What Does Black Tie Optional Mean For A Wedding?

Imagine this; you just received an invitation to the wedding ceremony of one of your closest friends. It’s one that you’ve been looking forward to for so long.

But there’s a catch; the invite states “Black tie optional” as the dress code. 

A black-tie optional dress code can confuse even the best of us. Do you wear a suit? Is a skirt acceptable?

Wedding Thank You Wording for Unatt...
Wedding Thank You Wording for Unattended Guests

How about ties? What ‌shoes should you rock? 

These ‌questions are sure to cross your mind while preparing for the event.

Not to worry though.

This post has you covered. Keep reading to find the answer to the million-dollar question: what does black tie optional mean for a wedding?

What Is A Black Tie Optional Dress Code?  

Black tie optional wedding dress code explained

When an invite lists black-tie optional as its dress code, the organizers are simply trying to tell you that the event is a formal one and, as such, you are expected to come formally dressed.

In plain words, they’re saying, “Hey, we’d like for you to come dressed up in black tie attire, i.e., a tuxedo or an evening gown, but it’s okay if you can’t.

Just make sure you’re looking formal and fancy that day.” 

So you see, the black-tie optional is a slim yet significant deviation from the formality and opulence of the black-tie; it allows you to tone things down a little.

For men, this means you can swap the tuxedo for a dark-colored jacket on pant trousers and matching loafers. 

For ladies, you can tamp down the flamboyance synonymous with the black tie for something a little less formal. 

Remember, this doesn’t mean you can’t choose to go all out and wear a tuxedo or ballgown.

It is a formal event after all, and the couple expects you to dress up.

Instead, it simply means the couple is leaving the door open; you can choose to pull out all the stops synonymous with black tie attire or decide to dial things down a bit.

You can show up in uber fancy attire or settle for something formal instead. 

Black Tie Optional Dress Code For Men

Black tie optional wedding dress code for men and women

As I stated, a black tie optional attire allows you to go a bit more casual. 

The black tie attire for men typically consists of a tuxedo, a crisp white shirt, a black bow tie, and black patent shoes.

However, for a black tie optional, you can switch the tuxedo for a dark-colored suit (maybe dark blue, navy blue, grey, or black). 

Even though a dark suit is the general rule of thumb, it is bendable depending on the time of the wedding and the couple’s preference.

A lighter-colored suit is acceptable if it’s an afternoon event, a summer wedding, or in line with the colors of the day as per the couple’s instructions.

For your dress shirt, white would be your safest bet. White dress shirts paired with dark suits always appear classy and refined.

For footwear, you can stick to black or brown shoes. Although other shoe colors may go with your outfit, it’s always better to err on the side of caution by going for something understatedly elegant.

If you ‌choose to opt for another color of shoes, be careful that they’re formal enough to complement your suit and the entire look. 

Black Tie Optional Dress Code For Ladies

A typical women’s attire for a black-tie event would be a floor-length evening or ball gown paired with heels and accentuated with elegant and eye-catching jewelry. 

Fortunately, a black tie optional opens the door to a world of possibilities.

Instead of the traditional floor-length gown, you could go for a mid-length dress or skirt paired with an elegant blouse.

A sleek jumpsuit or elegant pants suit is also acceptable if you prefer not to wear a dress. You could even flip the narrative by going in a tuxedo.

Now, how cool is that?

Whatever your outfit, you can’t go wrong with a nice pair of heels. But if you’d rather not, then a fancy pair of flats or ankle boots could pass as well.

Anything is fine, provided it complements the look. 

As for jewelry, anything that passes as understated elegance should work. Still, it would be best to avoid overly dramatic or attention-grabbing pieces.

You don’t want your accessories to be the talk of the wedding, now do you? 

Lastly, whatever you do, stay away from white, large flowery prints, or overly bright colors. 

What Not To Wear To A Black Tie Optional Wedding

Black-Tie Optional Wedding Dress Code for Men and Women

Unlike the black tie dress code, a black tie optional leaves a lot to your imagination and gives you enough ground to play around. 

Now we’ve discussed what is acceptable as black tie optional attire, how about we cover what you should never wear to a black tie optional event?

  • Dresses above the knee or mid-thigh: dresses above the knee or mid-thigh are unacceptable for black tie optional events. If you’re not in the mood for a floor-length gown, you should consider a mid-length cocktail dress or skirt.
  • Bright colored suits: for black tie optional events, it’s always best to stick to darker shades like blue, gray, dark brown, or black. Anything else, like tan or light brown, could leave you standing out like a sore thumb at the wedding. Of course, there are some exceptions where the couple designates a color theme. Or other times when it’s a daytime wedding and the card states to come in bright colors.  
  • Floral prints or pattern dresses: black tie optional events still require a modicum of formality, so it’s best to avoid dresses with loud flowery prints or excessively bright designs. Dresses like these tend to have more of a casual than formal look and might not blend in at a black-tie optional event. 
  • Jeans, sneakers, playsuits, and sundresses: yes, you guessed right. Anything overly casual is a no-no for black tie optional events. Showing up in everyday casual clothes is a great wedding faux pas and could leave the couple feeling offended. Let’s not even talk about how awkward and out of place it would be for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Black Tie Optional Dress Code

What’s the difference between a black tie and a black tie optional?

A black-tie event is a formal occasion requiring you to come dressed to the teeth in fancy formal attire.

This involves wearing a tuxedo, a crisp white dress shirt, a bow tie, and black leather shoes for men.

For ladies, it will require a floor-length or ball gown, combined with matching heels and accentuated with elegant jewelry.

A black tie optional on the other and is slightly less serious.

While it calls for formal attire, you can switch the tux for a dark-colored suit and the floor-length evening down for a mid-length dress or a sleek pantsuit.  

In essence, a black tie optional is a black tie event with some room to tamp things down a little. 

Is there a color scheme to follow for a black tie optional wedding?

There usually isn’t a color scheme for black tie optional events except the couple chooses one for the wedding.

However, men are expected to stick to suits in the darker color spectrum since they have a more formal look.

Of course, this is not to say that you could not opt for a suit in a slightly lighter shade if the couple demands it. 

Ladies, on the other hand, do not have to stick with dark-colored dresses.

You can go with any color that looks good on you, provided it’s not white, off-white, ivory, or any color that could be mistaken for white. 

Do I have to wear a tie to a black tie optional event?

Yes, you absolutely have to wear a tie to a black tie optional wedding.

Remember that the underlying rule for a black tie optional event is to “dress formally,” and no formal attire is complete without a tie. 

Whether or not it has to be a black tie is another story entirely.

You can wear a bow tie or go with a dark-colored tie in muted shades of blue, brown, or gray in keeping with the formal dress code. 

Final Thoughts

A black tie optional dress code can be confusing for even the most fashionable of us.

But thanks to this guide, you won’t have to rack your head when picking an outfit for your next black tie optional wedding invite.

Here’s a brief recap:

  • Black tie optional events require you to dress up but are not as formal as black tie events.
  • It’s not appropriate for an adult to wear an overly short dress. Anything shorter than mid-length may not look formal enough.
  • Men can tone down the seriousness of a tuxedo by opting for a dark-colored suit on a crisp white dress shirt.
  • Wearing a tie is compulsory.

Stick with these guidelines, and you’ll be sure to blend right in at your next black-tie optional event.