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Are Brides and Grooms Taking the 'Matchy-Matchy' Dress Code for Guests Too Far?

10/14/2013 04:22 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Okay, there's a new wedding trend that I'm not loving... and more and more of my clients are embracing it. Regardless of my opinion, it's my job to execute whatever the brides and grooms want, so that's what I do. But I'm going to throw it out here to the rest of you to debate as well because I'm really curious as to what the general, wedding-attending population thinks about this. What is up with this new demand by brides and grooms that their guests all dress in specific color? And what do YOU think of it?

I've been doing this job for years and, with the exception of a few all-white weddings, I have never, EVER seen anything like what my brides asking for now. Sure, you designate the "attire" for the day -- formal or semi-formal or island cocktail attire or beach chic -- but telling them exactly what color to wear seems to be just a bit much to me. You've already asked your guests to spend their time and energy attending your wedding (not to mention their hard earned money if they've traveled for your big day), and they're probably sending you a lovely gift that cost them a pretty penny. So I'm not sure that it's entirely fair to tell them they have to go shopping for the exact shade of "lilac" or "cornflower" or "buttercream" that you want ALL of your wedding guests to wear. Really? REALLY???

Last weekend, we had a fabulous gay wedding where the grooms decided to play with color a little bit -- but they kept it all to black and white so that most guests would have something in their closets that would fit the bill. It was not their intention to make everybody go out and shop just to play their game. They were serious about the plan -- people were encouraged to wear whatever they wanted to the ceremony (the wedding party was in black and white ensembles of their own creation) and then everybody was asked to change into all white for the reception. And it worked. I didn't hear any of the guests bitching and moaning about the request like I have at so many other weddings. Check out this picture of the new Mr. and Mr. Garrett and David Egland-Rock's wedding party.

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I will NEVER forget the mother of the bride who wanted me to send the photographer home to change into the same colors at the wedding party (shades of orange, in this case). That wedding was like attending a 7th grade Halloween dance where all the guests stood around the edges and whispered about how stupid the theme was -- except there was no actual "theme," just a strictly enforced color code. Staff does its best to play along when we're asked to (not every couple cares about that), but most of us are trying to blend into your event, not stick out in a bright orange dress. Especially vendors like photographers and videographers who are trying to do their jobs without attracting attention. Don't worry -- we won't help your guests bust on you, but when they say something to us, we simply respond with "this is how the bride and groom wanted it." Not going to waste my breath defending something I don't personally understand, but I'll execute it, enforce it with my crew, and make sure you have lovely pictures of your orange (or blue or yellow or "buttercream") wedding day.

For years, the rule was no white on anyone except the bride at a wedding -- at least in the American tradition. That's changed -- in fact, I've done a few weddings where there bride was totally colorful and her attendants were the ones in white. Bride Erica Barton wore a wildly colorful hand-made pink and blue creation for her wedding this May, and then we matched the decor to her dress.

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But at most weddings that tradition holds and nobody except the bride should be wearing white unless the bride herself has indicated otherwise to her guests. Trust me, when some other girl does show up in white, it is THE TALK of the wedding. We had one famous wedding guest we nicknamed Paris Hilton because she was wearing the sluttiest white torn up t-shirt dress you've ever seen and she weighed 12 pounds and had long blond stringy extensions. You guessed it -- she was somebody's "plus one" that the couple had hoped would not attend.

But seriously, I have had no less than six clients in six months who are adamant that their guests will be wearing a specific color for their wedding day. Where did this matchy-matchy thing come from? Look, I have no problem with uniforms. I spent 13 years in the private school system in Washington, D.C., and I have to admit that I'm more comfortable in uniforms that real clothing most of the time. We wear uniforms at Weddings in Vieques all the time, unless we're at actual weddings or wedding events that require dress up.

So I have no problem with dressing alike -- I actually kind of like it. But I do not understand asking your wedding guests to all wear the exact shade of yellow or blue that you have chosen. It's weird. It's like a control-freak thing or something. It gives me bad flashbacks to country club picnics and annual beach photos where the entire family is dressed in khaki and white with navy sweaters draped over their shoulders (don't pretend you don't get a few of those family pictures from friends with absurd annual update letters every Christmas).

Some brides and grooms are stricter about this than others -- I've had girls tell me that absolutely no flowered Hawaiian-style shirts were to be permitted at their wedding. Seriously? You want me to body check them at the door, or strip them down and send them home to change? On the flip side I've had plenty of "white weddings" where they didn't care what color pants the men were wearing as long as the shirt was white. At least that's reasonable... sort of. The good news is that I've only had a few clients who have insisted the wedding staff be dressed to match -- most of them understand that we're there to do a job and will do our best to blend in with the scenery as much as possible anyway. Our service staff at the receptions wears white uniform shirts over black pants and skirts, and nobody has ever asked us to change that. But I feel it coming. Last weekend, the gentlemen with the black and white wedding were actually really nice about how my staff didn't have to follow the rules. But we liked them so much that we gave it our best shot and raided our shop Boutique in Vieques to help dress the interns and me. We told the poor things they couldn't wear white to weddings and then, lo and behold, first clients of their internship wanted us to all wear white. They would have been SOL if we didn't have a shop attached to our wedding offices because Vieques is an island seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. We have some shopping for the tourists, but not a lot of options. Especially if you need a specific color and it's the middle of October (doesn't get much more off season than right now).

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So am I being boring and outdated by fighting the new monochrome guest dress code, or have these brides and grooms who are insisting on specific-colored clothing for all the guests taken things just a little bit too far? There's a hilarious YouTube here of groom Garrett Egland-Rock explaining his opinion on the matter last weekend (please be patient for a few seconds -- you can't hear me over the music, but we get close enough to the groom so you can REALLY hear what he thinks).

I agree with most of Garrett's assessment that if your guests are already spending a fortune to be there on your special day, it might be too much to ask them to go out and buy a "sky blue" outfit too. But you know your guests best, and you know if they can afford it and will play along. At the end of the day, you want your guests to have fun, and you want to thoroughly enjoy your wedding weekend. If your crew will go along with the theme and think it's a hoot, you should absolutely do it. Just warn your wedding planning staff wayyy in advance if you want us to match you.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy