So, you’ve received a fancy wedding invitation and the dress code in it reads “black-tie attire.”

Before you spiral into panic mode, here’s what you should know: dressing for a black-tie event isn’t as complicated once you know the basics. For starters, ladies are expected to dazzle in full-length gowns whereas men must look dapper in tuxedos.

To help you get dressed to the nines for this fancy occasion, we’ve outlined a detailed guide for what female and male guests should wear for the event.

First, What Exactly is Black-Tie Attire?

The black-tie dress code is the most formal dress code after white-tie attire. You dress up in black-tie attire when you attend formal evening events such as award ceremonies, dinner parties, weddings, and more.

For women, a black-tie dress code typically involves evening floor-length gowns, ball gowns, elegant suits, formal shoes, and statement jewelry (if needed). For men, black tie attire means a tuxedo or a suit with a bow tie or black necktie.

Guests attending black-tie events are expected to go with jewel tones such as sapphire, emerald, or burgundy, and darker hues like gray and navy.

What Should Female Guests Wear at a Black-Tie Wedding?

The standard black-tie dress code for ladies is an evening gown or an elegant suit in fabrics such as chiffon, velvet, lace, or silk.

When shopping for a black-tie wedding, it’s safe to go all out with a ball or trumpet gown. But if you like to keep things simple, a dressy sheath crafted from luxe fabrics and fine details would be an excellent choice. If your hosts are more relaxed about the dress code, you can even get away with a (ritzy) formal cocktail dress.

When it comes to colors, off-white, white, or any hue that’s even close to white are off-limits. Aside from white, make sure you avoid colors that bridesmaids will be wearing. While most think black is an absolute no for weddings, that’s simply not true. A full-length black dress that screams elegance is a perfectly appropriate option for a black-tie wedding.

If you’re looking for something more sophisticated, jewel tones such as burgundy and emerald merged with lux fabrics like velvet and chiffon would be an excellent choice. If you’re attending a summer wedding, don’t even think twice before picking a formal gown in pastel hues.

As for styling your black-tie outfit, pick a matching clutch, some statement jewelry, and sleek heels to piece the ensemble together. As for jewelry, diamonds and pearls are your safest bet – especially if you’re donning something that sings the songs of subtle elegance.

Make sure you pay equal attention to your hairdo: cascading curls, magnificent updos, and chignons are all gorgeous choices. Finally, for makeup, you can always rely on a red lip and highlighted cheeks combination or go for something bolder like a smokey eye and nude lip combo.

What Should Male Guests Wear at a Black-Tie Wedding?

A tuxedo is typically the most preferred option for a black-tie wedding. What’s more, a tuxedo takes all the hard work out of having to craft an outfit piece by piece.

If you don’t own a tux, you can either rent it or go for a formal dinner suit with a black necktie or a bow tie. Combine it with a silk lapel dinner jacket. If you’re looking for something more unique, go for a smoking jacket crafted from textured or velvet fabrics.

Make sure you only secure the top button if you’re donning a two-button suit jacket. For shoes, go for a black pair of derbies, loafers, or monk straps. Finally, include snazzy cufflinks to add a dose of fancy to your ensemble.

Where to Buy Black Tie Outfits?

Black tie attires aren’t cheap. So, make sure you put a good deal of thought into putting your outfit together. If you prefer shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, look for shops that specialize in black tie outfits or have your outfit crafted from scratch by a talented tailor or seamstress.

Ladies can take a trip across the New York Dress’s website to find a broad selection of black-tie gowns for weddings. Here, you’ll find high-end designer pieces from the most popular international fashion houses under one roof.

If you’re not exactly looking to invest in black tie attire, you can always rent it for a fraction of the cost.

Are There Any Black-Tie Attire Variations?

Black tie dress codes come in two forms: black tie optional and black tie preferred.  

Black-Tie Preferred

As the name suggests, a wedding with a black-tie preferred dress code expects all guests to show up in a complete black-tie look. For ladies, this means an elegant full-length gown with matching jewelry and shoes. Men, on the other hand, are expected to stick with a tux or a well-planned suit with a bow tie.

Black-Tie Optional

Black-tie optional offers a little more wiggle room. While a floor-sweeping gown and tux are still the best choice for this event, guests can often get away with a formal cocktail dress or a formal suit.

What Not to Wear to a Black-Tie Wedding?

Knowing what not to wear to a black-tie wedding is as important as knowing what to wear.

As a female guest, avoid wearing:

  • A gown that may upstage the bride.
  • Body-baring cutout gowns.
  • Head-to-toe crystals.
  • A white, off-white, or any type of white dress.
  • A dress that has colors that clash with bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Anything that’s even remotely bridal.
  • Short or mini dress.
  • An evening gown for a morning ceremony.

As a male guest, avoid wearing:

  • Outfits that may draw attention away from the groom and guests of honor.
  • Bold-colored suits and prints.

Before We Part…

Now that you know how to “dress to impress” at a black-tie wedding, it’s time to start putting your outfit together. If you’re ever unsure about dressing for a black tie event, just know that it’s always better to be overdressed rather than underdressed. Finally, when following all the black-tie fashion rules, don’t forget to take your own style and comfort into consideration.

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