Top Tips for Black-Tie Optional Wedding Guest Attire in 2023

Black-tie optional weddings are becoming more common these days. A black-tie optional wedding allows you stylistic creativity while retaining formal clothing. 

A black-tie optional dress code is pretty straightforward for men. However, what should a woman wear at a black-tie optional wedding? Should they wear an evening gown, a midi-length dress or cocktail attire? Keep reading for a comprehensive guide on black-tie optional wedding attire.

How to Know an Event is Black-tie Optional

It should say on the wedding invitation if the event is black-tie optional. Sometimes couples use “black-tie encouraged” instead. 

A black-tie optional ensemble for a wedding dress code is not a passive-aggressive dress code, as some might think. Couples want their guests to be encouraged to get outfitted up without the anxieties of buying or renting a tux. Black-tie optional is a more accommodating option because it acknowledges that only some can afford black-tie apparel. 

What is Black-Tie Optional Attire? 

Black-tie optional dress codes are a statement from the couple for their desire for everyone to dress up. Men are not mandated to wear tuxes, but it will not be frowned upon if you do so. Women are likewise not expected to wear full-length dresses. It would be perfectly acceptable if someone wears a cocktail dress instead.

Black-tie optional is a deliberately vague parameter that permits much flexibility concerning your ensemble. With this dress code, the wedding party will likely be in floor-length gowns and tuxedos. These expectations are almost mandatory for immediate family members. 

Expect a mix of formality from the other guests.

Black-tie Optional Wedding Attire for Men

For men, you can wear a double-breasted dinner jacket, dress socks, a white shirt and black shoes. You could choose a formal suit with formal trousers at an outdoor summer wedding. While a white dress shirt is okay, leaving the white tuxedo jacket for an all-white wedding is best. 

It’s never wrong to dress in a black-tie at black-tie optional events. While the best solution is a black suit, you can still get away with charcoal gray and navy blue. Avoid brown, which many people may view as too rustic for the occasion. Stick to solid-colored suits so as not to draw too much attention from the bride and groom.  

Black-Tie Optional Wedding Attire for Women

When it comes to black-tie optional events, there are plenty of options are available. Formal evening gowns are the best option, but because black-tie optional events are slightly less formal, you do not need to wear a long skirt if you don’t want to. 

A mid-length dress is an appropriate outfit for the party. A cocktail dress is also reasonable, especially when you wear the same outfit for the ceremony and reception. Avoid more casual dresses, like sundresses, as well as pastel colors.

We recommend dressing according to the location. If the ceremony occurs at an elegant venue, match the chandeliers by wearing dangly earrings.

Overall tips to help you nail the black-tie optional dress code

Stick to fabrics that look chic and elegant. When choosing an outfit, try to go for fabrics like silk, velvet, and cashmere. These are elegant fabrics and they add a dash of formality to your look.

Keep patterns simple. Patterns are always a welcome addition but they should be kept to a bare minimum and simple. Bold florals may be pleasing to the eyes, but look a little out of place at such a wedding.

Beware of the colors you choose. For winter weddings, stick to deep colors like deep blue, deep red, emerald green, and black. Weddings in warmer months welcome bolder colors.

Avoid pastels. Pastels are a summer and springtime hit however they have no place in a black tie optional wedding. They may be fun to wear but they do not exude elegance.

What’s the difference between a semi-formal and a black-tie optional wedding?

Semi-formal dress codes are open and allow playful, bold, and even short dresses for women while men can leave their ties at home and be more laidback. These looks are popular for outdoor weddings that give a more relaxed atmosphere.

Black tie-optional weddings border formality and encourage attendees to conform without mandating the dress code to make room for guests that are unable to get their hands on tuxes and elegant gowns.

What is the difference between black tie optional and black tie weddings?

As the name suggests, the latter isn’t much of a suggestion but a requirement while the former is a simple nudge. When going to a wedding it’s respectful to conform to the dress code highlighted on the invitation.

Why have a dress code at your wedding?

It goes without saying that even unprompted, people will dive into their wardrobes to find the best looks to rock at a wedding. So why go the extra mile to include a dress code;

Dress codes help set the tone of the wedding

Enforcing a dress code lets you set the tone for your wedding. Elegantly-dressed guests help you create the atmosphere of formality while guests dressed more casually create the atmosphere of a more laidback and fun wedding.

It helps avoid inappropriate attire

There’s always that one guest that sticks out like a sore thumb regardless of where you look. Fortunately, setting a dress code can rule the chances of people showing up shabby or like they’re ready to hit the club.

Dress codes help your guests out

Finding an outfit to wear to a wedding can be a task, especially for people who get glam often. Setting a dress code can help narrow down a starting point on where to look and what not to waste time on.

Dress codes can help you match your wedding theme.

If you have a unique wedding theme, it doesn’t hurt to invite the guests to join in on the fun to make the theme stand out. The only way to achieve this is by setting a dress code with specific color palettes that the guests can choose from. This can create a more tied together look and make the guests feel involved


Black-tie optional attire is a relaxed version of formal attire. While you do not have to wear black, sporting white, ivory or cream from head to toe to a black-tie optional wedding is an unequivocal no. Under no circumstances should you wear a white tie. An accent color is okay. For example, a white handkerchief in a men’s jacket or a white woman’s accessory is okay. Avoid too light colors unless the wedding invitation requests guests to wear all white.

It is also necessary to recognize that this is still the couple’s big day. It is best to avoid anything too flashy or over-the-top. You want to avoid removing any attention away from the couple. Show off your style, but do so with respect to the newlyweds. Also, remember their families invested a significant amount of time, energy and money in planning this affair.

Styling at a black-tie optional event invites you to experiment with your hair, jewelry and makeup to pull the entire semi-formal look off. A black-tie optional is the antithesis of daily life. If a ponytail is your typical hairstyle in your everyday life, get a beautiful half up half down hairstyle. Do what you believe will make you feel and look different. Leave the Apple Watch at home. Wear jewelry that accents your outfit and go bold with your makeup.

We hope this comprehensive guide has answered your questions. You’re now ready to attend a black-tie optional wedding in style.

Check out our other popular wedding ideas posts for your big day:

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