Dressy casual. Festive. Semi-formal. Tropical. White tie. Black tie. Black tie optional.
With so many wedding dress codes out there, it’s no wonder many of us have a hard time remembering what they all mean!
Don’t worry! We’re not about to overload your brain with the details of what every wedding dress code means (check out this article if that's what you're looking for).
Today, we’re talking about one, in particular, one that appears on many a wedding invitation:
This is a modern rundown of black tie wedding attire DOs and DON’Ts — from how to dress to how to accessorize:
What Is a Black Tie Wedding?
The black tie dress code is a formal dress code. Traditionally, it means tuxedos and full-length gowns for an evening event — like you’re ready to walk the red carpet.
Black tie is:
Black tie is all of the things that most of us don’t have a reason to wear on a day-to-day basis. So, to sum it up in one word, black tie means FANCY.
If the invitation says white tie, you have to step it up even more. White tie is the most formal dress code (think top hats and tails). If the invitation says black tie optional, you have some more flexibility.
Black tie optional means the couple wants you to wear a tux or an evening gown. But you’ll still look appropriate if you wear a black, navy, or gray suit or choose a tea-length or midi dress instead of a floor-length gown.
Have you decided on a black tie wedding? Check out our collection of bridesmaid dresses available online to fit that classic black tie theme!
The DOs and DON’Ts of Black Tie Wedding Attire
Fashion rules aren’t set in stone, and we champion the idea of embracing your own style and wearing what makes you look and feel your best. (That’s exactly why we’re so obsessed with burnt orange bridesmaid dresses!)
But for a black tie event, there are some overarching guidelines to keep in mind:
DO: Choose a Black Tux
When a wedding invite says “black tie,” it usually means that the wedding party will wear black tuxedos with white dress shirts, cummerbunds, and a bow tie. It also means that the couple-to-be wants you to follow suit (pun intended).
Invitations include dress codes so that you know the level of formality of the event. Choose a classic black tux for a black tie wedding, and you can’t go wrong!
DO: Choose a Long Dress
For a formal event, a full-length gown is the standard. Anything that hits above the knee would be a cocktail dress better worn to a semi-formal event.
With that said, you can get away with a dress that doesn’t graze the floor, but to look appropriate for the formal occasion, go for calf-length or longer.
DO: Opt for Embellishments
Black tie weddings are your chance to (literally) shine!
Sequins, beading, metallic brocades, sparkling jewels … go for it with all-out glitz and glamour!
DO: Consider the Time of the Event
Black tie events are usually held at night (hence the phrase “evening gown”). But it’s not unusual for couples to have a ceremony earlier in the day and host a black tie reception later at night.
If it’s feasible, wear two different looks.
Choose a ceremony look that’s appropriate for a formal daytime event, then do a costume change into your black tie attire for the reception.
If changing looks between the ceremony and reception isn’t an option, there are some alternatives.
Opt for a suit instead of a tux, a tailored/modern pantsuit instead of a gown, or a tea-length dress that works for day or night. A one-piece jumpsuit is also a stylish option!
DO: Accessorize With Jewelry
Accessorize and elevate your black tie outfit with your best jewelry. Whether that be cufflinks on a dress shirt or a diamond statement necklace, this is the time to flaunt your best baubles and gems!
DO: Pay Attention to Your Hair and Makeup
There’s more to meeting the black tie dress code than wearing formal wedding attire on your body. It also requires a polished hair and makeup look.
This rule holds true for all men, women, and non-binary wedding attendees.
From trimming your beard to getting a pedicure, the trick is to look polished and poised from head to toe. Like Jack Dawson when he joins Cal Hockley and the DeWitt Bukaters for that first dinner on Titanic.
(Make it count, meet me at the clock).
DON’T: Wear a Short Dress (Unless It’s Really Fancy!)
A black tie wedding just might be the one occasion in life where a basic LBD just won’t cut it. A dressy little black dress, however, is appropriate.
If you want to wear a short dress, opt for a fancy one that has an elegant look and feel. Make it even more special by adding your best jewelry and an incredible pair of shoes!
DON’T: Wear Casual Shoes
Dress shoes are a must for a black tie wedding. While pairing sneakers with a suit can be a cool, contemporary look, it’s best to stick to tradition in this department.
DON’T: Wear a Casual Watch
It’s better to skip the wristwatch altogether than wear the casual one you wear every day. Does your favorite watch have a silicone band or a canvas strap? Sorry, you’re better off leaving it at home.
DON’T: Skip the Tie
Whether you choose a tux or a suit, do not skip the tie. Also, don't forget to button your dress shirt all the way up and affix your tie properly, whether in a bowtie, Windsor knot, or Pratt knot form.
DON’T: Wear Bright Colors
For fall wedding dresses, jewel tones are a sophisticated choice. For summer wedding dresses, chiffon gowns in neutral tones are an elegant option.
DON’T: Upstage the Bride or Groom
The main rule of dressing for any wedding, regardless of the dress code, is to not upstage the bride or groom. From the colors you choose to the silhouettes you wear, it’s important not to steal any attention away from the happy couple!
Dress your best but don’t overdo it.
There’s no need to wear a ball gown that might rival the bride’s wedding dress or show up in a top hat and tails if the groom is wearing a classic tux. These can be appropriate options for a white tie celebration but a bit too over the top for a black tie event.
Everyone at a black tie wedding should be donning formal wear, from the couple-to-be to the wedding party to the guests. How you put your own spin on it or add your own sense of style to the look is entirely up to you!