Wedding Guest Etiquette: Variations of Black Tie

With wedding season upon us, so many of you are receiving invitations and preparing to attend beautiful ceremonies! As the excitement leading up to the big day rises, you suddenly realize you need to plan your outfit. Then, it hits you… “Black Tie,” “Black Tie Preferred/Requested,” or “Black Tie Optional” are possibilities for the attire. Cue perplexed face and the question “So, what am I supposed to wear?” Not to fear! Here are my tips to help you navigate the the various “Black Tie” requests πŸ™‚

  1. Black Tie
    • For the Ladies – A formal, floor length gown is the way to go! Get ready to play dress up! πŸ™‚
      • NOTE: A formal, floor length gown does not have to be extravagant or super “glitzy,” it can be simple, elegant, and understated.
        black tie - women
    • For the Gentlemen – A tuxedo is a must!
      Photo Credit: Friar Tux Blog

      Photo Credit: Friar Tux Blog

  2. Black Tie Requested/Preferred
    • This means the couple really wants their guests to dress up, but understands if you are not able to do so. For some, a tuxedo or a floor length gown is not affordable and the couple realizes this. As a result, they do not want to exclude those individuals from their celebration. If you can afford black tie attire then please wear it, but if you cannot, a formal cocktail dress for ladies and a full, dark suit for men is certainly appropriate!
  3. Black Tie Optional
    • For the Ladies, I see two main options: A Formal Cocktail Dress or a Floor Length Gown
    • For the Gentleman, there are also two options: A Full Suit (with tie or bow tie) or a Tuxedo

      My dad and brother are in dark suits while my mom and I both opted for cocktail length formal dresses.

      My dad and brother are in dark suits while my mom and I both opted for cocktail length formal dresses.

    • When deciding between these two options (whether a lady or a gentleman), consider the following:
      • Ceremony/Reception Venue: If the wedding is being held at a formal location (think historic building/library, a ballroom, castle/mansion), you can certainly lean towards to the floor length gown or the tuxedo. If the ceremony is at a place that could lend itself to a less formal feel, a formal cocktail dress or full suit is absolutely appropriate!
        • NOTE: Always be respectful of cultural or religious aspects. Religious venues tend to be on the conservative side. Avoid neon/fluorescent colors, side cut-outs, excessive displays of cleavage, extremely high leg slits, or backs that plunge so low you can almost see your bum. I am sure you can rock those styles and look dynamite, but this is not the place to do that. It is also usually required and most respectful to have your shoulders covered.
        • Another option is: Wear one outfit to the ceremony (If it’s in a church and calls for something more modest) and change for the reception (wear something a little more fun or flashy if that’s what you prefer).
      • Time of Day for the Ceremony: For evening, I always think long gowns or tuxedos are a classic/sharp look! If the ceremony is during the day, you may be more comfortable in a formal cocktail dress or full suit.
      • Cultural or Local Tradition Influence:
        • If you are going to a wedding with strong cultural ties, be sure to research what is appropriate. One of my favorite examples of this is at an Indian wedding, the bride wears red so stay away from that color. However, other bright colors are encouraged! Additionally, individuals of Indian heritage and those in the wedding wear saris.
        • Depending on where in the United States or where in the world, there may different, local understandings of what “Black Tie” means. For example, there is such a thing as “Texas Black Tie!” (if you cannot tell from the exclamation point, this a personal favorite!) In Texas tradition, gentlemen wear their best, formal cowboy boots with their tuxedo and ladies wear a floor length gown with the option for boots underneath πŸ˜‰
      • Leave the White Ensemble to the Bride!
      • Personal Preference: No matter what, you know what you will feel most comfortable wearing. If being around people who are dressed more formal than you makes you feel uneasy then opt for the floor length gown or tuxedo. If you are more comfortable in a formal cocktail dress or a full suit, then select that option.

No matter which variation of black tie your celebration calls for, always remember to think sophisticated and elegant. This is someone’s wedding and the spotlight should be on them! Additionally, family members of the bride and groom will be present and you do not want to be embarrassed by wearing something inappropriate. Now, go celebrate these very joyous occasions in fashion! To all those getting married, “Congratulations on your Happily Ever After!”

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

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