Black Tie or Bust: The three options for attending a “Black Tie” wedding

Q: If you are invited to a wedding where the invitation specifically states ‘Black Tie’ then you have three choices to make. You rent a tux, you buy a tux, or you do not attend. Is that correct?

A: Yes.  You are correct, if you don’t have a tux and cannot or do not wish to rent a tux you should not attend the wedding.  If black tie is optional it will be stated as “Black tie optional” in which case you may wear a dark suit with a white shirt and conservative tie.


  1. Joan Meany

    First time mother of the bride/groom, how do I get the message to invited guests that proper attire is expected at the wedding and reception. I’ve noticed here in Midwest many folks think it is OK to wear jeans, polos, T-shirts, shorts or any denim item of apparel and attend a religious wedding ceremony and country club reception. My daughter’s wedding will be a 4 PM church ceremony followed by a dinner reception at a nearby golf club. Can I stand at the front door of the church and send ill-dressed folks home to change their clothes into something appropriate? I know we can add a attire indicator line to the invitation, but “Sunday best attire” doesn’t mean much to some folks. Neither do I expect guests to rent a tuxedo to attend. Even at a funeral recently two women wore denim jackets!

    • Elizabeth

      as you said, you can include a traditional line of attire guidance. Actually, “Sunday-best” isn’t one of them. There’s white-tie or black-tie (or black-tie optional, which usually means the wedding party will be in tuxes and anyone else can join them.) If the country club had a dress code, that would be something to inform your guests of. However – you cannot control what other adults do or wear, and it is considered unseemly to care more for how the guest is dressed than the fact that they showed (usually gift in hand) to celebrate your daughter’s day. Put another way, who cares if a few people are casually dressed if they’re all there to celebrate your family? You absolutely cannot stand and judge each person’s attire as they way in, and “send people home” if they do not meet your criteria. You *might* get away with trying to “spread the word” informally through the bridesmaids that the “bride and groom are looking forward to seeing everyone dressed up!” – but be sure to check with them first, because they may not care about this issue as you do and may not want themselves associated with it.

      • C

        Hey country club on the golf course almost certainly has a dress code. The code should be repeated in the invitation to the reception.

        I don’t know why etiquette experts feel compelled to constantly repeat the canard that adults know how to dress, when plainly they do not. Adding “black-tie “to an invitation was once a shocking innovation, because it was assumed that if you sent an engraved invitation to an event starting at 6 PM, “adults would know how to dress. ” But then people started showing up in lounge suits, and thus the black tie line was born. In the same way, now that people have started showing up to weddings in their gym garb, I think an attire line is perfectly appropriate. It should stick to the traditional rule of naming specific items of clothing, such as lounge suits or coat and tie, rather than wandering off into meaningless formulas like “dressy casual. ”

        If an attire line is good enough for the queen, it’s good enough for me.

    • Alicia

      No you can only control the attire of yourself and your very small kids. Sending someone home would be insanely insulting to your guests.

  2. Terre

    I have been invited to a wedding calling for International Evening Attire. I’ve enlisted the internet and can’t seem to find a definitive answer for this type of dress code. Could you help me?

    • Alicia

      There is no dress code that means this because they made the term up. I’d wear a nice dark suit if a guy and a lovely evening dress if a woman.

  3. I am still unsure what the term on the wedding invitation means: “Black Tie Invited” The wedding starts at 6:15 in the evening. Can anyone give me a definitive answer?
    Thank you for any information regarding my inquiry.
    Mary T.

    • Elizabeth

      This is not a standard phrase. I believe what they mean is “black tie optional, but we really hope you do!” Wear a tux if you own one or can afford to rent one, otherwise a dark suit would also be perfectly appropriate.

  4. How do we dress for a 4 pm wedding ceremony if a black tie optional reception follows at 6pm. My date wants to change in the hotel restroom into his tux. But I feel like I should have a different dress for church and then the ceremony?!

    • Lori C

      Angel, I am not sure why your date is changing in a bathroom instead of wearing his tux to the ceremony. You both should wear your reception clothes to the wedding. Since the invitation says Black Tie Optional, your date may also wear a dark suit to the wedding and reception. Guests are not required to change clothes between the wedding and the reception.

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