Part of the aesthetic of your wedding is what your guests will be wearing. Photographs will capture everyone in attendance, so it is essential that guests clearly understand what they are expected to wear to make sure your day is perfect.
Black-tie is a formal designation and is quite specific. Guests will be expected to wear either a tuxedo or a floor-length gown. Black-tie wedding attire is distinct from formal dress because it is a less flexible dress code designation.
Understanding what a black-tie wedding means, what to wear, and what to expect at the wedding are critical to being a respectful and prepared guest.
Many couples decide on an elegant dress code such as black-tie wedding attire. Your wedding day is one of the most memorable days of your life, so setting the scene to be refined and unique is a good choice for a couple as long as it fits your venue and goals.
What Does Black Tie Mean?
When couples list “black-tie” as the dress code for the wedding, guests can expect a formal wedding with a traditional ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and a reception.
Black tie means that men are expected to wear tuxedos and women to wear floor-length gowns. Some guests might interpret the rules loosely, but at a minimum, men should wear a proper dinner jacket, and women should steer away from short, overly bright dresses.
While it is easy to discuss a black-tie dress code by differentiating genders, it is certainly possible and perfectly acceptable for women to wear a structured tux or for male guests to add accessories for individuality. For guests who identify as non-binary or non-gender conforming, wear whatever you feel most comfortable in that adheres to the same level of formality!
What to Wear to a Black Tie Wedding
If you receive an invitation that names the dress code as black-tie wedding attire, it is proper and respectful to do your best to adhere to the request as closely as possible. Usually, a black-tie wedding is an evening affair, so costuming according to the dress code while planning for cooler evening air is essential.
The main things to consider when deciding what to wear to a black-tie wedding are:
- Does the outfit make you feel comfortable and confident?
- Does it align with the couple’s vision for the dress code?
- Is the cut, color, and style of the outfit additive rather than subtractive or distracting?
Black Tie Attire for Men
Primarily, black-tie attire for men is a tuxedo or a fitted dinner jacket. A dinner jacket is distinct from a tuxedo because the coat is a different cloth or texture from the formal pants with which it is paired. A dinner jacket can be colors other than black, including navy, coral, or patterned.
Additionally, a formal shirt is required under either a tux or dinner jacket. Formal shirts are crafted with various options for buttons and cuffs so that you can select the most comfortable formal shirt option.
Finally, the black-tie dress code is from head to toe, so wearing nice shoes is a must! Oxford shoes are the most common look, but a stylish and modern choice is a velvet slipper.
Black Tie Attire for Women
The black-tie dress code is pretty straightforward for men, but with the numerous options for a woman on the market, it is difficult to decide if the dress or outfit you love is within the bounds of a black-tie dress code.
Primarily for women, black-tie dressing means a floor-length gown. For a wedding, the color of the dress is essential to take into account as well. For instance, it is in poor taste for anyone to wear white to a wedding unless specifically asked by the bride.
Many women will need or to wear heels with their black-tie-appropriate floor-length gown. Remember that a black-tie wedding, dinner, and reception will usually last a few hours, so it might be a good idea to either wear comfortable shoes first or pack some flats for dancing in your bag!
And about the bag, it is acceptable and expected for women to carry some bag or purse with them to the wedding for immediate needs. Most venues will offer a coat check for sweaters, purses, jackets, or other items you might like to store during the ceremony.
If you do not often attend black-tie events, receiving a wedding invitation naming this particular dress code is intimidating. Still, as long as you understand a few simple rules, your path to success will be clear.
Can a woman wear a short dress to a black-tie event?
It is not always appropriate for a woman to wear a short dress to a black-tie wedding. If the bride and groom are open to flexible dress code options, the invitation will likely read “black-tie recommended” or “black-tie optional.”
While tea-length or cocktail dresses can be beautiful looks for a wedding guest, it is best to select a longer gown when the couple has clearly expressed a desire for a black-tie aesthetic.
Do you wear black to a black-tie event?
While you can wear black to a black-tie event, which is a traditional and classy option, it is not required. The best colors to wear to a black-tie event are jewel tones or solid colors. Jewel tone means that the color is rich and reminiscent of a gemstone.
A good rule is that if you try on a dress and think to yourself, “Is this too much?” – for a traditional black-tie wedding, it probably is.
Interestingly, some couples are asking their guests to wear “creative black tie.” This important distinction means that most of the traditional rules are thrown out of the window. In short, a creative black tie dress code is a red carpet or runway look. Guests can add patterns, sequins, and other personal touches to a traditional black-tie outfit.
Can you wear a suit to a black-tie wedding?
A woman can wear a tailored and formal suit to a wedding and remain within the black-tie dress code. Some people do not feel comfortable wearing floor-length gowns, so designers have crafted other options for a woman who wants to look modern and respect the couple’s wishes.
However, men should avoid wearing suits to a black-tie wedding since a tuxedo or dinner jacket is expected. The main difference between the two is that a tuxedo has satin details making it clearly celebratory.
Additionally, men typically wear a bowtie with a tuxedo, making the entire ensemble seem special and happily ceremonial. Whereas, with a suit, men will commonly wear a regular tie.
What is the difference between black-tie and formal?
If the dress code is listed as formal, then the couple allows you a bit of flexibility. Formal is interchangeable with black-tie optional. So, the expectation is that women will wear a floor-length gown, but a cocktail dress will be fine as well. For men, a nice, tailored suit might suffice for a formal dress code.
Formal is less specific than black-tie but not less important. If the couple has requested this dress code, you should undoubtedly adhere as closely as possible. A formal wedding will include nearly every black-tie wedding component, but with a bit more wiggle room for guests to wear an outfit that best fits their style.
Is it rude to have a black-tie wedding?
It is not rude to have a black-tie wedding, but be prepared to allow guests as needed. Remember that your wedding ceremony can and should be whatever you want it to be, even black-tie. A good practice for achieving a black-tie look while creating space for guests is to list “black-tie recommended” on your invitation.
If you are inviting lots of family and friends to your wedding, it might be nice to include in a Save the Date or in conversations that you plan to have a black-tie wedding so that your guests can have plenty of time to decide on, save for, and purchase a black-tie appropriate suit or dress.
Furthermore, it might be a nice wedding party gift to help the bridal party and groomsmen with a facet of their dress, like shoes for women or cufflinks for men – or even a stipend for their requested look.
A wedding day is one of the most memorable and special moments in the couple’s life. The photographs from the ceremony and reception will create memories that will last a lifetime. Couples requesting black-tie wedding attire have a vision for their special day and want all of their guests to feel and be included.
Black-tie is a specific dress code that translates to tuxedos and floor-length gowns. Requesting that guests appear in black-tie garb means that your wedding plans will match that aesthetic.
Traditionally, women should wear floor-length gowns that are solid colors but not white, and men should wear a tuxedo or a dinner jacket. Unless the invitation says black-tie optional or formal, then the rules are relatively rigid.
Guests should do their best to adhere to the bride and groom’s wishes regarding the event’s dress code. It is perfectly acceptable for couples to ask their guests to dress formally for their ceremony and reception.
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