What Does It Mean to Throw a Black-Tie Wedding? The Ultimate 2023 Guide to a Black-Tie Wedding

When you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, you usually focus on one line: the dress code. If it states “cocktail attire,” you might have a sigh of relief. 

“Black-tie Event,” on the other hand may have you groaning in agony. Rest assured, the black-tie wedding attire does not have to be a painful process

The most formal dress codes can transport us back to the era of Downton Abbey. Often, black-tie events get a bad reputation for reasons we can’t explain.

The term “black-tie wedding” commonly refers to the typical attire, but that’s not all it indicates about the big day. Generally speaking, it suggests the couple is hosting a more formal reception and ceremony.

In addition to anticipating a more eloquent ambiance, a black-tie dress code means you’ll have to get dressed up. We’re breaking down the black-tie barriers to calm your nerves, proving that a night of dressing up isn’t all stormy. It’s pretty glamorous!

A black-tie wedding is a formal affair that usually takes place in the evening. Guests are generally expected to wear their best evening wear. Black-tie weddings are classic affairs and are often quite elegant and stylish. If you’re planning a black-tie wedding or are simply attending one, read on for tips on what to wear.

What is a Black-tie Wedding?

Traditionally, a black-tie dress code denotes a formal evening occasion. Black-tie wedding attire means men are meant to wear tuxedos and women floor-length gowns. Modern times have a gradient of dress code expectations that aren’t what they used to be. 

Most people need to follow the rules as in the past. If you’re throwing a black-tie wedding attire, the men, if not in tuxedos, should wear dinner jackets and nice shoes and the women, if not in floor-length gowns, should wear a cocktail dress not too revealing in a piece of rich fabric and rich tone. Ultra-glamorous accessories are a welcome addition.

Why Are Black-tie Weddings Becoming Popular?

A black-tie wedding is the most eloquent style of all marriages. It implies that your guests should dress in the best clothing available. Many couples treasure the exhilaration and glamour of holding a black-tie wedding, while others favor a more casual path. Ultimately, the wedding dress code theme is up to you, but you should carefully examine the positives and negatives of proceeding with a black-tie event.

The Benefits

There are numerous reasons couples adore black-tie weddings. For one, it can make their event feel more formal and special. Everyone will look their best, so you get memorable photos and videos. 

Furthermore, there is just something about being very dressed up. It makes people put on their best behavior under their black-tie attire, which can help reduce the opportunity for embarrassing drunken toasts, stumbles and other lousy wedding behavior.

The Drawbacks

With all of that said, there are some drawbacks to a black-tie wedding. Black-tie attire could make some guests feel uncomfortable. Not everyone loves wearing formal clothing. Therefore, they might not have as much fun at your black-tie event.

You also risk ostracizing guests who don’t own or cannot afford to rent formal wedding attire. If your guests are splurging on their wardrobes, they could become frugal regarding your gifts. 

Finding the Happy Medium With a Black-tie Wedding

Since the black-tie dress has both positives and negatives, many couples try to find a “happy medium,” such as cocktail attire. This semi-formal option is more common at modern weddings and can be easier for everyone.

Ultimately, though, your big day is your big day. Thus, you get to decide how people dress and how formal the event is. Consider your guests, but make your ultimate decision based on what you truly want.

How to Plan a Black-Tie Wedding

You will want to let your guests know if the black-tie optional is acceptable in your black-tie dress code. If not, you will need to make sure they understand what to wear for their black-tie wedding outfit. Tell them if a black tie is a preference with their tuxedo suit. 

Choosing dressy formal wear can be uncomfortable for you and your guests, so you should consider a few things. 

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Be Clear about the Dress Code

Your black-tie event should be clear from the very start. The wedding invitation should include your preferred attire. Refrain from assuming everyone will follow directions. Especially if you suggest a black tie is optional. 

In addition to defining the dress code, the black-tie wedding invitation sets the tone for the special evening. Your friends and family will get their understanding of the idea for the evening from the invites. Be sure to choose the stylish paper design with plenty of glam.

Tell Your Wedding Party to Suit Up

Everyone knows the bride and groom are the stars of the wedding day. Let your wedding party know they are in your squad by dressing up for the black-tie affair. 

For black-tie weddings, groomsmen should wear a tuxedo. Bridesmaids traditionally will wear elegant long dresses or gowns. There are tux and bridesmaid dress rental options with plenty of fashionable choices. 

Opt for a darker color and a more decadent fabric, such as silk shantung, if you prefer to go with bridesmaid cocktail-length dresses. Parents, grandparents, little ones, flower girls and ring bearers should wear their best. 

Choose the Appropriate Season, Location & Venue

The most significant black-tie wedding mistake brides make is choosing the wrong season and location for their black-tie wedding. It is critical to decide the appropriate dress code for the season and place of your wedding. 

Sometimes brides desire a black-tie wedding for the formality and fanciness. However, it would help if you considered the logistics of the situation. Gowns and tuxedos on a sandy beach can be uncomfortable for guests in the summer. 

It is essential to examine the pitfalls of the dress code. Considering a venue overlooking the beach with an air-conditioned or breezy indoor reception could be an excellent compromise for a beach-loving bride with her heart set on a black-tie.

Continue the Vibe

We encourage planning cohesive aesthetics, logistics and style events. These thoughts will promote the remainder of your wedding elements to the status of your formal dress code. 

Your black-tie affair should also earn the ambiance of a plated dinner instead of standing up at a buffet. Focus on impactful components like signage, linens, paper goods and centerpieces. 

Lastly, make your guests feel important by including personalized treats.

Budget Accordingly

You do not need a celebrity budget to pull off a black-tie affair, though these events typically cost more than the average wedding. We suggest choosing the parts of your day that are most important to you and allocating your budget accordingly. However, remember that the little touches mentioned above add up, so do your research early on to decide if a black-tie dress code is the right direction.

Black-tie Wedding Attire for Women

Am I Required to Wear a Gown? 

Evening gowns are usually worn for black-tie weddings. It is also acceptable to wear a formal cocktail dress. Wear a trumpet or ball gown or keep it simple with a dressy sheath. 

Whatever style you choose, make sure you can walk in it. If you elect to wear a floor-length dress, the purpose is to maintain the hem near the ground. If the hem plunges higher, it will look like the dress is improperly fitted. If the dress is longer, you will risk tripping on the fabric.

How Should I Style a Cocktail Dress? 

You can only wear a cocktail dress if it is a very formal design. It is ok if the dress falls above your knee. With black-tie wedding attire, it is not recommended you show too much skin. Instead, keep the hemline unpretentious and keep cleavage to a minimum. 

Ultimately you want to avoid appearing like you are ready to leave the wedding and go to a club. Instead, seek a sophisticated-looking cocktail dress with rich fabric and fine details. Pair it with elegant heels, jewelry and an elegant clutch to finish your formal look. 

What Colors Are Appropriate for a Black-Tie Wedding? 

All colors are appropriate except any shades of white. Apart from that, you can select any color. Avoid the bridesmaids’ colors if you are not part of the wedding party.

Suppose you want to wear cocktail dresses with a deep jewel tone. You could also wear a black mermaid-style skirt. Consider matching your outfit with a matching clutch bag and patent leather shoes.

Wedding guests often think black is a no-go for weddings. But a fancy little black dress or floor-length black gown is an elegant, classy and appropriate option for a black-tie affair. 

Red is another color suggested as not appropriate for wedding attire. However, it is entirely acceptable as long as the dress doesn’t call attention away from the bride. 

Jewel tones are an excellent option for all dress codes and pastel hues are lovely for summer weddings.

Is It Possible to Look Too Fancy? 

Short answer? Yes. 

If you’re questioning if your outfit is too formal, it is too formal. The simple question you can ask is, “Are you going to upstage the bride?” Wear something else if you have a remote chance of upstaging her. 

How Can I Look Fab Without Spending Too Much? 

Black-tie attire can be costly. We have two ideas if a new ball gown is outside your budget.

First, chances are a friend of yours has a dress you can borrow just dangling in their closet.

Second, there’s Rent the Runway, which is a budget fashionista’s best friend. You can select from a vast selection of designer dresses and lease them for a sliver of the cost. 

Rent the Runway allows you to choose a second size in the same dress, so you’ll likely find the perfect fit.

How Should I Do My Hair and Makeup? 

Complimenting your elegant attire, you will want to stick with angelic cascading curls, chignons or updos. Choose one feature to highlight, like your eyes or lips. Smokey eyeshadow with a nude lip will help highlight your cheeks with a light rose.

Black-Tie Attire for Men 

Am I Required to Wear a Black Tux? 

While black-tie attire does not intrinsically mandate everyone to wear a black tuxedo, it’s usually the preferred option to pull off the black-tie look. This simplifies cultivating an appropriate outfit piece by piece. 

Can I Wear a Normal Suit?

A dinner suit is also sufficient for black-tie wedding attire. Trendy smoking jackets in velvet or textured materials can add flair to the garment, while a traditional silk-lapel dinner jacket is the conventional alternative. 

Trousers should be well-tailored with a fitted silhouette. They should not appear clinging to your legs. The waistband should consistently be shielded by the coat for the right proportions and should never include belt loops or require a belt. Traditionally, the pants should match the dinner jacket unless you intentionally opt for a contrasting jacket. 

Can I Only Wear Black to a Black-Tie Wedding? 

Black is consistently a safe bet for formal attire as a black-tie wedding guest. If you are seeking to stand out, you have a few options. Deep navy or midnight blues create an attractive choice. The more traditional choice for black-tie suiting is to stick with these colors. 

Specific cases can be made for deep earth tones or charcoal greys. These colors can be tricky to pull off in a formal setting. A contrasting smoking jacket is a safer alternative. Grounded by black pants, a dinner jacket with an interesting texture or tone can look ravishing.

What Accessories are Appropriate for a Black-Tie Attire? 

The shoes should wrap up the formality of the attire. Depending on the venue, loafers, derbies and monk straps can all be great options. Be discerning of styles with laces as they can be considered tacky.

Black shoes are the obvious choice for the evening unless your attire color dictates differently. Fancy polished leather or velvet can provide a nice touch to your style. Black socks and a bow tie will help finish your look with a vest or cummerbund. Snazzy cufflinks are also a great choice.

Is a Black-Tie Wedding Expensive?

A black-tie wedding is usually an elegant affair. But will it be necessarily expensive?

On the one hand, a black tie wedding can be more expensive than a casual or semi-formal wedding. The reason is that guests are expected to dress in formal attire, which can be costly to rent or purchase. 

Additionally, the venue and decor may be more elaborate, adding to the overall cost of the wedding.

However, it’s important to note that a black tie dress code doesn’t necessarily mean the wedding will be expensive. 

Couples can still choose to have a black-tie wedding on a budget by being strategic with their choices. For example, they can opt for a smaller guest list or choose a venue that doesn’t require as much decor.

How to Minimize Expenses for a Black-Tie Wedding

The bill for a black-tie wedding can be scary. From the tuxedos to the venue, everything seems to come with a hefty price tag

However, it is possible to have a black-tie wedding without breaking the bank. Here are some tips on how to do it.

  • Choose the Right Venue: The venue is one of the most important aspects of any wedding. For a black-tie wedding, you need an elegant and sophisticated venue that doesn’t cost a fortune. Look for venues that offer all-inclusive packages or have partnerships with vendors that can provide discounts on catering, decorations, and other services.
  • Rent Your Attire: Buying a tuxedo can be expensive, especially if you don’t plan on wearing it again. Instead of buying, consider renting your attire. Many rental companies offer high-quality tuxedos at affordable prices. You can also look for sales or discounts at local retailers.
  • Handle Decorations Yourself: Decorations are an essential part of any wedding but can also be costly. Consider making your decorations instead of buying them. You can create elegant centerpieces using candles and flowers or use string lights to add ambiance to the venue.
  • Simplify the Menu: Instead of serving a five-course meal, simplify the menu by serving hors d’oeuvres and a buffet-style dinner. This will not only save you money but also give your guests more options to choose from.
  • Leverage on Technology: Save money on invitations by sending electronic invites instead of traditional paper invitations. You can also create a wedding website where guests can RSVP, find information about the wedding, and even make donations instead of giving gifts.

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