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!

  1. Black Tie
    • For the Ladies – A formal, floor length gown is the way to go! Get ready to play dress up! 🙂
      • 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 wants their guests to dress up, but understands if you are not able to do so. For some attendees, 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 dark suit for men is certainly appropriate!
      • NOTE: A dark suit does not mean a dark colored dress shirt under your suit, it only applies to the color of the suit pants and jacket. Choose a black or very dark navy colored suit with a traditional white dress shirt and a dressier tie or bow tie.
  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 Dark 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 tuxedo option. If the ceremony is at a place that lends 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 glamorous boots underneath 😉
      • 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 a 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 y’all!

Alexandra

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Say Yes to the Dress: The Entourage

I recently had the opportunity of going with my cousin to her bridal appointment. To say it was an exciting event is an understatement! On my way to meet her, I started to think of how the appointment would be and what type of interactions and feedback the bride would want from those of us attending. It was my first time attending a bridal appointment so here are the tips and etiquette dos I learned!

  1. Allow the Bride to have the first say on a gown:
    • When you are looking at gowns in the showroom, ask the bride her opinion of a gown before handing it to the consultant or putting it in the bride’s room.
    • When the bride comes out to show you a gown, let the consultant get her in front of the mirror and allow the bride to see herself before making any comments. This will allow her to express her honest thoughts without being swayed by your immediate feedback.
  2. Remember your place:
    • Whether it is spoken or not, we all know there is a “hierarchy” within the attendees.
      • Mom, sister(s), and grandmothers come first – This is an important bonding moment between a mom and a daughter and/or between sisters, allow them to have the most interaction.
      • Maid/Matron of Honor – You are who the bride will lean on most so start practicing your best dress “fluffing” skills and be ready to test out those “Maid/Matron of Honor duties” early!
      • Bridesmaids, extended family, and friends – Take somewhat of a backseat to allow the others listed above to have a moment with the bride and share their feedback before sharing your own.
  3. When it is your turn to speak up, keep the Bride as your focus!
    • Some brides want a lot of feedback, while others are more personal – allow this to dictate how and when you give your feedback.
    • Be thoughtful in the comments you give. While honesty is always the best policy, honest feedback given in a kind manner is the most appreciated.
    • Similarly, some brides want a lot of excitement around their appointment (think matching shirts and big signs) while others do not like to be the center of attention. Ensure whatever you do makes the bride feel comfortable!
      • For example, if you have an understated bride, it may be best to leave the pom-poms, voting paddles, and other accessories at home.
  4. Remember the other elements of the wedding
    • Several factors come into play when picking out the perfect gown. Keep in mind:
      • Location of the wedding: A beach bride will probably be looking for a dress style different than a wedding taking place in a conservative place of worship.
      • Date of the wedding: Time of year plays a big factor in dress design and material.
      • Budget: Always be respectful of the bride’s budget.

Simply remember the end goal is to have a happy bride choose the dress SHE loves for HER big day! If you keep this and the bride in mind, you will be on the right path to ensuring she has the best bridal entourage in the studio!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra