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How Should Men Dress for a Black-Tie Wedding?

Attending your first black-tie wedding and unsure of what to wear? Read our full, comprehensive guide on the most appropriate men’s attire that will make you look like you just stepped off the red carpet.

By Jennifer Prince

How Should Men Dress for a Black-Tie Wedding
Photo by Paige Newton

Whether it’s the Golden Globes or the Grammys, many of us—male and female—watch for the styles. The fashion chatter usually centers around the ladies; however, there is something to be said for a guy who can successfully achieve a red carpet look. So, take your cues from award show fashion to gain inspiration for what to wear to a black-tie wedding, and forget about any casual attire.

Although some guys go off-script and wear colorful and downright outlandish looks, it’s best to stick to the formal dress code rules when attending a black-tie wedding. After all, not many can pull off the fashions that Lil Nas X wears at the Grammys. Actually, for most occasions, black-tie attire means a tuxedo. It’s the height of style, and, consequently, it’s an effortless look to sport. We’ll tell you how with our guide to dressing in your black-tie best for an evening wedding.

How Should Men Dress for a Black-Tie Wedding? Photo Credit // Unsplash

Black Tie Dress Code Explained

First things first—before we jump into how to dress for a black tie wedding, let's quickly cover where, exactly, the black-tie dress tie comes from.

Black tie is a semi-formal dress code that dates back to the 19th century. The dress code was popularized both in Britain and America. Both tuxedos and dark suits fall under the "black tie" umbrella—and while the dress code is semi-formal, it's generally appropriate wedding attire for more formal events.

The Perfect Pieces for a Black-Tie Wedding Look

Black-tie attire means that you should be wearing a black tuxedo or a dark suit (black suits, dark blue suits, and gray suits are all appropriate), but you can still let your personality shine through. With a few simple guidelines, you can put an outfit together worthy of the red carpet or wedding aisle.

  • Tuxedo Jacket : There are several styles of jackets. that work for black tie looks, like dinner jackets, tuxedo jackets, and more formal blazers. However, the common denominator in men’s black-tie suiting is the presence of satin on the lapels. Satin fabric also hides the buttons, which elevates the look. Although black is the standard for black-tie events, darker tones of blue (like midnight blue) are acceptable. A good rule of thumb is to leave the single button closure fastened while standing, to maintain a fitted look.

  • Trousers : Pants should match the jacket in both fabric and color. Satin goes down the outside seam on each pant leg, which serves to enhance the look.

  • Crisp, Collared Shirt : A white shirt is the only acceptable color, but there is a little leeway with styling. Some tuxedo shirts are wing-tipped, but a well-constructed oxford would also suffice. Authentic tux shirts also have small pleats vertically across the chest to add interest. If you don't have an authentic tux shirt, ensure that your white dress shirt looks up to par.

  • Black Shoes : Shiny, patent leather dress shoes are the norm for tuxedos, although quality black leather shoes will do the trick. Don’t forget to wear socks. Over the calf, dark socks are ideal.

  • Black Bow Tie : A bow tie allows those tiny pleats in the shirt to have their moment in the sun. Black is the traditional color, and be sure that your necktie neckwear is solid, not patterned.

  • White Pocket Square : Dark jackets are in stark contrast to a pure white pocket square. However, it’s incredible how a tiny square of fabric can create a cohesive look.

  • Cufflinks : Unless you’re wearing an oxford, most tuxedo shirts close at the wrist with cufflinks. Subtly is better than going crazy with color, and be sure to match your cufflinks with other metals that you’re wearing.

  • Studs : Although you will look like a stud in a tux, that’s not quite where we’re going with this. Upon close inspection, most tuxedo shirts have studs instead of buttons. These aren’t 100 percent necessary, but they do add to the look. Also, be sure to match metals with your cufflinks and other jewelry pieces.

  • Vest or Cumberbund : These pieces are never meant to be worn in tandem. Covering your midsection with a cumberbund or vest is posh, but not completely necessary. If you do decide to wear one, remember that this isn’t high school. Black is best, so stay away from vibrant colors meant for prom.

How Should Men Dress for a Black-Tie Wedding? Photo Credit // Unsplash

Where to Get a Tux for a Black-Tie Wedding

How to Rent a Tuxedo Locally

Most guys don’t have a tux hanging in their closet, but if they do, chances are that it doesn’t get much use. That’s where rentals come in handy. Many local bridal salons and upscale men’s shops rent tuxedos to grooms and other wedding party members. Chances are that they can get you one, too.

Pros of Renting a Tux Locally

An advantage of heading somewhere in person is that you can ensure a perfect fit. Also, if something is wrong—a missing button or loose hem—they can order another piece or fix it on site. You can also see fabrics and styles in person, which is a huge plus.

Cons of Renting a Tux Locally

The downside to renting is usually drop-off times, especially if you’re traveling and rent at your final destination. Returning your tux before an early Sunday morning flight may prove difficult.

How to Rent a Tux Online

It seems that you can do just about anything with the internet at your fingertips, and renting a tux is one of them. Many businesses specialize in formalwear rentals, so be sure to select a longstanding one with a good reputation.

Pros of Renting a Tux Online

Quite often, companies have strict measurement guidelines on their website. However, many online rental sites will send you a tuxedo to test out before the main event. They are also a bit more flexible with return times, giving up to 72 hours to ship your pieces back.

Cons of Renting a Tux Online

Although rentals usually come with quick shipping, it’s tough to solve problems right away if something arrives damaged. Unless you can do a try on ahead of time, selecting fabrics and styles from afar can prove challenging.

Where to Buy a Tuxedo

If you’re the exception and have quite a few black-tie events coming up, investing in a tuxedo can save money in the long run. Many men’s clothiers sell tuxedos, although purchasing online is also an option. Be sure to order it well in advance of your black-tie wedding so that you can make exchanges if necessary.

In the Case of Black-Tie Optional

Yikes! You’re all set with what black-tie is, but the invitation adds one tiny, scary word after it—optional. Don’t worry. Demystifying the terminology is easier than it sounds, but this never, ever means that jeans and your favorite band t-shirt are okay.

Black-tie optional attire for weddings is a bit more relaxed than a tuxedo. Often, couples choose this option to alleviate any financial burden for their guests. After all, the expense of traveling and buying a wedding gift is enough without having to spring for new suiting. So, seeing the word “optional” is a good thing.

Think of it as mimicking a tuxedo without wearing one. Dark suiting with a crisp, white shirt and black shoes are ideal. Also, add traditional accessories, such as a pocket square, dark bow tie, and cufflinks. Skip the studs and cumberbund, but feel free to wear a vest if you have one that matches your suit.

The rule of thumb is to stick to the dress code and wear your most formal wear. If you don’t own a suit, it’s probably the time to invest in one, or you could go the tuxedo rental route.

Quick tip: Black-tie optional can also be referenced as “black-tie preferred.”

So, whether you’re headed to a black-tie wedding or are one of the fortunate ones to walk the red carpet at a black-tie event, use our guide to get it right. With a few key pieces—either borrowed or purchased—you’ll soon be looking your best at the season’s best events. Which, of course, includes weddings.

FAQs About Black Tie Dress Code

Still not 100% clear on what the black tie dress code is—and how to ensure your wedding attire fits that dress code? Let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about black tie wedding attire to give some additional perspective:

  1. What is the difference between a tuxedo and a suit? The main difference between a tuxedo and a suit is that tuxedos have a host of satin features—like lapels, buttons, and pant stripes—that suits do not.

  2. What kinds of weddings have black tie dress codes? The black tie dress code is reserved for events that take place in the evenings—so weddings that start after 6pm or so may have a black tie dress code, while more casual daytime affairs would not.

  3. What is the difference between a black tie and a white tie wedding dress code? White tie is the most formal dress code—and as such, is reserved for formal occasions. Black tie is considered semi-formal.

  4. What should you do if you're invited to a black tie wedding—but don't have a tuxedo? Not to worry! Most men don't own tuxedos. There are plenty of places where you can rent a tuxedo, whether you're a wedding guest or in the wedding party—and if that's not an option, a dark suit would also be appropriate.

  5. Is there any way to incorporate color into black tie wedding attire? While there aren't many opportunities for incorporating color into black tie wedding attire, if it's important to you, you could add a pop of color with accessories, like a pocket square.

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