Dressing for a black tie wedding
You’ve set your heart on a Black Tie Wedding and secured the venue of your choice. The first task will be to get everyone on board sharing in your vision for a stylish and sophisticated wedding. Much depends on the maturity and cultural backgrounds of family, friends and colleagues making this either relatively straight forward, or the guests bemused as to what is required.
Much has changed during the past ten years especially within the wedding industry, from the licensing of alternative venues to the dress choices available to the modern bride; however, whilst the codes for a Black Tie Wedding are unchanged, I think you will agree with me that a few updates are needed to take into consideration the change in style of the modern wedding.
Today I am going to explain what the different codes mean and how to adapt your choice of outfit so that you arrive appropriately dressed on the day.
The Guest Invites
Provide detailed information along with your choice of dress code when you send out the invitations. This is particularly helpful if the wedding is during the summer when there is always the tendency for some guests to be a little confused because they are unfamiliar with wedding etiquette. As a general rule, your guests will really appreciate the extra guidance from you so that everyone fully understands your goals and are aware of what is, and is not, acceptable on the day.
Black tie wedding requirements are a little bit different from dressing for other events like an evening reception or a party. For example, there are certain protocols for women to be appropriately dressed and not overly exposed. By this I mean avoiding excessively short hemlines by opting for either full-length gowns, elegant midi -length dresses, or a luxuriously styled cocktail dress.
Guests – Get in The Know
In any event, should you receive a Black Tie Wedding invite where there are no guidelines, I would certainly recommend researching the venue so that you are familiar beforehand. For example, grand country mansions like Hedsor House or Stoke Park, are certainly going to be much more formal than say Luxters Old Barn or The Tythe Barn in Oxford. So as a rule, the grander the venue, the more elegant the attire. In general, men will find the rules less debatable, wearing either a dinner suit with contrast lapels, bow tie and a dress shirt, or a dark suit, dark tie and white shirt completed with high shine shoes to mark the occasion.
Black Tie Wedding Dress Code
Although the black-tie dress code is normally reserved for evening events, it is increasingly popular at day time weddings often with a late morning start, so in this instance elaborate evening attire for such an occasion is a NO!
A tuxedo, black bow tie, white shirt, and shiny black shoes are non-negotiable. Alternatively, a dark suit with matching dark tie, or a white dinner jacket and black tuxedo trouser are equally acceptable especially for a daytime or summer wedding. Optional attire that is down to choice is a vest/waistcoat and cummerbund.
If you chose the dark suit option for the daytime, you could always change into a dinner shirt and bow tie with cummerbund for the evening event.
There are a few options for the ladies. Either a floor length gown, or a luxury style cocktail dress, classy heels or stylish flats. A useful tip is to carry an extra pair of flats for walking on lawns, or to relieve weary feet after a long day and certainly for dancing.
White Tie Wedding Dress Code
The most formal of all wedding dress codes is the white tie event. Try to visualize a Royal State Event or The White House to get an idea of this strict code
Tuxedo with tails, formal white shirt, white vest/waistcoat and bow tie, gray or white gloves and formal shoes such as Oxfords or Derbys
A formal floor length evening gown is required period. Complete your look with a stole (faux fur or cashmere cover up), jewelry, heels and an evening clutch bag.
Semi-formal or Dressy Casual Wedding
Simply put, a Winter Wedding, whether semi-formal or dressy casual will determine both your choice of color and fabric. For the same reason, a Summer Wedding would require lighter fabrics and colors according to seasonal fashion trends and your personal style preferences.
Great choices for a semi-formal/casual dressy is elegant separate pieces, stylish and appropriate trouser suits, pantsuits or floor length gowns. Team them with classy heels, beautiful ballerinas and elegant jewelry. Find out in advance if the wedding is outdoors (particularly in summer) so that you can take extra pair of flats to walk across lawns and avoid ruining your heels (and the lawn!)
Depending on time of year, opt for either a dark or light-colored suit with a tie.
Casual Wedding Dress Code
A couple will sometimes state “casual dress” when the wedding is likely to be outdoors – so that guests are more relaxed and the whole affair is quite laid back. However, on no account should you wear shorts, jeans, flip flops or a vest unless the invite specifically states that this is acceptable and appropriate.
Dressy pants or light-colored khaki colors with a shirt and tie. If you wish you can add a sporty style jacket although this is not required. On no account wear t-shirts and trainers/jogger pants.
Summer dresses are absolutely acceptable, though keep it stylish with classy sandals or wedges. A light jacket/cardigan cover up might be handy if it gets a little chilly.
Tropical and Destination Wedding Dress Code
Destination weddings, especially in hot climate can be hot, sticky and humid affairs with a good few hours where you are outdoors in blazing sunshine. Even though the invite states casual, to be on the safe side, go for dressy.
The Mexican or safari style wedding shirt is always a popular choice because it is lightweight, decorative, has pockets and sleeves and is sometimes embroidered. There are quite a few color choices and versions (available in most menswear stores in the summer season) with several design options if you prefer to go with a high end designer. A crisp linen or cotton shirt and pants always look great but do remember that linen crushes easily and will need a good press if you want to arrive looking immaculate.
Generally, follow the rules for casual, selecting weather appropriate styles such as a sundress, wedges or elegant sandals with minimal key jewellery pieces. You may also wish to complete your look with a floppy hat to shield you from the sun if the ceremony is on the beach or outdoor.
The bride wears a bespoke custom made wedding dress, hand crafted in our London workroom – Oui Madam Bridal Atelier
| In the brides own words
“…I thoroughly enjoyed a second visit to Oui Madam to see Cynthia and ordered a custom-made dress that exceeds everything I’d hoped for.
Cynthia’s craftsmanship is incredible and her service is impeccable; the combination of the two is rare.
Together we’ve created an absolute dream of a dress, one that she’s excited to make and I literally cannot wait to wear. My dress hunt began rather uninspired and after visits to anything from high-end London stores to various smaller boutiques, once I had been here, there was no doubt that this was the place I wanted my dress from….”