What Does Black Tie Optional Mean: What To Wear and Outfit Ideas

May 23, 2023 | riley

Image by Grace Torres

So you’ve been invited to a wedding, and the invitation states that the dress code is black tie optional (or black tie encouraged). You’re left wondering what you should wear–you don’t want to look too formal, but you also don’t want to be too casual. This dress code has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years to encourage guests to dress up without feeling the pressure of a true black tie dress code. However, if you’ve never attended a wedding with this particular requested attire before, you may be left feeling confused.

Here at Junebug, we’re here to help couples planning their weddings and wedding guests alike. That’s why we’re here to break down what black tie optional means and even give you a few outfit ideas so you don’t have to spend all your time at the mall or online shopping.

What Does Black Tie Optional Mean?

Before we can give you outfit ideas, we have to break down what the dress code entails. In simple terms, the couple tying the knot would like to see all of their guests get dressed up. Although a gown or tux is not required, the newlyweds would appreciate it. The term is vague for a reason–the couple is giving you flexibility in your outfit choice. This is ideal for those who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on wedding guest attire.

 To paint a picture, there’s a good chance that the wedding party will be wearing tuxedos and floor-length bridesmaid dresses, so guests should match the formality of the wedding. 

Image by Laura Diliberto

How to Decide How Formal You Should Be

If you’ve received a black tie optional invitation and you’re not sure what to wear, the first thing you can look at is the venue and the season of the wedding. If the wedding is in the summer and you’re concerned about being too hot, you may choose to go for a cocktail dress or a long gown with a slit for some breathability–though there are ways you can still dress this up, too. If it’s winter, lean into the warmer colors and long gowns. 

The same goes for the venue. Is it taking place in a garden? Don’t be afraid to rock a floral gown to match the outdoor setting. Is the affair going to be Italian-themed? Think about what you’d wear to a formal dinner on the Amalfi Coast.

Recommended Reading: Wedding Guest Dresses for Every Type of Wedding

How Should You Do Your Hair and Makeup?

Because you are going to be dressed up, your hair and makeup should match. Now’s the chance to experiment and take your regular routine up a notch. Not typically one to wear bold makeup? Go for it. Wear your hair up most of the time? Don a half-up-half-down hairstyle or loose waves. 

Black Tie Optional Outfit Ideas

Black Tie Optional Dresses

We know that picking out the perfect outfit for upcoming weddings is more overwhelming than one would think. Choosing the perfect outfit is just part of the fun of going to a wedding after all. If you’ve got a wedding coming up, we’re helping you find the outfit of your dream, no matter what season. Have a summer wedding coming up? We got you! Maybe fall. You’re covered there too. Same with winter and spring too. Happy shopping!

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  1. As someone who has attended numerous events with dress codes ranging from casual to black tie, I must admit that the phrase “black tie optional” used to leave me scratching my head. However, after diving into the topic and understanding its intricacies, I’ve come to appreciate the versatility and freedom it offers.

    In this blog post, the author has done a commendable job of demystifying the enigma of black tie optional, providing valuable insights into what to wear and offering outfit ideas that cater to different personal styles.

  2. Thank you for this!

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