested and interesting…and appreciative!

 

heather-reid Heather Reid is the Founder and Owner of Planner Protect – a first-of-its-kind boutique contract review agency that negotiates fair venue contracts for independent and in-house event planners, and event hosts. Heather has more than 20 years’ experience in the event planning industry and is also Owner & Principal Planner of Innovative Conferences & Communications. As an expert in contract negotiations and the meetings industry, Heather has authored articles in major industry publications, and has been invited to speak at IncentiveWorks 2015 and 2016, Canadian Sport Tourism Association, PCMA East Chapter Meetings (Ottawa & Toronto), PCMA CIC Conference and several CanSPEP national conferences.

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