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Photo by Lindsey Morgan Photography

We’ve all been there. You receive a wedding invitation and are completely confused by the dress code. While most wedding dress codes are formal attire, there are tons of other dress codes that can appear on a wedding invitation. Semi-formal and casual are also popular in the wedding space, but they tend to be a bit harder for guests to settle on a level of formality. If you’re stressing about what to wear to your next wedding, we are here to help! We broke down the most common wedding guest dress codes so that you arrive appropriately dressed for the celebration. When in doubt, check the FAQ page on the couples’ wedding website. Usually, if there is a specific request, it will be outlined there.


This style of dress is typically used for formal, evening events. Women should wear floor-length gowns. A cocktail dress may be acceptable if the wedding seems a bit less formal. Additionally, women can wear an elegant pantsuit if they’re more comfortable in that. For men, black tie calls for a tuxedo or fitted dinner jacket with a formal shirt and a black tie or bow tie.

Formal or Black-Tie Optional

This dress code is slightly less formal than that of a black-tie wedding. A tuxedo isn’t required for men but can still be worn if preferred. If you’re opting for a suit, a formal dark suit, white shirt, and tie are acceptable. For women, dresses are the same as above: a floor-length gown, fancy cocktail dress, or dressy pantsuit.


This style of attire is very popular in the wedding space. It is elegant, yet comfortable. Women can opt for a tea-length, knee-length or midi look for dresses, or a pantsuit may be worn. Men should wear a suit and tie.

Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual

For this style of dress, it is important to pay attention to when the ceremony will take place. If the ceremony will take place during the evening, darker more formal colors are recommended. Light colors and airy fabrics are intended for earlier ceremonies. Women should wear a dress, dressy skirt, and top, or pantsuit styled with heels, wedges, or formal flats. Men should wear a dress shirt and slacks with the option to wear a tie. Semiformal gives you flexibility when it comes to comfort, but be cautious of being too casual.


This style is exactly what it sounds like. Guests should wear attire in accordance with the theme dictated by the couple.


This style of attire usually indicates the wedding is being held outdoors on the beach so the event will be much more laid-back. Women can wear a sundress or floral patterned mini-dress with wedges or dressy sandals. Men should wear dress pants or khakis paired with a collared or button-up shirt. Men have the option to add a tie or sports jacket to their look.

Come As You Are

Some couples may ask their guests to show up how they see fit. This dress code can be a little confusing, so take into account the location of the wedding and the time of day when selecting a look to wear.

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After getting engaged, many couples are eager to begin their wedding planning process. We are always asked about the invitation process and when they should be sent out and returned. We put together a little timeline of when you should send invitations for and leading up to the wedding.

Photo by Lindsey Morgan Photography


These should be sent out once you’ve found a venue, picked a date, and finalized a guest list. It will let your guests know as early as possible where and when your wedding will be.

You want to ensure your guest list is finalized before sending these out because, ideally, these will be sent to everyone invited to the wedding. Many couples are opting for alternative methods for save-the-dates.

  • Post Cards versus traditional save-the-dates in an envelope will save you money on stamps.

  • Social media announcements if you have a quick turnaround time and don’t have enough time between sending our save-the-dates and invitations. You can post a photo of you and your significant other and say can’t wait until x date.

  • Word of mouth is helpful if you plan on having a small gathering and can tell everyone what the date is ahead of time.

Engagement Party/Bridal Shower/Etc

The host should send these invitations 4-6 weeks before the event. Traditionally, the engagement party is thrown by the bride’s family but can be thrown by friends, family friends, or even the groom’s family. Traditionally the maid of honor will throw the bridal shower, with the help of other bridesmaids or family. Any other event leading up to the wedding, with the exception of the rehearsal dinner, should follow the same rule.

Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations are typically sent out 3-4 months prior to the day. If this time period falls around the holidays you can send them a bit earlier to ensure they don’t get lost or are delivered late. In your invitation, you will typically include an insert that has information like hotel blocks, venue directions, and where you’re registered. You typically also include a pre-stamped response card.

Expert tip: make sure to mark the response cards with an invisible ink marker just in case your guest forgets to mark who it’s from. You can even opt to skip this step altogether and include a QR code directly to the RSVP section on your wedding website. This will save on postage, and you may gather responses quicker. You can also opt to exclude some info on the response card because you typically include a lot of that information on your wedding website. However, you may want to still send response cards to older guests.

RSVPs should typically be due back a month before your date. This will allow guests enough time to see if they will be able to make it, and will also give you enough time to follow up with anyone who doesn’t reply. You will typically get responses from some quickly after sending out your invitations. Then it will taper off with some coming in slowly in the weeks after sending out your invitation. You may get an influx closer to your date, but there are some guests who will not respond at all. You will have to reach out to them. You don’t want to assume they will not be in attendance and end up showing up unannounced. About 2 weeks before your wedding date your vendors will ask for your final guest count.

Rehearsal Dinner

Rehearsal dinner invitations are typically sent out by the groom’s family and should be sent to everyone who will be walking down the aisle as well as their dates. These are usually sent out 2 months before the wedding. Some families opt to invite out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner, or you can host a welcome party to greet your out-of-town guests.

The etiquette behind invitations can be tedious and confusing, but we hope this shed some light on when you should be sending out invitations and asking for responses.

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Weddings are expensive. We came up with a few tips to help you have the wedding of your dreams without going into debt.

Photo by Robyn Pizzo Photography

Weddings can be expensive, we definitely understand that. Your wedding will probably be the biggest party you’ve ever hosted. You want to throw the most memorable party, but also not go into debt during the process. We highly recommend keeping your budget in check using a shared spreadsheet to prepare for unexpected costs and ensure you can make meaningful cuts in the event you do.

Step 1: Determine Your Bottom Dollar

Take into account all the places you will get the money from:

1. You and/or your fiancé’s individual savings

Take a look at your separate savings and decide how much you can put toward the wedding. This does not mean using ALL your savings toward the wedding. You will still need an emergency fund for possible unexpected expenses that may arise (not wedding-related) in the future. You want to always be prepared.

2. Amounts you can save from your current income

After calculating all your expenses month-to-month, see if you have any wiggle room or any money you can contribute to your wedding savings throughout your engagement period. Many couples will opt to have a longer engagement period so they have more time to contribute to their wedding fund, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this and is even smart in most cases.

3. Contributions from parents or other loved ones

Never assume parents or loved ones are willing and able to help cover the cost of a wedding, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for help. Your parents may even have been saving up themselves to assist with wedding-related costs.

Step 2: Track Your Spending With a Spreadsheet

Creating a wedding expense spreadsheet is easier than ever, and there are even several free downloadable templates you can use from Pinterest or other parts of the internet.

First determine each spending category you will encounter: venue, planner, decor, floral, catering, cake, etc. Then create a budgeted, modified, and actual column. The budgeted column will be what you are expecting to spend based on your research. The modified column your adjustments after receiving vendor estimates, and the actual will be what you will actually spend (you probably won’t be able to determine this amount until closer to your day when you have a better idea of your guest count).

Your venue will typically be the biggest expense, and a major factor in determining your guest count. Don’t forget to add a line for other expenses that you may forget during the planning process. This gives you an extra cushion to cover those unexpected expenses.

Pro Tip: Make sure your estimates from vendors include tax where applicable. Also, add a column for the estimated gratuity. SOME catering vendors will include the gratuity, while others do not. It is always a good idea to double-check whether this is already included in your total or not.

Step 3: Keep Your Guest Count in Check

Your guest count will ALWAYS drive your total spent on your wedding. It is helpful to create a first draft of a wedding guest list to determine if that amount of people is affordable. You can always make cuts where needed, and you certainly don’t have to invite everyone you have ever known to your wedding. Instead, focus on those people who are involved in your lives right now, and who you see being a part of your lives in the future.

More guests equal more space, more decor, more food, more desserts, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, there will sometimes be an uncharge for an additional amount of people. We also don’t recommend coming up with an A list and a B list. It is much easier (and hurts fewer feelings) when there is one solid list.

Step 4: Hire an Experienced Event Planner

A wedding planner is not always the perfect fit for everyone but can be very useful when finding ways to save you money. During our first meeting, we will typically ask if there is a certain budget you are looking to stay within so we can help keep you on the right track. We deal with the same local vendors month after month, we know the prices of things and can negotiate prices for you. We can also offer you options, or great alternatives if your ideas end up going over budget.

We not only save you time, but we save you money as well. Let us do all the research for you and deliver a report back with pricing and availability. We can help you save money by using fewer vendors, but getting the same result you want. For example, most caters will charge a cake-cutting fee. We will cut your cake at no additional fee. By using Bluegrass Event Planning, specifically, we can cut your costs on floral. We offer fresh floral at great prices by sourcing our floral from local wholesale vendors. You’d be surprised at how cost-efficient fresh floral is versus silk floral. We can also help you keep your budget in check.

Find Ways to Save

Over budget? Here are some ways to decrease your spending, but still make a positive impact.

Think about your venue: finding raw spaces like barns and backyards may seem like a steal, but you end up spending a lot to make them beautiful. Consider everything included in the wedding package, and think about things you may need to bring in (like tables, chairs, tents, decor, linens, etc). These expenses can add up quickly.

Go outside of peak season: some venues have a flat cost throughout the year, while others have peak-season or day pricing. Consider having a wedding outside of peak wedding season, or even having a Friday or Sunday wedding. This can make your wedding more unique to you all, and you can even incorporate fun ideas (like having brunch at your wedding on a Sunday afternoon!).

Host the ceremony and reception in the same place: depending on where you hold your ceremony and reception this can save you on transportation costs. Also, some of your ceremony decor could double as reception decor since it would make a seamless transition to move your pieces from one area to the next. You could also save on venue costs if you have to pay for your ceremony venue and reception venue.

Use a DJ instead of a band: Many brides are very decisive about whether they want to use a DJ or a band. You know your crowd better than anyone, and you can decide if a band is important to you and your guests. Bands do tend to be significantly more expensive than a DJ, and if they are from a different city will charge travel fees, and sometimes even lodging fees depending on how far they have to travel. If you insist on having a band, consider using a local one.

Order and address all your own paper items: Using local vendors is definitely ideal, but can be costly. Technology (like Canva) allows you to design your own invitations to send for print. Also, websites like run awesome monthly sales (like 50% off invitations) where you can customize and use their templates. Addressing your own invitations also can save you a ton of money. A Calligrapher is expensive because addressing invitations is so time-consuming. Consider addressing your own invitations, or find a website (like Zazzle) that will allow you to print your guests’ addresses right on the envelope.

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