Here’s a question a friend asked recently about the proper wording on wedding invitations:
Is “cocktail attire preferred” or “cocktail attire requested” the right wording for an informal invitation? All the sites I’ve looked at have much more formal invitations, so their wording is more formal overall, and they use words like “lounge suit” that I don’t even understand.
First of all: Lounge suits! Ha! OK, now my thoughts:
Go with just “cocktail attire” — no “preferred,” “requested” or even “required” for that matter. These words aren’t really needed, and invite rules favor eliminating unnecessary words on your invitation. It gives them a cleaner look.
Once upon a time, you weren’t supposed to put attire requests on invitations at all. Guests were supposed to glean from the time and locale what sort of attire would be appropriate. Or at least, that’s what I heard once from an extremely formal stationer who was very much opposed to attire directives. Crane’s Wedding Blue Book from 1993 confirms this, saying, attire recommendations “do not properly appear on wedding invitations or reception cards.”
But even Crane’s admits not everyone will get the hint. So if you felt it necessary, you could follow the very-specific-yet-standard protocol of including “Black tie” with a big “B” and a little “t” in the lower righthand corner of your invitation. They only mention doing this for “black tie” requests and nothing else. I do not know why.
People pay very little attention to any of these rules these days and for good reason. Weddings are more varied than ever, and it isn’t obvious what’s appropriate to wear to them. Giving your guests a short directive is much better than having them decode the equation:
Location + time = What the heck do I wear?
But for the record, evening weddings tend to skew dressier while afternoon weddings are less so.
It can be a load off the bride and groom’s backs too to feel guests are informed as opposed worrying if guests will understand the coded message and show up dressed appropriately. Just deliver the message. On your invitation. In actual words. However….
You have another handy option these days as well: your wedding website. You can skip attire recommendation on invitations altogether and address attire on your wedding website. That’s what my husband and I did to convey our “summer cocktail attire” suggestion. It gave us the opportunity to go into more detail and let guests know they’ll be outside in humid weather and spending a fair bit of time in the high-heel-unfriendly grass too. This helps them keep their comfort level in mind as they select their outfits as well.
It's good etiquette to share what you like!