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Etiquette

Black Tie Optional?

What does "black tie optional" mean? We are having our reception at a mansion and it will be a formal sit down in the evening. My relatives suggested making it "black tie optional." I'm considering it I guess, but I don't know what it would mean for my guests. Opinions? Past experiences?
And try not to get too negative, please. I noticed some ladies have strong feelings on the subject; let's keep it a calm discussion. I just want to get some info. Thanks!
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Re: Black Tie Optional?

  • I think it means the men can wear tuxedos if they want, but don't need to. If they don't, they wear a suit.

    To be proper, it would need to be held in the evening (as opposed to the day time). Wearing a tuxedo in the morning for example is incorrect.
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    libby18bell
  • We went with Black Tie Invited - our wedding will be black tie/formal  (high end food, venue, , formal seating etc) but because it's August and by the ocean we know not everyone has a tux (i can't believe i'm typing this, but if they were already "summering" and only have dark suits w/ them). Everyone we've invited knows what this means - eveningwear. Long dresses for women and tuxes or suits for men. We've had no questions or complaints.
  • I would steer clear of "black tie optional". No one ends up wearing black tie and those that do feel out of place because everyone isn't. It's awkward.

    I would either have a black tie wedding or not. But as QueerFemme said, black tie is more than a dress code. It's an event style with top shelf open bar, live band, valet, a really nice cocktail hour with passed apps, often a meal with several courses, etc. If you tell your guests black tie, just make sure you host a reception to match.
    PrettyGirlLost
  • I didn't think of that. Black Tie Invited. Hmmmm something else to think about.
  • KCL - definitely consider it. I wrestled with it it for a while bc I didnt' like "optional" and this has totally served our purposes. Basiaclly we wanted people to know that it's a formal wedding (bc summer at the ocean, it could be literally anything, even at a nice resort), and to know that if they had a tux they could wear it, but that a suit would also be fine.
  • I think it also depends on your crowd - most of our friends own tuxes, so they like a reason to dust them off and wear them (i would expect 70-80 percent will be in black tie). If your friends are more causal, it might not work as well, as southernbelle has experienced. I definitely would not want a lot of ppl to have to go buy or rent something just to attend the wedding.

  • Honestly, I'm confused.

    White tie: most formal events (Hollywood, charity balls, etc)
    Black tie: evening events where tuxedos are required
    Morning suit: formal daytime event

    I always thought then Black tie optional was "wear a tux if you want but if you don't want to rent or don't have one, a dark suit is perfectly acceptable." Maybe proper wording is "black tie invited" and not "black tie optional." But, it would imply that white tie was incorrect, but a pair of chinos would also be incorrect.

    And, in my area, it is alway presumed that a function like this (a wedding) has high end appetizers, fully hosted open bar, sit down dinner, dancing, etc. So that wouldn't cross my mind (to have fancy dress at a not so fancy event). If it is not the above, it will say (beach bbq/cocktail reception/cake and punch in basement immediately following ceremony, etc)

    I was also under the assumption that "black tie" could be ruder in a sense cause it requires all men to rent a tuxedo if they don't already own - the option doesn't put anyone in an awkward situation (if the don't have they money, etc.) And the event is still a formal evening event.

    This is not something I have seen or am doing, I'm just honestly curious.
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  • Black tie "invited" is no different than "optional".   It's just a different word.    Don't tell people how to dress unless it's an actual black tie event.  @thebaysidebride   without further details, I don't know if your event was actually a black tie event, but for the most part, most people's events aren't.  

    A lot of brides come here and they are hosting their event in a Marriott ballroom and want to ask for black tie.  um. no.

     

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    NYCMercedesPrettyGirlLostwittykitty14
  • Haha no, queerfemme, it's at a very high end resort, three days of hosted parties, multi-course meals, formal invites, the works. It's basically a full-on NYC wedding, by the ocean in New England. Nothing informal about it. Our crowd seems to have absolutely no problem with it, they're excited to break out the formal attire, and the few who are already up near our place without their tuxes are wearing dark suits.

    Etiquette-wise, I have no qualms w/ this, and neither do our guests. The few who don't have tuxes with them appreciate that dark suits suffice.

    I

  • Honest question, why is there a need to indicate that black tie is optional or invited?  

    Isn't a tuxedo always appropriate for a formal evening affair?  Or am I missing a point of etiquette that says its rude to wear one at a wedding that isn't black tie (like upstaging the groom or something if he's just wearing a suit)?
    Don't worry guys, I have the Wedding Police AND the Whambulance on speed dial!
    PrettyGirlLostLiatris2010
  • Martha says it's an option (and notes that some etiquette experts don't add "optional") - but it goes along with what my thoughts were originally (that you can wear a tux, it will be a high end event, but a dark suit is perfectly acceptable.)


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    [Deleted User]
  • "Black tie optional" is just that - it's optional. If you have a tux you can wear it or not.

    I have known people to use "Black tie optional" to indicate that they want people to dress up more than they would for the average wedding yet they don't host a truly black tie event - which is so terribly rude and inconsiderate. 

    To avoid potential confusion, I would tell people "Black tie" or nothing. IMHO "optional" is confusing.
  • QueerFemmeQueerFemme
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
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    edited July 2013
    NYCBruin said:
    Honest question, why is there a need to indicate that black tie is optional or invited?  

    Isn't a tuxedo always appropriate for a formal evening affair?  Or am I missing a point of etiquette that says its rude to wear one at a wedding that isn't black tie (like upstaging the groom or something if he's just wearing a suit)?

    The formality of the event is relayed by the invitation style and the venue.  A tuxedo is never inappropriate for a truly formal event.  But, in all honesty, for the most part these days, weddings RARELY reach the level of that formality anymore.

    ETA:  Kinda like asking your guests to dress up and giving them a drink ticket.   People want people to dress formal, but they rarely host them in that capacity.
     

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    NYCMercedesPrettyGirlLostLiatris2010
  • Thanks for the input, everyone! I appreciate it.
  • NYC - in our case, the wedding is in New England, by the ocean, and a lot of weddings there are more casual - like Nantucket reds and blazers, and lobster bakes. That's why we indicted Black Tie Invited. As I've indicated above, this has been nothing but positive for us. WIthout indicating black tie, no one would have assumed it was formal.
  • NYCBruin said:
    Honest question, why is there a need to indicate that black tie is optional or invited?  

    Isn't a tuxedo always appropriate for a formal evening affair?  Or am I missing a point of etiquette that says its rude to wear one at a wedding that isn't black tie (like upstaging the groom or something if he's just wearing a suit)?

    The formality of the event is relayed by the invitation style and the venue.  A tuxedo is never inappropriate for a truly formal event.  But, in all honesty, for the most part these days, weddings RARELY reach the level of that formality anymore.

    ETA:  Kinda like asking your guests to dress up and giving them a drink ticket.   People want people to dress formal, but they rarely host them in that capacity.
     

    Thanks for the explanation!  This thread just got me wondering if FI had committed some terrible faux pas since he owns a tux and has worn it to a few weddings that did not indicate Black Tie on the invitation.  These weddings were truly formal and probably even met the "requirements" of Black Tie (top shelf open bar, passed hot appetizers, 4-5 course meal, band, etc.) without actually requiring Black Tie.

    And I totally agree with your edit.  I think it goes along with many of the rude things people on these boards do that all essentially boil down to caring more about a certain look/vibe than treating guests with respect.
    Don't worry guys, I have the Wedding Police AND the Whambulance on speed dial!
    NYCMercedes
  • I don't understand why black tie optional is rude and inconsiderate--it's just that--"optional."  Wear it if you want or don't.  I don't mind these at all, because it gives me the option to wear either a long gown or a cocktail dress.   Sometimes I don't have any reason to wear a long evening gown I have hanging in my closet, and if I get an invite like this, I think, cool, I can wear my gown if I want and I won't be side-eyed as overdressed.
  • I don't understand why black tie optional is rude and inconsiderate--it's just that--"optional."  Wear it if you want or don't.  I don't mind these at all, because it gives me the option to wear either a long gown or a cocktail dress.   Sometimes I don't have any reason to wear a long evening gown I have hanging in my closet, and if I get an invite like this, I think, cool, I can wear my gown if I want and I won't be side-eyed as overdressed.

    Good point.
  • NYCBruinNYCBruin
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    edited July 2013
    I don't understand why black tie optional is rude and inconsiderate--it's just that--"optional."  Wear it if you want or don't.  I don't mind these at all, because it gives me the option to wear either a long gown or a cocktail dress.   Sometimes I don't have any reason to wear a long evening gown I have hanging in my closet, and if I get an invite like this, I think, cool, I can wear my gown if I want and I won't be side-eyed as overdressed.
    Well cash bars are also rude even though guests have the "option" to purchase a drink or not.

    Maybe you don't mind being overdressed, but whenever I'm overdressed, I'm extremely uncomfortable.  Because if it's black tie optional and I'm the only one in a floor length dress besides the bride, I feel overdressed.

    I think the rudeness comes in because a couple wants their guests to look a certain way without having to pay for the trimmings of a true Black Tie event.  Trying to dictate what your guests wear is rude.  Adults can figure out how to dress themselves.  

    ETA clarity.
    Don't worry guys, I have the Wedding Police AND the Whambulance on speed dial!
    NYCMercedesMaggie0829PrettyGirlLost
  • It's not the WHAT you're telling/asking your guests to wear that's rude (using "you" in a general sense throughout here), it's THAT you're telling them to wear it. "Blue jeans optional" is just as rude as "black tie optional." Unless there is a specific dress code mandated by the venue, then adults can choose what they want to to wear. That rules applies for all inbetweens from sweatpants to white tie. You CAN wear your gown or blue jeans any day of the week, you don't need permission to do so. Most people can take hints given the formality or informality of venue, invitation, time of day, etc. of what's appropriate. But you shouldn't be telling them "THIS" but not "THIS." If you really think three little words on the bottom of an invite will stop someone from wearing jeans if they damned well please, I'm sad to say you're mistaken. 
  • I've only seen BTO once, and stressed out because I didn't want to buy a long formal gown when I owned plenty of cocktail dresses. I was worried I would be underdressed.

    Only to show up to a wedding where the WP was in suits and short dresses. WTF was the point of BTO then? Just to prevent people from wearing jeans? 
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    lisabeatsPrettyGirlLostsouthernbelle0915FizzySips
  • CrazyCatLady3CrazyCatLady3
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Name Dropper First Answer
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    edited July 2013
    I still don't find it rude.  I don't see it as telling me what to wear.  I see it as telling me to feel free to dress to the nines if I want to; otherwise, wear what I would otherwise wear to a wedding.  

    If someone puts actual "black tie" and not BTO on an invite, and then hosts an event that's not truly black tie, then that would be rude.  

    And if you know you don't like to feel overdressed at a BTO wedding, then you know next time you get such an invitation not to wear a long evening gown.  I think "optional" implies that not every single guest is going to show up in black tie attire.  Simple; no need to get offended so easily.
    MandyMost
  • edited July 2013
    daria24 said:

    I've only seen BTO once, and stressed out because I didn't want to buy a long formal gown when I owned plenty of cocktail dresses. I was worried I would be underdressed.


    Only to show up to a wedding where the WP was in suits and short dresses. WTF was the point of BTO then? Just to prevent people from wearing jeans? 
    Exactly. When it's used, it's used because people don't know wtf Black Tie is and just think it 'sounds fancy'. They couldn't be communicating ignorance more clearly than if they pointed at a giraffe and started talking about what a lovely unicorn it is.
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  • I didn't think of that. Black Tie Invited. Hmmmm something else to think about.
    Then please think that it is a silly and bad idea.

    You never mention attire on invites unless your venue has an actual dress code (some country clubs) or you are actually having a black or white tie event.

    A mansion and a groom in a tux do not a black tie event make.

    To quote @Stagemanager14, black tie events begin after 6pm and have the following criteria:

    "Valet Service

    Gloved service and passed apps

    Multi-course gourmet level meal (generally 5 to 7 courses, and preferably with dual entrees or tableside ordering)

    Full open bar with top shelf everything

    Live music or entertainment (and a DJ or secondary performers for when the entertainment takes breaks).  

    Formal venue such as mansion, ballroom, etc.  (You're not going to pull of black tie in the multi-purpose event space at the local Mariott, no matter how many strings of Christmas lights you hang.)

    Top of the line linens, real silver, fine china, etc for tables"

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    [Deleted User]wittykitty14southernbelle0915coopergirl15
  • Haha no, queerfemme, it's at a very high end resort, three days of hosted parties, multi-course meals, formal invites, the works. It's basically a full-on NYC wedding, by the ocean in New England. Nothing informal about it. Our crowd seems to have absolutely no problem with it, they're excited to break out the formal attire, and the few who are already up near our place without their tuxes are wearing dark suits.

    Etiquette-wise, I have no qualms w/ this, and neither do our guests. The few who don't have tuxes with them appreciate that dark suits suffice.

    I

    Ok, then shouldn't your guests be able to figure out from your venue and the formality of your invites that your wedding isn't a lobster bake without you having to write "Black Tie Invited" on your invites?
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    QueerFemmesouthernbelle0915
  • I think I'm reading a disconnect between having a non-fancy event and putting "Black Tie Optional" as a way of telling people not to wear jeans vs. a true formal function with "Black Tie Optional" telling guests that they can wear a tux if they choose, or a suit.

    I have never attended a wedding where FI has not worn a suit, and where the above criteria stated by @PrettyGirlLost was not the case (except in daytime formal weddings  - where morning suits were worn by VIPS and suits by all other guests, but with the same level of hosting. Or, a wedding at the beach that was casual, but still hosted with a sit down dinner and open bar, etc.)

    I still believe at this level of event, "Black Tie Optional" means wear a suit (which we know all guests were going to do anyway) or a tux if you want to dress up a bit more (implying that other men will be in tuxes as well.)

    I've never imagined "Black Tie Optional" to mean "don't wear jeans and please look nice cause we don't think you know how to dress and we just want you to play dress up for our cash bar and cake reception."

    FI owns a tux - Black Tie Optional to us would mean he would have an opportunity to wear it, and would not look out of place, even though the event is formally hosted (valet, cocktail hour, 4 course seated meal, live music, open bar, etc.) His suit would always be appropriate (unless it was white tie), but otherwise he wouldn't go for the tux option unless he knew others were going to as well (even though it would be correct, but could look overdone if all other men are in suits.)

    Just my opinion though.

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