• 12/01/2023

Elegance Meets Choice: The Black Tie Optional Wedding

A man wearing a tuxedo and a woman wearing a pink gown.

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Typically, traditions and customs play a role in shaping a wedding celebration. However, in recent years, couples have embraced the idea of personalization, making their special day a reflection of their unique personalities and preferences. The “black tie optional” wedding has gained popularity over the years. This concept combines the classic elegance of a black-tie affair with the flexibility for guests to dress according to their comfort and style. 

What is a Black Tie Optional Wedding?

A black tie optional wedding offers a blend of formality and inclusivity. Unlike a traditional black-tie event, where guests must adhere strictly to a formal dress code, this wedding style allows some flexibility. While the wedding party and hosts may choose to don glamorous tuxedos and elegant gowns, guests have the option to wear semi-formal or cocktail attire. This approach encourages guests to express their individual styles, ensuring everyone feels comfortable and confident. 

Why Choose a Black Tie Optional Wedding?

A black tie optional wedding has many advantages for the wedding party and guests alike:

Flexibility and Comfort

One of the primary reasons couples go for a black tie optional wedding is to accommodate the diverse preferences of their guests. Some may relish the opportunity to go all out in formalwear, while others may prefer a more relaxed attire. Allowing guests to choose what they wear creates an inclusive and comfortable atmosphere.

Personal Expression

Your wedding is a reflection of your identity as a couple. Allowing guests to express themselves through their clothing choices adds a personal touch to the celebration. It also ensures guests feel like active participants rather than just observers.


Black tie optional weddings are incredibly versatile. Whether your wedding is set in a grand ballroom, a rustic barn, a beachfront destination or a peaceful garden, this dress code can adapt to various settings, making it an ideal choice for diverse wedding venues.


For some guests, the idea of renting or buying formal attire can be financially challenging. This dress code provides relief to those who want to attend your wedding without the added expense of purchasing a tuxedo or a formal gown.

Finding a Balance 

While the concept of a black tie optional wedding offers flexibility, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between formal and casual to maintain the elegance of the occasion. Here are some tips:

  • Communicate clearly: Clearly communicate the dress code on your invitations and wedding website so guests understand the expectations. Provide examples of what attire is suitable for both the black tie and semi-formal options.
  • Set the tone: The wedding party’s attire can help set the tone. If you and your partner choose to go all out with formalwear, it will encourage your guests to follow suit. Conversely, guests will feel more comfortable doing the same if you opt for semi-formal attire.
  • Accessorize: Encourage your guests to personalize their outfits with accessories. A well-chosen tie, a statement necklace or unique shoes can elevate a semi-formal outfit to match the black-tie affair.

What Can You Wear to a Black Tie Optional Wedding?

  • Elegant gown: A full-length formal dress is ideal for those who want to go all out for the black-tie side. Choose rich, dark colors like deep red, navy, emerald green or classic black. Select a style that suits your body type and personal taste. This style can be an A-line, mermaid or ball gown.
  • Cocktail dress: A knee-length or tea-length cocktail dress in a sophisticated color and fabric is perfect for a black tie optional wedding. Add heels and statement jewelry to complete the look.
  • Separates: Another option is to wear separates, like a blouse or top, paired with a skirt or dressy pants. Make sure the pieces are elegant and well-coordinated.
  • Accessories: Remember to accessorize. Add elegant jewelry, a clutch purse and appropriate shoes to complement your outfit. 
  • Hairstyle: You can’t go wrong with a classic updo for a semi-formal event. A sleek bun, chignon, French twist or a slicked-back ponytail are great options as they exude sophistication while still allowing your outfit to shine. You could also consider glamorous waves or a sleek and smooth look if an updo differs from your usual style.  

Men should stick to a classic tuxedo, a dark suit or a tuxedo jacket with dress pants for this type of wedding. Add some accessories like cufflinks or a pocket square to elevate the look. 

What Should You Avoid Wearing to a Black Tie Optional Wedding?

While a black tie optional wedding offers flexibility, there are still certain items and styles you should generally avoid to ensure you’re respecting the formality of the event. Here are some things to steer clear of:

  • Overly revealing or casual outfits: Avoid wearing revealing or extremely casual attire. This includes extremely short dresses, low-cut tops and outfits more suited for a beach vacation than a formal event.
  • White gowns: Traditionally, wearing white to a wedding is reserved for the bride. Choosing a different color is best to avoid drawing attention away from her.
  • Denim or jeans: Denim and jeans are far too casual for this event. Even if you’re dressing on the more relaxed end, choose more formal fabrics and styles.
  • Inappropriate footwear: Sneakers or flip-flops aren’t suitable for this event. Go for elegant heels or dressy flats. 
  • Excessive sequins or sparkle: While some sparkles can be elegant, avoid outfits with excessive sequins or glitter, as they can appear flashy for a formal event.
  • Ultra-casual accessories: Avoid overly casual accessories like beach-themed jewelry or hats.

Men should avoid casual wear like jeans, sneakers, T-shirts or polo shirts. Men should also avoid bright colors, shorts, flip-flops, sneakers and unbuttoned shirts. 

Keeping It Classy

A black tie optional wedding strikes the perfect balance between traditional elegance and personal expression. It’s a choice that ensures all guests feel comfortable and included while still upholding the sense of occasion that a wedding deserves. Ultimately, your wedding day should reflect your love story and this versatile dress code allows you to do just that. 

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