For Some, Getting Married Needs to Be an Experience Unlike any Other

22 July 2023

More couples are asking guests to wear nontraditional clothing to their marriage ceremonies.

The result appears to be that many guests are not sure what to think about it and are confused by the unusual requests.

Maggie Long is 34 years old and lives in New York. Not too long ago, she attended the wedding of a close friend at a restaurant in Denver, Colorado. The couple described the suggested clothing for the event as, "dive bar semiformal." A dive bar is a low cost drinking place where people are not known for good behavior.

Wedding guests who adhered to the dress code of Space Disco Cowboy, pose at a wedding in Austin, Texas on March 30, 2019. More than ever, wedding guests are contending with nontraditional dress code requests. (Rikki Gotthelf via AP)
Wedding guests who adhered to the dress code of "Space Disco Cowboy," pose at a wedding in Austin, Texas on March 30, 2019. More than ever, wedding guests are contending with nontraditional dress code requests. (Rikki Gotthelf via AP)

"I love a theme," said Long. "It's fun that people aren't taking weddings so seriously, but I had no idea what that meant."

At the dive bar wedding, Long said many older guests got into the idea. One guest wore a rainbow tie-dye shirt, a colorful informal shirt made popular in the 1960s.

Other wedding guests have been invited to weddings that were described as, "tropical formal," "snappy casual" and "garden party whimsical."

Emily Coyne is the founder of Emily Coyne Events, a wedding design company based in San Francisco, California. She said many couples are trying to make their weddings different from everyone else's wedding.

"The key is making sure there's communication behind the dress code. Don't just confuse guests," she said.

When her company designs wedding websites for couples, it includes descriptions for the dress code. The dress code is a description of the kinds of clothes considered right for the event. "Tropical formal," for example, might include long dresses in bright colors and suits with unusual ties.

"Most guests have a lot of fun with it," Coyne said.

Rikki Gotthelf attended her friend's "space disco cowboy" wedding. The hosts sent their guests to an abandoned town near Austin, Texas.

For guidance, Gotthelf looked to Sophie Strauss, who calls herself a "stylist for regular people." Strauss suggests asking the couple directly if they had not made themselves clear.

She tells guests dealing with strange dress codes to remember: "It's not a costume. Unless, of course, it's literally a costume party."

Often, there is some form of personal meaning behind the unusual wedding themes. Thirty-two-year-old Madison Smith is getting married in May 2024. Her dress code calls for "black tie sunset glam."

"It's in honor of my late grandfather," she said. "His favorite thing was the sunsets where I'm getting married." The wedding will be taking place on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

She hopes for sunset-colored dresses that are orange, yellow, purple, blue or pink. She also wants suits with elements that are of similar, sunset colors.

Jove Meyer is the owner of an event planning company in Brooklyn. He has dealt with dress codes that included "colorful cocktail," and "red carpet ready."

"I always suggest couples clarify exactly what they mean," he said.

Brittny Drye is the lead editor of the wedding magazine Love Inc. She said guests should not be unwilling to ask the couple about an unusual dress code.

When couples are asking their guests to wear nontraditional clothes, "they're signing themselves up to be asked questions," Drye said.

I'm Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting from Associated Press.


Words in This Story

couple –n. two people in a relationship; two of anything

theme n. the main subject of something

snappy adj. fashionable, popular or stylish

whimsical — adj. unusual in a playful or funny way; not serious

dress code n. the kinds of clothing expected to be worn to an event, such as formal or casual

disco n. a dance place

abandoned –adj. left by the people who used to live there

stylist n. a person whose job it is to make other people look nice

costume n. clothing worn by people, such as actors, who are trying to look like people living in different places or times

clarify v. to explain; to make clear