How to Dress For a Black-Tie Optional Wedding

By Published On: February 19, 2024

The words “black-tie optional” might leave you confused and asking yourself a lot of questions. Trust me, you are not the first person to wonder what those words really mean, especially since black tie-optional weddings are becoming more and more common. This formality also acknowledges that not all guests can afford a black tie dress code but can still dress up with their best outfits.

If you are still confused about how to dress for a black-tie optional wedding, this post will help you understand this dress code, along with the do’s and don’ts.

What Does Black-Tie Optional Mean?

Black-tie optional means that guests have the option of wearing formal attire — tuxedos and evening gowns or a formal suit and cocktail dress. This gives you, as a guest, some flexibility to play around with your outfit. Black-tie optional usually means the bride and groom and bridal party will be dressed formally in black tie attire. As a courtesy, guests should reflect this in their attire. This means you can go full-on black-tie attire or a more relaxed formal outfit.

Etiquette Rules

Dress Length and Style: One of the biggest questions when it comes to the black-tie optional wedding dress code is dress length. Full-length gowns are preferred but not mandatory. Midi-length dresses also work. The only dress length you should avoid is above the knee since it can come off as too casual. Also, anything too revealing takes away from the bride.

Jumpsuits are considered a grey area for wedding dress attire. Acceptable jumpsuits all depend on style. Avoid patterns and brightly colored fabrics because they come off as too laid-back. A jumpsuit will work if the style is tailored and elevated. Even a formal pantsuit will work. Another great alternative is a long skirt and a separate top. You can easily dress it up with some sparkle.

If you are on the shorter side and are afraid to look like you’ve been swallowed by fabric, look for something with a slit. It will help elongate your frame.

Colors: Dark colors and hues are ideal — think black, charcoal and navy but also jewel tone colors like burgundy and emerald. Patterns and bright colors are a big no since they appear too casual. When in doubt stick to solids. However color also depends on the season, time and venue of the wedding. Metallic colors — gold, silver and rose gold — are very stylish and dress code-approved. If the wedding takes place during the day or during warmer months, lighter colors are fine. Think colors like moss green, pastel pink and sky blue.

Shoes: You cannot go wrong with a classic pair of pumps. For a touch of glam, metallic or embellished heels will add some sparkle. Platforms or block heels will give you the height but will also be comfortable for the dance floor. If you are not a fan of heels, a dressy pair of flats will work!

Here are some styles we love for a black-tie optional wedding:

Photo sourced from Reformation

This gorgeous emerald sparkle dress from Reformation is the perfect touch of glam. It features a fitted bodice and column skirt, making it a flattering fit for most body shapes.

Photo sourced from Anthropologie

This Hutch oversized bow romantic maxi dress is perfect for any black-tie or black-tie optional wedding. There are also two pockets to put your phone when dancing on the dance floor.

Photo source from Rent the Runway

The Elle Zeitoune Karter dress is a great choice for a black-tie optional wedding. This is the shortest length you should go for this dress code.

Men’s Attire

Men’s attire for black-tie optional can be just as confusing as women’s attire. Tuxedos are considered optional for black-tie optional weddings. A formal suit or dress pants and a structured blazer with a tie are also considered acceptable. Depending on the wedding style and season, you can play around with different patterns and textures. A tartan pattern slim-fit dinner jacket will go well with slim-fitting black dress pants and a white dress shirt. The suit should be well-tailored.

A classic white shirt is a must for a black tie-optional wedding since it goes with any type of formal wear. Dark dress shoes or even classic oxfords are great choices for shoes. Dark socks should also be worn.

Just because a wedding is black-tie optional, doesn’t mean you have to wear a black tie. But a tie or bow tie is a must. Feel free to add a pop of color with your tie and pocket square.

Italian Stretch Velvet Tuxedo Jacket from Bonobos

A velvet tuxedo jacket will bring your black-tie optional wedding look up a notch. This style works great for a fall or winter wedding.

Signature Italian Nailhead Suit from Banana Republic

A 3-piece suit offers just the right amount of dress for a formal event. Pair with a white button-down, a nice tie and a good pair of dress shoes to complete this classic look.

Slim Wool-Blend Modern Tech Suit from Express

Put a modern twist on a classic look with this slim-fit navy suit. Pair it with a white button-down or think outside of the box and wear a blue dress shirt in a lighter shade. Wear it with a nice pair of shoes and a tie.

The words “black-tie optional” might put you in a frenzy, but just remember don’t wear something you would normally wear every day or to the office. When in doubt, stick with solids and dark colors.

 

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