Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.
There are so many different types of events that one can host that choosing a dress code can sometimes be daunting. Sometimes, specific events may also have very specific dress codes. I’m going to help you decide, so far as practical concerns don’t decide for you.
In many cases the only factor to determining dress code is formality. Sometimes there can be some disagreement on the formality of the occasion, but that’s not really something I can help you with. You want dress formality to match the formality of the event. If you expect your guests to agree on how formal the event is, then the dress code can go unspoken.
Not surprisingly, children’s parties have two dress codes; one for the kids and one for the adults. For the kids the dress code should be whatever suits the party. The parents on the other hand, should dress at or below the level of the kids, preferably informal or casual.
A cocktail party is at least informal. That means all the men should be wearing suits and all the women should be wearing cocktail dresses.
Most outdoor parties are pretty casual. The type of activities tends to force that. Some outdoor parties are more formal but those are usually for once in a lifetime events or a royal visit, which would probably still be once in a lifetime.
Dinner parties can be quite casual but should usually skew formal. A good rule of thumb is to dress more formal if you’re using nicer china.
Once in a Lifetime
Once in a lifetime occasions should definitely be formal. You only get to do them once so you need to make a big deal out of it.
Know Your Guests
More important than anything is to know your guests. They’ll likely be uncomfortable if you’re expecting them to dress outside of how they might otherwise. On the flip side, don’t adopt an excessively casual dress code either. Go with the most formal of what your guests will be comfortable with, unless it’s inappropriately casual for the nature of the event.