Creative Ways to Ask Your Bridesmaids to Say "I do!"

You’re engaged! Congrats! Now it’s time to start planning for your big day. Venues, and dresses, and tastings, oh my. But first thing’s first, you need to figure out who your bridesmaids are going to be and let them know that you NEED them to help you all the way up through your walk down the aisle. There are a million different gifts to buy, and ways to ask your bride tribe to help you make it to your big day, but we’ve gathered a list of creative ways to do it and found personalized swag to treat them with. Check them out below!

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Sip, Sip, Hooray!

For your caffeine obsessed friend, invite them over for a cup of coffee or tea and pour their drink of choice into one of these adorable mugs from Etsy. Not only will they get to enjoy a hot beverage in your company, but they also get the pleasure of being your bridesmaid, and keeping this seemingly simple mug. This idea is clever because they won’t necessarily know you’re going to pop the question until they get to the bottom of their beverage. Surprise!

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Bridesmaid mug.jpg

Bride Bomb

For those in your crew who need a little more rest and relaxation, try one of these punny bath bombs. Not only do your besties get to be a part of your bridesmaids crew, but they also get to draw themselves a long, relaxing bath with an unexpected treat before the madness of the big day. VelvetMoonStudio has a ton of different styles and colors that you can choose from to personalize the bath bombs for each one of your crew members on their specific tastes and style.

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Sock it to Me

Snag these cute socks from The White Invite to cater to everyone in your wedding party. You can get a pair for your maid or matron of honor, a couple for your bridesmaids, and even treat yourself to a pair. Not only are they an accessory to warrant another wedding day Instagram post, but they’re also versatile enough that they can be worn even after the wedding festivities have ended.


Foxy Ladies

If you’re having trouble deciding on just one goodie to treat your crew to, try one of these completely personalized boxes using Boxfox’s capabilities to create a custom box for every member of your party based on their likes and interests. Everyone has their favorite candy or candle scent, and with Boxfox you can embrace those differences. Or if you’re short on time, you can send each of them this pre-designed bridesmaid gift box that Boxfox has already prepped for you. Check out their blog post specifically on bridesmaids gift boxes here or get to cultivating your own special boxes to send out to your crew on the Boxfox website.

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Now that we’ve given you some ideas on how to spoil your bridesmaids, we want to hear your ideas and ways that you’ve thanked your girls for helping you prepare for your big day!

A Month Until The Wedding! HELP!

So there you are, staring down the last month before your wedding and you're thinking, "How did we get here so quickly and how will I get it all done?!" From finalizing guest seating to final dress and tux fittings, it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done in those final thirty days, but the good news is we're here to help!

Read on for some helpful tips as you prepare to say “I do!”

Photo courtesy of    Tim Tab Studios

Photo courtesy of Tim Tab Studios

Sit down with your wedding planner or coordinator to begin working on your wedding day timeline – this is typically a 1-2 hour meeting where you walk through your day minute by minute while your planner takes lots of detailed notes in order to create the timeline. You may feel like you’ve already lived through your wedding day when the meeting is over!

Coordinate your final venue walk-through with your key vendors to finalize floor plans, menu and timeline.

Photo courtesy of    Gerber & Scarpelli Photography

Schedule your final dress and suit fittings – don’t forget your accessories, such as your veil and shoes!

Arrange your hair and makeup trial with your hair stylist and makeup artist - be sure to share some inspiration photos with them before the trial so they can plan for it ahead of time! We wrote a great post on the importance of the hair and makeup trial - click here to read it.

Plan for your wedding day beauty appointments - any skin or hair treatments (facial and waxing/hair cut and color) should be done at least 10 days prior to the wedding to avoid any breakouts or skin reactions.

Photo courtesy of    Emilia Jane Photography

Photo courtesy of Emilia Jane Photography

Photo courtesy of    Metts Photo

Photo courtesy of Metts Photo

Finalize music selections for the wedding day with your musicians, band or DJ – they’ll ask for songs to play during your cake cutting and wedding party introductions, in addition to your first dance. This is also a great opportunity to share those “must-plays” and “do-not-plays!”

Finalize day-of print items with your designer and printer - think ceremony programs, menu cards, escort cards and any fun signage. Signature drinks, anyone?!

Compile your photo list for your photographer - this includes family photo combinations, detail photos and wedding party photos. Your photographer will also advise you on the best locations for your photos both at your venue and off-premise.

Nail down ceremony details with your priest or officiant and write your vows!

Photo courtesy of    Belen Aquino Photo

Photo courtesy of Belen Aquino Photo

Check in with your wedding party about dresses, suits and accessories. This is a great time to provide them with an overview timeline so they know when to arrive and depart and what important things they will need to be present for that weekend.

You’ll also want to finalize your wedding party gifts, particularly if anything is personalized or a custom order.

Photo courtesy of    Ashley Bosnick

Photo courtesy of Ashley Bosnick

Apply for your marriage license – every state/county has different laws. In Illinois, a marriage license is good for 60 days and must be in the couples’ hands at least 48 hours in advance.

Get to work on those table assignments for your escort cards – yes, this may or not include tracking down those naughty family members who haven’t sent in their RSVP yet!

Pack your suitcases for your honeymoon!

Photo courtesy of    Perregeaux Photo

Photo courtesy of Perregeaux Photo

Maybe the most important task it to sit back and take it all in! Remember, you're in the home stretch and rounding the bend to one of the best days of your life, surrounded by your closest friends and family!

It’s a day you’ll never forget!

Photo courtesy of    Monroe Street Photography

Photo courtesy of Monroe Street Photography

Money Matters

A Wedding Costs What?

Recently The Knot published that an average wedding costs roughly $35,329 across the nation, while weddings happening in major cities (like Chicago) would run nearly double that ($60,035 to be exact).

No matter which way you roll the dice, a wedding is an investment.

So where can you save?

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If You Build It They Will Come

Let’s start with the venue: The more space you have to fill, the more likely you will be to invite that second cousin twice removed who you met that one time when you were seven at Aunt Kathy’s 90th birthday.

An average wedding is roughly 150 – 200 guests, so when doing the math ($60,035/200) your average per guest is going to be run around $300 - $400 per person. If you are looking to save on costs, limiting the guest count may be the right way to go.

If your budget is roughly $10,000 and you run the numbers ($10,000/$300) you have enough for an intimate gathering of approximately 30 of your closest friends and family in Chicago. Keep in mind that this does not include all of the costs associated with a typical wedding, like postage for your wedding invitations, and your gratuities for your vendors. So when budgeting it’s a good practice to separate out your food, beverage, and venue budget from the ancillary budget for photographer, music, dress, etc …

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Depending on how many out-of-town guests you are inviting and what weekend your chosen date falls on, something else to consider is that you will probably have anywhere from 20% - 30% attrition on your invite list.

Before You Sign the Dotted Line

Both on-premise and off-premise venues (see the difference between venues HERE) have their pitfalls. Generally speaking anything customized beyond a hotel’s set menu is going to cost. Similarly, an addition to the bar package, lighting embellishments, and even sometimes a DIY project that you need to pay union labor to have installed, will drive up overall costs.

The same could go for that perfect loft venue that was just within your budget, until you realize it doesn’t come with any chairs, tables, glasses, forks, knives, or coffee equipment (Don’t get us started on the cost off off-premise coffee). All of a sudden your caterer has to tack on another significant charge to their bill that sometimes can equal the same amount as the venue itself.

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There’s going to be pressure to sign and lock in a date. There’s going to be that emotional connection you have with a space that checks all your boxes and evokes that vision you had when you thought of your wedding when you were younger. As a voice of reason, we encourage one extra look through the contract, a few extra questions, or a conversation about where you may want to customize. This could mean the difference between “We do” or “We do need to find an additional job.”

So Where Can You Save Some Money?

With all of the options available, we recommend finding the space with the least amount of stress on your vision. If you are set on suspending elaborate hanging centerpieces over long feasting tables, a venue like Café Brauer, which is excellent for rigging, may be the right choice. Or if you want a contemporary and elegant environment with incredible views, maybe the Langham Ballroom is the right fit. Either way the more your vision aligns with your space, the more your decisions will match what the space is already equipped to do.

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The same could be said for food and beverage. If you know you want to recreate the appetizer you and your fiancé shared on your first date, you may be hard-pressed to find that on a hotel wedding menu, whereas an off-premise caterer will be able to recreate it in a snap of a finger. If you are interested in a completely customized bar, with 12 craft beers, a whiskey tasting, and wine pairing with each course, it may behoove you to look into a venue that would allow you to provide your own liquor, like the Newberry Library.

If your top priority is having a live band and creating a dance party that rivals River North’s best night clubs, choosing a venue that has ample power, includes a dance floor, and has a list of recommended bands that have worked in the space is a smart route to take.

When you align your vision with both your vendors and your venue, things will naturally fall into place. The vendors themselves will be able to naturally guide you through conversations and decisions that match your vision, and inevitably the costs associated with those decisions will fall closer to your ideal budget.

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What Not to Do

One of the most commonly missed opportunities we come across when working with our clients is prioritizing the budget. Establishing what is most important to your vision is the #1 way to establish whether the expense is worth the dollars associated with it. Our recommendation is to choose your top three “budget busters.” This may be the band, food and bar or perhaps it’s venue, dress and desserts. It’s different for every couple!

We won’t lie, it is very easy to spend a few thousand dollars on custom letter-pressed invitations, and if that is the most important thing to you, then it’s great to establish that when allocating funds. However, if you’ve gotten wrapped up in the fun of planning then the budget you allocated for your band may have just been spent on those beautiful invitations. 

When you are able to prioritize the important items, it will establish where you should start, what matters to you as a couple, and also give you the confidence to say, “the most cost-effective option is just fine” for those items that fall outside of the lines.

With the amount of details, guests, vendors, and logistics that go into a wedding, it is sometimes hard to have “the budget” conversation, but the more you are able to clearly allocate your funds and prioritize what is most important, the easier it will be to come to your day with peace of mind, allowing you to say “I do” without the weight of the wedding on your shoulders.

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First Comes Love, Then Comes Venue Hunting?!


So you said “Yes”

No matter if you are bride or a groom, everyone has envisioned their wedding day at some point. From gilded golden archways that spill into a candlelit aisle, to reclaimed wood beams that frame wildflowers and natural linens, that day started as a vision somewhere.  

But wait.

No one said there would be just as many decisions required to build and furnish a house, as there would be to say I do.

We understand.

So where do you start?

Well it all needs to happen somewhere, right? So, let’s start with the venue.


The Basics of Wedding Venues

In Chicago there are two major categories of wedding destinations; hotels and venues. From the Drake Hotel and Union League Club, to the Bridgeport Art Center and Chicago History Museum, there is no shortage of options to float over the floor during your first dance. However, there’s another, often overlooked, differentiator between the locales: on-premise vs. off-premise.

What is on-premise?

On-premise venues refer to venues in which the food is prepared on site. Think hotels, private clubs, restaurants, banquet facilities, and even some of the cultural institutions like the Shedd Aquarium. These venues generally are able to offer you more finite wedding “packages,” many of which include in-house equipment, like tables and chairs. On-premise venues will often provide the bar and may include staff as a part of your per person price. On-premise venues generally will come with an F&B (food & beverage) minimum or tag on a mandatory gratuity or service charge.

A Service Charge? Where does that go?

More often than not, a service charge will go towards staff gratuities and taxes. When working with a hotel it’s important to establish early on what the standard service charge of the property may be. There’s nothing worse than budgeting based on a published menu or package price, only to be surprised when the actual bill is going to be 20% - 25% higher.

If the property does have a service charge, another important thing to note is if that service charge covers gratuity. If so, confirm with your catering manager or salesperson if the expectation is that you would add any additional gratuities on top of the total charge. Think of this being similar to going to a restaurant with a large group and finding that a standard 18% gratuity will be added to parties of 6 or more. For exceptional service, you may tip beyond that.


What is off-premise?

As you might guess, off-premise is somewhat the opposite. Think a converted loft venue that can be transformed into a Soho House fantasy, or a park district venue that does everything from public programming to garden weddings. Off-premise venues, a lot of the time, will allow you to choose your caterer, may or may not have tables and chairs for you to use (or if they do, you may prefer not to use them, just saying), and may even allow you to provide your own liquor for the bar.

It takes a village

With off-premise venues, you can expect to be reaching out to a few more partners to execute your day. With more partners, comes more meetings, more logistics, and sometimes more room for details to slip through the cracks.

At an on-premise venue, by comparison, you will typically be working with one Catering Manager who handles your menu, room layout, staffing, equipment, and sometimes even lighting. In the world of off-premise, you can expect to work with someone who represents the space (a Venue Manager), your main catering contact (who will typically handle staffing) and may even have a third-party equipment provider that will be bringing in specialty furniture or rentals. There’s also potential for a lighting crew (which may be coordinated through your décor partner), or a vendor hired to provide some drape or fabric panels.

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All of these vendors will be in addition to your more commonly referenced wedding vendors which apply to both on-premise and off-premise venues: Wedding Planner, Florist/Decor Provider, DJ or Band, Photographer, Videographer, and Bakery.

What Wedding Venue Is Right for You?

So where do you start? While style is always a driving factor, something else to think about is the amount of decisions you will want to make. We’ve sat through a tasting with a caterer that has erupted into an argument over the flatware pattern for an off-premise wedding. While the argument was never about the pattern on the fork (we kid you not), it was only heightened due to the amount of decisions that had to be made.

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Off-premise venues are often times a blank slate, allowing you, as the incredible visionary you are, to mold and transform the canvas into your own personal work of art.

Now if that last sentence just made your heart flutter, and a wave of anxiety washed over you, maybe off-premise is not the way to go. We are not saying you can’t turn the ballroom at the Four Seasons into something that is truly unique and incredible (if you are interested look up Oprah’s going away party, pretty astonishing to see the before and afters), but even so, you are generally a little bit more limited in your selections.

We are lucky enough to live in an incredible city that allows us the luxury of having every type of venue available to us. There’s no one right way to choose the place you may be taking your fiancé’s hand in marriage and dancing the night away, but hopefully a little knowledge leads to power in weighing the options.

As always, we’re here for you, with services ranging from month-of coordination to full service planning, and everything in between!

Happy hunting!

Photos in this post are courtesy of Erika Mattingly Photo / Tim Tab Studios / Ben Elsass Photography / Emilia Jane Photography / Elizabeth Greve Photography

Wedding Traditions Explained

I was recently a guest at a wedding shower (crazy, I know!) and the hostesses led us all in a couple really fun wedding-related trivia games. All of the ladies were really getting into the trivia and it made for such a fun shower activity.

One of them I thought would be particularly fun to feature as a blog post because some of the questions really had me stumped! This quiz features trivia about wedding traditions we all know and love but may not be aware of their origin. Makes you really think before incorporating some of these into your own wedding!

See how many you can guess correctly and post in the comments!

Photo courtesy of    Steve Koo Photography

Photo courtesy of Steve Koo Photography

Match each of the following wedding customs to the reason for doing them!

Answers are listed below the next photo.

  1. The bride wears a veil.

  2. The bride stands to the left of the groom.

  3. Having a designated ring finger.

  4. The bride wears something old.

  5. Having a flower girl drop petals.

  6. The bride wears something blue.

  7. Having a ring bearer.

  8. The bride wears something new.

  9. The bride throws a bouquet.

  10. Cutting the wedding cake together.

  11. Having the bridal party dress alike.

A. To confuse the evil spirits.
B. Pass on good fortune.
C. Symbolizes their shared fortune.
D. Proves the bride’s worthiness.
E. Symbolizes optimism for the future.
F. Protect her from evil spirits.
G. Marriage is doomed if the ring is dropped by the groom.
H. Represents continuity.
I. Contains the vein of love.
J. Symbolizes fertility.
K. To defend her bride, his right arm must be free.

Photo courtesy of    Essence Weddings

Photo courtesy of Essence Weddings

Photos courtesy of    Metts Photo

Photos courtesy of Metts Photo

Clover Events-Chicago Wedding Coordinator-Chicago Day-of Coordinator-Wedding Planning-Wedding Trivia

Answers below!

  1. F

  2. K

  3. I

  4. H

  5. J

  6. D

  7. G

  8. E

  9. B

  10. C

  11. A

Quiz Credits

Chicago Engagement Session and How to Prepare

Engagement session - many couples hear that term and have a million questions.

What is it?
Do we need it?
Do we really have to be in front of a camera more than just the wedding day?

In a word, YES. Yes, you do need it and yes, you do need to be in front of your photographer's camera before your wedding day. Most couples haven't spent much time with a professional photographer, so it's a great opportunity to get comfortable before you put on your wedding dress and tux. It's also a great way for your photographer to get to know you! The more they understand what works and doesn't work, the better off you'll all be on the big day.

I also hear a lot of couples say they don't think they'll ever use the photos, but I beg to differ. My favorite engagement sessions are those done in the couple's home, their favorite coffee shop or restaurant or with their pets. Use this opportunity to get some photos in a place that's special to you that won't necessarily be a part of your wedding day. And anyway, trust me, you will love these photos 10-15 years down the road. I can just hear you saying, "Remember when..."

Photo courtesy of  Ashley Bosnick Photography

Photo courtesy of Ashley Bosnick Photography

I'll get off my soap box now and let the experts step in.

So excited to get some insight on how best to prepare for your engagement photo session from our friends over at Gerber & Scarpelli Photography. They've been at this for years and certainly know how to get couples in the right frame of mind to have some fun!

Photos courtesy of  Emilia Jane Photography

Photos courtesy of Emilia Jane Photography

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We get it!  Not everyone enjoys being in front of the camera.  For many couples, Engagement Sessions seem like an overwhelming and unnecessary part of wedding prep.  For us, an engagement session is a great opportunity to meet our clients, learn your dynamic as a couple, and see how natural you are at posing and being photographed.  We love the opportunity to spend some time with you and get all the photo-related butterflies and awkwardness out of the way long before your wedding day!

Here are a few ideas to help you prepare and get in the mood to look and feel your best during your engagement shoot:

Eat well and hydrate!  Drink plenty of water in the days before your shoot to make sure your skin looks its best.  Try to avoid salt, lots of sugar, and alcohol the day before your session.

Get a full night's sleep!  Easier said than done, we know.  The more sleep you get before your shoot, the more relaxed and rested you'll feel.

Choose your clothing carefully!  We advise clients to avoid clothing that has a certain time or style specific quality.  Just look at a photo of your parents in bell bottoms and polyester, and you'll know what we're trying to avoid.  Solid colors, classic styles, and the occasional pattern are safe ways to go.  Make sure to coordinate your outfits as a couple so you don't end up wearing conflicting colors or patterns.

Embrace movement!  Ladies, flowing dresses, scarves, or tops are a great way to guarantee some dynamic movement in your photos.  You'll look and feel like a movie star when the wind starts to blow.

Get a little crazy!  We've met enough couples over the years to know all couples are weird in their own way.  Show off your particular brand of weird by getting a little crazy with the one you love.  We love a couple with a sense of humor and we promise your photos will be unforgettable.

Get ready for some close ups!  Ladies, try to get your engagement ring professionally cleaned before the session and make sure those nails are camera ready!  You'll be glad you did when you're showing off your bling!

Don't be afraid of early evening or winter sessions!  We don't need warmth and sunshine to make beautiful pictures.  We love a dramatic shot framed by Chicago at night.  Fall leaves or winter snow can be fun and beautiful settings for your shoot.  Grab a stylish coat and let's take some photos!

Photo courtesy of  Gerber & Scarpelli Photography

We want you to look like you!  You don't need to wear tons of makeup to look great in your photos.  Choose colors and styles that feel comfortable and normal for you.  If you choose to wear a darker shade of lipstick, make sure it won't rub off when you kiss!

Bring along your fur babies!  We get it, pups are family.  Not only will they help make your photos feel more special, but they'll help you relax and have more fun in front of the camera!

Highlight special locations!  When we're scheduling your shoot, make sure you let us know if there are any significant places you want to visit to help make your images even more meaningful!

We love a costume change!  For more variety in your photographs, consider preparing two outfits each.  Try switching out a formal look for a casual one.  Need advice on what to wear?  Feel free to ask us!

Brush your teeth right before the session!  Everyone looks and feels better with some fresh pearly whites!

Relax and be in love!  We're all here to capture your love and your story.  Try to forget the camera is there and enjoy some time to snuggle up with your honey in a beautiful location!

Photo courtesy of  Sarah Postma Photography

Photo courtesy of Sarah Postma Photography

Dressing for the Occasion: Advice from a Chicago Wedding Planner

With wedding season descending upon us (and the weather getting a little warmer), it’s a great reminder to start thinking about dress code options for your own special day. This may be one aspect you didn’t think you had to plan, but no one wants Uncle Jim to show up to your glamorous Art Deco wedding in blue jeans and Converse. When it comes to wedding dress codes, we think it is to keep it cohesive! You want it to make sense in the context of the overall style of the party and that means taking all aspects of your day into account - from your wedding venue, the type of menu you serve your guests, and the look and feel of your event design and decor. 

Dress codes for you, your wedding party and your guests should feel like they fit with the rest of the party. For example, if have chosen to serve a 5-course meal at an elegant downtown hotel, you will likely want to see your guests in formal attire (think tuxes and floor-length gowns). On the flipside, if you’re planning an outdoor, beachside wedding, more casual attire may be appropriate and more comfortable (think linen suits and sundresses). We’ve broken down dress code options down from the most casual to the most formal!

Photo courtesy of  Emilia Jane Photography

Photo courtesy of Emilia Jane Photography

What it means: Anything goes!
Play it safe: Summer dresses for ladies, dress pants and polos for the gentlemen.
Where we see it: Parks, community halls, backyard gatherings, low key events.
Where we shouldn’t see it: Hotels, golf clubs, historic venues.

Cocktail (also known as semi-formal and dressy casual)
What it means: A safe zone right in the middle of casual and formal.
Play it safe: Ladies break out those mid-thigh to mid-calf length party dresses. Gentlemen go for the suit and tie (no tux!).
Where we see it: Restaurants, hotels, golf clubs, historic venues, anywhere!
Where we shouldn’t see it: Luxury hotels.

What it means: It’s warm and tropical and you don’t want your guests to melt!
Play it safe: Ladies go for the flats and sandals paired with a gauzy and breathable fabrics (bright colors a plus). Gentleman grab your boat shoes or loafers and pair that with a lightweight suit without a tie.
Where we see it: Tropical destinations.
Where we shouldn’t see it: everywhere but the beach

Formal (or Black Tie Optional)
What it means: It is an elegant affair, but you don’t expect everyone to have a tux and a ballgown. Elevated but contemporary.
Play it safe: Ladies mid-length cocktail dress or evening gown (avoid heavily sequined or elaborate). Gentleman can break out their tux but can absolutely wear a tailored dark suit and tie.
Where we see it: Hotels, historic venues, luxury venues.
Where we shouldn’t see it: backyards, beaches, parks.

Black Tie
What it means: A formal evening event.
Play it safe: Ladies should wear embellished mid-length cocktail dresses or full length evening gowns. Gentleman should wear a tuxedo with tails, white vest, and white bowtie.
Where we see it: Hotels, historic venues, luxury venues.
Where we shouldn’t see it: Backyards, beaches, parks.

White Tie
What it means:
The most formal of formal events. Expect to see someone famous. 
Play it safe: Ladies should wear full length evening gowns. Gentlemen, break out the tuxedo, black bow-tie, and vest!
Where we see it: Hotels, historic venues, luxury venues.
Where we shouldn’t see it: Backyards, beaches, parks.

Photo Courtesy of  Perregeaux Photo

Photo Courtesy of Perregeaux Photo

No matter the direction you go, it is super important to communicate the suggested dress code to your wedding guests.  Weddings are an opportunity for people to celebrate and not everyone dresses the same for a celebration. You’d be surprised about who shows up in jeans and a t-shirt, and who wears a dress fit for the club. Communicating this to your guests can be done very literally on your invitation or your wedding website, but it can also be communicated through the style of your invite.

If you want to help guests understand what that guest code means, feel free to send them to this post!