What Is a Black-Tie Wedding?

It goes beyond the dress code.

When people are invited to a black-tie wedding, they are generally focused on the attire. This makes sense for multiple reasons: first, an attendee needs to make sure they have the appropriate ensemble for the occasion; second, all they really need to do is show up. However, even if a guest wasn’t initially thinking about it, it’s likely they’d be surprised and even put off to arrive to a black-tie wedding to find sparse décor and casual food. That’s because stating “black-tie” on the invitation says more than just the dress code – it also indicates the level of formality from the event. Even the Academy Awards don’t require black tie, although that may be more about allowing the celebrities to express themselves through their fashion. Therefore, when you’re hosting a black-tie wedding, you want to make sure it’s worthy of the dress code.

your guide to a black-tie wedding, how to host a black-tie wedding
Photo by Lane Dittoe Photography; Planning & Design by Thomas Bui Lifestyle

Here are steps, aside from attire, that help to make a black-tie wedding: 

- Start time. Tuxedos are usually considered appropriate when the event begins at 6PM or later. If you’re having a church ceremony, this can be difficult to accommodate but still doable if the reception is in the evening, particularly if the house of worship in question is especially grand. 

- Dinner. While buffets have their advantages, they are not considered appropriate for a black-tie event. Plated dinner service is the proper way to provide a meal for your guests, and the cuisine should be on the upscale side. If you want to embrace comfort food as part of a personal detail, work with your caterer to find a way to keep it formal. 

- Design. As much as we love the look of rustic and boho-chic celebrations, they don’t tend to work for black-tie events. Instead, stick with a sleek, elegant aesthetic that looks as swanky as everyone will feel in their attire. 

- Entertainment. Though not required, we find going with a live band instead of a DJ can add to the atmosphere of a black-tie wedding. You can always use a DJ for the after-party following the reception! 

For more tips, learn if it's ever okay to uninvite a wedding guest and read a guide to tipping vendors

Authored by: Emily Lasnier