We are having a Saturday-afternoon reception that includes a cocktail hour and a full dinner. How do I let guests know that it's not just an afternoon informal brunch? I would like it to be formal attire but not black tie.
One of the best ways to let guests in on the fact that the wedding is formal is with the invitations themselves. Get ultra-formal, traditional ones -- choose white, ivory, or ecru paper (maybe with a gold or silver border), printed in black script -- and that should clue them in. You're right to not go black tie in the afternoon; technically, tuxedos should be worn only for evening weddings (these days that means a reception starting after 6 p.m.). Give guests the benefit of the doubt, too: If they receive a formal invite from you and read where your wedding is being held, you can trust them to dress appropriately. You should concern yourselves primarily with what the two of you, your wedding party, and your parents are wearing because you're the ones who will really dictate the formality of the party.
See More: Guests & Guest List , Going to a Wedding? , Wedding Guests