What To Wear To A Black Tie Wedding: The Complete Guide

What To Wear To A Black Tie Wedding: The Complete Guide
Lesley Turner_Wedding Hashers Guest Author

Lesley Turner

Published: Sep 14, 2022

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You’ve just received a wedding invite, and oh boy, it’s a formal affair, so you’re probably stressing about what to wear to a black tie wedding., You can’t get more buttoned up than black tie soiree, but we promise, these events aren’t stuffy—at least, not all of them.

The black-tie dress code helps to level the playing field for the guest’s wedding attire, shifting the focus to the people, the conversations, and the experience. And that is the antithesis of stuffy.

We get it! Receiving an invite to a black-tie wedding can send even the most fashionable people into panic mode. After all, it’s not every day that you need to whip out your fanciest dress or black tuxedo. But getting the chance to wear your best clothes can be great fun. 

We’ve compiled this guide on mastering the black-tie dress code to help you navigate what to wear to a wedding, gala, event, or literally anything that calls for black tie attire.

After reading our short guide, you’ll feel like a formalwear pro, whether you love to dress up in a gown or stylish suit or you prefer to remain in jeans and a tee.

So next time you receive a fancy wedding invitation with the words “black-tie formal,” you’ll know exactly what to wear. 

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Pro Tip: Got an engagement party invitation? Check our guide on what to wear to an engagement party.

elegant wedding invitation photo

Black Tie Etiquette

The only thing that’s fancier than the black tie wedding is a white tie event. Black tie events should be attended with a specific level of formality, thoughtfulness, and respect. Make sure your actions are consistent with these principles. Make sure you eat and drink in moderation as well. So that you may remember the black tie event fondly, keep it tasteful.

And if you’re wondering what to wear to a black tie event as a wedding guest, stick around…a tux isn’t always required, and cocktail attire may not be enough.

What Does Black Tie Wedding Mean?

Let’s break down the basics: A formal evening event with a black-tie dress code typically calls for women to wear floor-length gowns and men to don tuxedos. But, of course, times have changed, and dress code nuances aren’t what they once were.

So although most individuals don’t adhere to the rules as strictly as they once did, remember this: If you’re attending a black-tie wedding, the guys should wear dinner jackets and elegant shoes, and the women should (at the minimum) wear a fancy cocktail dress that’s not too revealing in rich fabric and rich tone, but a floor-length gown is preferred. 

floor-length gown for black tie wedding

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What To Wear As A Black Tie Wedding Guest FAQs

Before opening an incredibly posh wedding invitation and seeing “Black Tie Required,” you already know you’re in for a black-tie affair. And those three simple words let everyone know that you’ll be dressing to the nines. But, since these aren’t events that happen regularly anymore, you might be at a loss of what to wear to a black tie wedding. Luckily, we’ve put together this helpful guide; with these tips, you’ll be dressed to kill in no time. 

Few soirees require as much “glamming up” as a formal black-tie wedding. And if you’ve recently received an invite to such an affair, you probably have questions about what to wear to a black tie wedding. So, we put together a list of black tie dress code FAQs.

Can I Wear Black To A Black-Tie Wedding?

Black is always appropriate for black-tie events, and in many situations, men are encouraged to wear a traditional black tuxedo. Darker hues are thought to be more formal, so a black-tie event is a perfect place for them.

While wearing all black to a black-tie event is customary and elegant, it isn’t always necessary. If you’re not wearing black, solid, or jewel tones are the best colors to wear to a black-tie event.

The term “jewel tone” describes a rich, gemstone-like tint you often see in fall weddings. Wedding party members, such as bridesmaids and groomsmen, will wear jewel tones for black tie events.

Can I Wear Red To A Formal Wedding?

This outmoded fashion rule was established in more conservative periods when red was considered an attention-getting, way-too-sexy color. Sure!

You might want to avoid wearing a skin-tight red plunging gown to a black-tie affair, but in this case, the color red isn’t why. Instead, several fashionable red dresses available today are suitable for wearing on formal occasions.

Am I Required To Wear A Full-Length Gown?

Black tie and formal weddings are so much fun to attend because you can pull out all the stops and get dressed up! But, of course, it’s not every day, not even every week or month, that you can really glam up, so if you’re fortunate to be invited to a black tie wedding, you’re in for some fun. Of course, the black tie dress code can vary at each event, so always confirm it with the couple, but here’s the general census on whether you must wear a full-length gown to a black tie wedding.

Black tie weddings typically call for floor-length evening gowns, but you can get away with a formal cocktail dress (of the longer variety) or even an attractive suit. Any silhouette of a gown is acceptable, except the really short ones. Keep it simple with an elegant sheath, or go all out with a trumpet or ball gown (for the financier soirees).

Women in the bridal party and wedding guests can feel comfortable in chiffon gowns, maxi dresses, and short or long-sleeves. You don’t have to go all the way to red carpet style; just remember to keep it classy.

Can I Wear A Short Cocktail Dress To A Black-Tie Wedding?

You can’t go wrong wearing a long formal gown as a black-tie wedding guest, and if you don’t have many opportunities to wear one, this is your time to go for it! But, there are other options available, especially with a contemporary, less strict black tie dress code. Formal attire doesn’t have to be stressful but do remember to respect the couple’s wishes and adhere to the wedding dress code.

Floor-length dresses are still the most ideal for women, although you can also wear an elegant and fancy cocktail dress. Tea-length skirts are also allowed for formal weddings if they are elegant and end at the mid-calf or lower. Choose an elegantly embellished and sparkly cocktail dress, and always stay with darker colors.

Can I Wear A Suit To A Black-Tie Wedding?

For gentlemen, refinement is represented by the monochromatic uniformity of a dinner jacket and a pristine white shirt. There’s a reason why James Bond, who is incredibly stylish and elegant, always makes an appearance in a tuxedo at least once during a movie.

If your wedding invite specifies “black tie optional” or “black tie preferred,” you can choose. You can go for a classic tuxedo, aka – a dinner jacket, or a dark suit. But what’s the difference, exactly? If wedding guest dresses in a suit, they may opt to wear a traditional or bow tie; either is acceptable. 

The satin accents are what set a tuxedo apart from a regular suit. Satin facing is used on the lapels, buttons, and pockets of dinner jackets. The leg of the pants also has a satin stripe. In a suit, the material used for the jacket, lapel, and pants is the same.

Women can also opt for a sophisticated, flashy suit. If a pantsuit is your style, select a well-tailored suit in a dark tone. And again, a hint of glam never hurts, so try a suit in a luxe fabric with a bit of sheen or shine.

If the wedding invitation indicates black-tie attire, guests must dress appropriately to show that they can conform to the formality of the evening. Wearing black-tie attire is also a mark of respect to the party host.

Can I Wear A Jumpsuit To A Black-Tie Wedding?

Okay, this one is a tricky black tie dress code rule. Simply put, absolutely! But, you have to be careful. Many jumpsuits have a casual, laid-back feel that would not be appropriate for a formal wedding. Instead, choose a jumpsuit that has a sophisticated, dressy look. An elegant jumpsuit in dark and solid colors can be a beautiful alternative to a formal floor-length dress. 

Is It Possible To Look Too Fancy At A Black Tie Wedding?

There’s only one answer to that – YES!

You simply need to ask yourself one straightforward question to determine whether or not your attire is overly formal: Will you overshadow the bride? Wear something different if there’s even a remote chance. Body-baring cutaway gowns, head-to-toe crystals, or anything even slightly bridal is not appropriate. Ask the bride or a bridesmaid if you’re unsure whether your outfit is appropriate.

How To Style Your Black Tie Wedding Attire

Now, the fun part. Once you have selected the perfect outfit for your black tie wedding, the final steps are to accessorize. 

Dainty Jewelry

While black tie wedding attire should be formal, it shouldn’t be over-the-top. So, when selecting your jewelry, choose pieces that aren’t too big or flashy. Black tie events are elegant and sophisticated, so understated or dainty jewelry is the way to go. 

High Heels

For the ladies, you should always wear high heels to a formal wedding. While it isn’t a written black tie dress code rule, high heels are just more polished and sophisticated, and they’ll complete your look. Of course, they don’t have to be stilettos, but a nice heel height you feel comfortable in is best. 

The Pocket Hanky

For the guys, don’t forget your pocket hanky or pocket square. If you do, your black tie attire will look unfinished. 

The Lapel Chain

A decorative lapel chain is another way the guys can complete their black tie wedding look. 

Boutonniere

A boutonniere isn’t required, but it certainly adds a nice touch. 

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What Does Formal Black Tie Optional Mean 

Simply put, “black-tie optional” is a formal dress code that allows you to wear black-tie attire or something similar. 

The purpose of “black tie optional” events is to acknowledge without passing judgment that not all men have access to or can afford a traditional black-tie ensemble. It successfully communicates that the hosts of an event want to dress in a conventional Black Tie (tuxedo) or its female equivalent and ask their attendees to do the same; however, it isn’t necessary or particularly anticipated.

What Not To Wear In A Classic Black Tie Wedding

Sometimes the easiest way to understand something is to understand what not to do. And this is especially true when it comes to learning what to wear to a black tie wedding. So, here’s what not to wear to a black tie wedding. 

Mini Skirts And Dresses

Formal weddings and black tie affairs are sophisticated and elegant events, so mini skirts and short dresses are inappropriate. And no level of beading, sequins, or sparkle could make a mini skirt formal or appropriate enough for a black tie wedding. 

photo of girl in mini skirt

White

This is an easy one…never wear white to a black tie event or formal wedding. Well, never wear white to any wedding.  

Flip Flops

Flip-flops are never appropriate for black tie weddings. You may find wedding guests wearing them at summer weddings or beach weddings, but never at a black tie event.

photo of girls feet in flip flops

Boots

While boots may be fashionable, they have no place at a formal wedding or black tie event. 

Nothing Revealing

Even if it’s a floor-length gown, a wedding—especially a black tie wedding—is not the time to wear your most scandalous outfit. Although there are less strict dress codes for weddings in the modern era, you still don’t want to go beyond and wear something that might be unpleasant or distracting. 

Ask a friend for their honest opinion if you’re unsure whether anything is appropriate. Not yet persuaded?

It’s generally best to keep it for a wedding or other occasion without a “black tie” designation.

Loungewear

Loungewear is simply too casual and informal for any event. As the name implies, it’s for “lounging,” so keep it at home and opt for a beautiful floor-length dress instead. 

photo of girl in black loungewear set

Shorts

We can’t think of any formal event, black tie wedding or less formal wedding wear shorts would be appropriate. Just don’t do it. They are way too casual and would indicate disrespect to the hosts. 

How To Know If Your Outfit Is Appropriate For A Black Tie Wedding

We don’t know about you, but when we receive an invitation to a black-tie event in the mail, our first reaction is always to wonder what the black-tie dress code actually implies. Obviously, wearing casual clothing won’t cut it, but will a cocktail dress do, or do we need something more Oscar-worthy? 

Everything is a little (okay, a lot) perplexing. We hope this complete guide to what to wear to a black tie wedding helps you choose the perfect outfit. 

We know you’re going to kill the style game!

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