So you just received a black tie optional invitation for a formal event. Maybe it’s your friends New Year’s Eve wedding, maybe you are attending a formal corporate event or a charity event. What does this mean?!
First off, don’t panic. Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo is going to guide you through traditional etiquette for a formal event and even share acceptable trends that we are seeing in the Philadelphia region.
What is a Black Tie Event
A black tie event is considered one of the most formal of events. Traditionally, a black tie event requires you to wear a tuxedo. Usually a dark jacket with satin on the lapel. The jacket does not have to be black. It can be a darker color like navy or dark grey. In summer months, you can also consider an ivory jacket with a back lapel. We often only recommend white jackets during summer months and in tropical regions but trends we have been seeing lately have relaxed the true traditional etiquette of colors. We will dive deeper into different color options and trends that we have been seeing a bit later.
Do you really have to wear an actual black tie? Not really but we’ll discuss the long tie and bow tie issues in more detail later in our blog.
Does Optional Really Mean Optional?
The invitation says black tie optional, so do I need to wear a tuxedo? Several years ago, we had a customer come into our store with the wedding invitation in hand. The invitation stated “Black Tie Optional”. His humorous comment to us was that “you will be a fool if you show up without a tuxedo on; you’ll be the only one”! While his comment made us chuckle, it is only partially true.
We do believe it’s always better to be smartly dressed. It is not common to stick out at an event in a bad way when you are dressed better than others. So wearing a nice fitted, classic tuxedo never makes you look bad! Some guests choose to forego the tuxedo and just wear one of their suits. Why do they do this? Reasons typically include that they want to save the expense of renting a tuxedo or they are not comfortable wearing something that formal.
Black Tie Requested
Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo has over 70 different styles of tuxedos and suits available for rent. We have full formal attire for you that will not break the bank. If you are a guest of the wedding, you don’t need to go overboard. No need to rent a Michael Kor’s tuxedo. We’ll help you find the correct attire in the budget you need.
If the invitation indicates that it is a black tie event, then etiquette is that you wear a tuxedo. We recommend not straying from that request out of the respect for the individuals making the request and to stick with tradition.
Tuxedo Trends and Traditions
So let’s start with tradition. The most traditional look is a black or dark tuxedo jacket with a black satin bow tie, vest, matching tuxedo pants and patent leather shoes. Another long-time tradition is wearing a velvet tuxedo jacket. Although we don’t see many velvet tuxedo jackets at formal events, it is an option that will allow you to stay with tradition and stand out in a classy way. You do have the option of wearing a cummerbund instead of a vest however, trend-wise, we’ve seen far more vests than cummerbunds. We personally like vests because you can match your tuxedo jacket with the same exact fabric and color with the vest, giving it a clean and cohesive look. As an example, if you wear our Ike Behar Charcoal gray tuxedo, you can wear the matching charcoal gray vest.
We love tradition, however with so many different color tuxedos available for rent now, we have seen very varied looks and trends. Navy and cobalt blue have been very popular for over five years now. Varying shades of gray have also been very popular for events. We have very light gray tuxedos all the way to gray tuxedos that are so dark that they almost look black.
While you can’t really go wrong with a black satin bow tie, we have a few ideas for you. If you are attending the event with someone, you can certainly wear a bow or long tie that matches the color of her dress. Further, you can accent the color with a pocket square that matches the bow tie color as well. This is a really nice way to tie the couple together and still look formal.
Of course, we prefer bow ties, however, we have seen people wear both bow ties and long ties to black tie events. While long ties are not overly traditional for such events, it has become acceptable to wear them. Some men are just not comfortable in bow ties and prefer long ties. In addition, there is one practical reason we have seen when guys do not want to wear a bow tie. If they have a longer beard, you cannot even see the bow tie because the beard covers it. In this particular case, guys will choose a long tie and pocket square.
The Most Formal of Events – White Tie
If you are attending the most formal event, then a black waistcoat (often known as a tailcoat or tails) with a white pique bow tie, vest and shirt are in order. Patent leather shoes are a must for this tuxedo and matching black tuxedo pants. We usually finish off the look with white and gold studs and cufflinks and a white pocket square. If you want to stick to true tradition, white gloves would be appropriate but not necessary.
So when is it the most formal event? Usually the invitation will say “white tie” event or waistcoat or tailcoat requested. Common events that require this type of attire are debutante balls, very formal weddings or one of the better known events in the Philadelphia region is the annual Concert and Ball at the Academy of Music. Every year many sponsors and attendees of the Academy Ball come to Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo to rent a very formal tuxedo for the event. This is a fine Philadelphia tradition that has been going on for over 163 years and is a benefit to maintain and restore the Academy of Music located at 240 S Broad Street in Philadelphia.
Play It Safe
So if you are lucky enough to be invited to a black tie affair, your best bet is to stick with a black or navy tuxedo with satin black bow tie. However with so many variations available today, stop by Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo and we will suggest just the right tuxedo and accessories at the right price. Do you have a question about black tie affairs? Text our store telephone number and we will give you personal advice: 215-491-8500.
About the author: Franco Salerno is co-founder and co-owner of Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo, now in their eighth year in business. In that time, he built the tuxedo department into a force rivaling big box stores by providing expertise, caring service, and beautiful, quality formal wear. Personally invested in every transaction, Mr. Salerno provides customers with the utmost trust and confidence, assuring their wedding or formal event attire will be perfect. A native of Philadelphia, he currently resides in Warrington, Bucks County with his wife and store co-founder/co-owner Wendy, and their two daughters for whom the store was named, Daria and Deanna.