Few events require as much glamor as a black tie wedding. When an extremely elegant wedding invitation arrives, you already know that you are on a black tie adventure before you open it and see ‘Black tie required’. And with those three little words, you know that you are going to dress wonderfully.
The black tie attire is a dress code reserved for formal evening events. Guests commonly choose dresses and suits or floor-length tuxedos when attending a black tie event.
But what-exactly-should you use? Cut through the confusion with answers to all your formalwear questions.
AM I REQUIRED TO WEAR A GOWN?
Although evening dresses are the standard fare for black tie weddings, you can get away with a formal cocktail dress (the longer variety) or even an elegant suit.
WHAT EVENING DRESSES ARE APPROPRIATE?
You can wear a dress with the silhouette you want. Go out in a trumpet or dance dress or keep it simple with a stylish sheath. Whichever style you choose, make sure you can walk in it. When wearing a floor-length dress, the goal is for the hem to rub against the floor. If the hem falls higher, it will appear that the dress is not fitted well. If the dress is longer, you risk stepping on the fabric and tripping.
IF I WEAR A COCKTAIL DRESS, HOW SHOULD I FIX IT?
You can only wear a cocktail dress if it is very formal. It may fall above the knee, but it shouldn’t be much shorter than that for a black tie wedding. For this occasion, it is not recommended to show too much skin. Rather, keep the hemline modest and keep any cleavage to a minimum. Avoid anything that looks like you’re going to a club or NYE party. Instead, opt for sophisticated cocktail dresses made from rich fabrics and fine details.
As a final touch, pair your cocktail dress with elegant heels, gorgeous jewelry, and an elegant bag to make the overall look formal.
- WHAT COLORS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR A BLACK TIE WEDDING?
All colors are fair except white, off-white, or anything else that comes close to white. Other than that, the only color you might want to avoid is the color that the bridesmaids wear, as you could end up looking like a would-be maid if you accidentally wear the same color.
Besides that, you can go. Often times, people think that black is not appropriate for weddings, but that is not the case. A floor-length black dress or a classy little black dress are classy and elegant options that are perfectly appropriate. Red is another questionable color for wedding attire, but wearing red is acceptable as long as it doesn’t catch the bride’s eye. For weddings of all dress codes, jewel tones are great options (especially for fall weddings) and pastel tones are lovely for summer weddings.
- IS IT POSSIBLE TO GO OVERBOARD AND LOOK TOO FANCY?
Short answer? Yes. If you are wondering if your suit is too formal or not, you just need to ask yourself a simple question: Are you going to outshine the bride? If there is a possibility, wear something else. This is not the time for head-to-toe crystals, cutout dresses, or anything remotely bridal. If for any reason you are undecided about whether your dress is appropriate, ask the bride or a bridesmaid.
- WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO WEAR FOR A MORNING OR EARLY AFTERNOON DRESS CEREMONY?
Dramatic haute couture does not make sense for a morning ceremony, in fact, it is considered a bad way to wear evening dresses when it is not, in fact, the night … which can make planning your outfit for a formal wedding in the morning. or in the afternoon it is a bit difficult. For these occasions, wear a long formal dress for tea, an elegant suit (with skirt or pants), or a cocktail dress.
- I DON’T WANT TO BREAK THE BANK BUYING A FORMAL DRESS. HOW CAN I LOOK FABULOUS WITHOUT SPENDING TOO MUCH?
We listen to you. Black tie attire is expensive, no question, and while you can find a great deal, shopping will take time. If a new dress is not in your budget, we have two ideas.
First, ask around. Most likely, you have a friend with a dress that you can wear hanging in her closet and that she will gladly lend you. Second, there’s Rent the Runway, who is truly a budget fashionista’s best friend. You can choose from a large selection of designer dresses (think Diane Von Furstenberg, Zac Posen, Tory Burch, and the like) and rent them for a fraction of the cost. Rent the Runway will even allow you to choose a second size of the same dress, so you are likely to find the perfect size even without trying it on.
- HOW SHOULD I COMB MY HAIR AND MAKE UP?
This is your chance to do it all. Throw on the chignons, updos, or cascading angelic curls that will complement your stylish outfit. Pick a feature that you really like, like the eyes or the lips. Try a smokey eye with a bare lip or angelic cheeks with a red lip.
- WHAT JEWELRY SHOULD I WEAR?
You can’t go wrong with diamonds or pearls. You can also go for bold phrase jewelry, especially if you’re wearing a duller dress.
- WHAT IS OPTIONAL ‘BLACK TIE’?
‘Optional black tie’ only means that men have the option of wearing a formal dark suit instead of a tux. Nothing changes for the ladies.
- WHAT IS ‘WHITE TIE’?
It seems that the black tie is the most formal dress code, but there is actually one that goes further and that is the white tie. For these ultra-formal events, men are required to wear white ties with their tailcoats (hence the name). For women, full length evening or prom dresses are required, cocktail dresses or trouser suits are now out of the question. Also, women can wear headbands and gloves. Rarely, if ever, will they be invited to a white-tie wedding, as white-tie dress codes are generally reserved for state dinners, balls, and the Nobel Prize ceremony.
- WHAT IS CREATIVE BLACK TIE?
Creative black tie is an invitation to have fun and do the unexpected. Of course, you are still expected to wear your best dresses, but now you are encouraged to add your own personal style. This could mean accessorizing with vibrant pashmina or bold statement jewelry, or finding a dress with unexpected details, or wearing a crown of hot pink flowers in your hair. It is up to you and the only thing you should avoid is wearing something white or bridal.