When Jennifer began to plan her wedding, she ran into one novel problem: how to dress her wedding guests.
Normally, this isn’t a problem. By tradition, a wedding is a formal event where guests are expected to show up either in tuxedos and gowns if part of the wedding party, or in suits and formal dresses if an invited guest.
By and large, everyone understands and accepts this. The details of proper attire for the guests is left entirely to the guests themselves. The bride has enough trouble worrying about her own and her bridesmaids’ gowns. Usually this works splendidly. Most people already know what they should wear to a wedding, or if not, they at least have enough sense to ask a mother or sister who will be delighted to explain exactly what they should and should not wear.
Of course, even this does not always work. Now and then you find a poor schmuck with a sister who has a vindictive streak and you get a wedding guest who arrives wearing a plaid jacket, red and green striped tie and a yellow beanie with a propeller on top. But this is rare. Mostly your guests are well behaved and arrive appropriately dressed, sober and with the suitable amount of discomfort required of all wedding guests everywhere.
Jennifer’s wedding was going to be a little different. She (and her fiance of course) had decided to have a casual dress wedding at a country club overlooking the beach. The bride’s dress was still planned as a formal gown, but the bridesmaids would wear sun dresses and the best man and groom would wear khaki slacks and summer jackets.
Jennifer wanted her guests to know that they were encouraged to wear casual clothes. At least, fairly casual clothes. She wanted the ladies to come in summer dresses or skirts with nice blouses and the men to come wearing sport shirts and slacks with a jacket. No suits or ties, but also no T shirts and cut off shorts if you please. And especially no swim suits and bikini tops, thank you very much. The total effect was going to be a casual, country club style atmosphere. Relaxed but not scruffy. No, definitely not scruffy.
Jennifer wanted to say this in a nice way, without having to include a lengthy and offensive dress code decree in her invitation package. There is nothing quite so objectionable as having someone tell you in specific and didactic detail how you are supposed to dress. Jennifer was very much aware of this potential etiquette land mine and wanted wholeheartedly to avoid it.
On the other hand, she couldn’t just leave it to chance and simply say “casual attire” because sure as tank tops, someone would construe casual to mean T shirts, shorts and sneakers.
Jennifer fretted about this for days, trying several versions of her dress code message, none of which satisfied all the conflicting requirements of brevity, inoffensiveness and clarity.
Finally Jennifer hit upon the solution: a short, humorous poem, printed on an index sized card along with the invitation.
This would immediately let people know exactly how to dress and would offend no one. Since the poem would also be humorous, it had the benefit of being entertaining and therefore easily remembered.
Jennifer overcame the last hurdle of being unable to write poetry by hiring a poet and working with him through four drafts until she had exactly what she wanted: eight lines of lighthearted verse which told the guests how they should dress and left them with a smile.
With a sigh of relief, Jennifer could now focus on the next problem which needed her attention: the weather….