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We’re switching things up in Southern Style! While I’m still talking fashion, today I’m answering a question that we often receive from brides. I’m actually quite familiar with today’s question, as I asked it myself when planning my own wedding! And it is: “Can my wedding be black tie?” The simple answer? Yes! For the longer version, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a black tie wedding…

When we were planning our wedding, my husband Brandon was very laid-back, as usual. However, he had one request: to wear a tuxedo with tails. Needless to say, we had not intended to have a celebration quite that formal, so we compromised: he wore tails, but not white gloves or a top hat! :) With his fashion choice confirmed, a few other wedding day details were settled for us, like our ceremony and reception start times. Traditional etiquette recommends no black tie before 6pm; however, modern etiquette has allowed that if the reception begins after 6, black tie is acceptable.

Image credit: Alex + Andrew and Lyndsie + John

Brandon’s attire also helped shape our bridesmaid dress selection. Since the groomsmen were wearing tuxes with tails, my gals needed to wear long gowns with a bit more formality than originally planned. I opted for black silk floor-length gowns that were dressed up even more with classic pearl necklaces (my bridesmaid gifts!). While black tie does limit the groomsmen color palette, it doesn’t have to narrow your bridesmaid choices. Black tie bridesmaid attire is a fun place to bring in color and even a bit of sparkle, like Lynze did with her girls. Do note that your gals gowns should be floor-length regardless of color.

Image credit: Lyndsie + John, Jordan + David, and Alex + Andrew.

A few other details to marinate on if you’re considering a black tie celebration:

– The venue. While chic tents are natural fits for black tie events, it might not be real easy to wear a floor-length gown down a dirt path. If your guests will be dressing in black tie (and likely heels, too), make sure you’ve thought through the ways they’ll navigate your ceremony and reception spots.
– The decor. While simple is often better, guests won’t feel overdressed if your tables are dressed up, too!
– The menu. I might be speaking for myself, but I can’t imagine how scared I’d be to eat juicy BBQ while wearing a beaded gown. We’re all for a mix of high- and low-brow details, but your guests will probably expect the food to reflect the effort they’ve put in to look their best for you, so make sure it’s delicious and feels a bit fancy!
– Your gown. A groom standing beside you in a tuxedo is the perfect opportunity to choose that extra ruffly or sparkly gown you’ve been eyeing. But if a more casual gown is more your style, consider adding some extra elegance through your accessories.
– Your couple style. While Brandon and I tend to be homebodies, we knew we wanted to get all dolled up for our wedding day and give our guests an reason to get a little extra fancy, so black tie was the right fit for us. But it’s definitely not the right fit for everyone, so be sure to think of your personal style.

And last but certainly not least, your guests! According to Emily Post, black tie calls for gents in black tuxedos with formal (piqué or pleated front) white shirts, bow ties, and cummerbunds. Gloves are not required, and in the summer white dinner jackets with black tuxedo paints are acceptable. Belles should don formal floor-length gowns, a very dressy cocktail dress, or their dressiest little black dress. Of course, if you do go with a cocktail dress, be sure to dress it up with your sparkliest jewels and highest heels! Ms. Post also says that you should not mention attire on a formal invitation. However, she does say that you can mention it on a reception invitation or card. Your wedding website is also a great place to include dress code.

Will you/did you have a black tie wedding? I’d love to hear from you!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Ellie reply

    We’re having a black tie optional wedding to make it a little easier on guests. My dress is pretty grand, my fiance has a midnight blue tux, and our venue is a histroic space in Charleston, so black tie felt like the natural way to go!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Ellie! That sounds like an absolute dream! I am sure guests will be tickled pink to get all gussied up! Love the midnight blue tux option as well. xx, MAK

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Marissa, I always love all your posts, but this one is just SO up my alley! I agree with everything you said here related to black tie – from timing, to the white dinner jacket exception, to ladies in cocktail length dresses taking it up a notch with accessories and heels, and most of all, to NOT including attire info on the formal printed invite! My wedding is this Saturday and the ceremony starts at 5:30pm, meaning a 6pm cocktail hour and 7pm reception. We have always wanted black tie and went for it based on modern etiquette rules! We considered pushing ceremony to 6pm, but since it is outside, our photographer really recommended we keep it at 5:30pm for lighting reasons. Glad you agree that what we did is A-OK :) Thanks for a great post!!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Emily, you just made my day! Thank you so much for your kind words. I was married in December, so we too were chasing light. Our ceremony was at 5pm and the reception started at 6pm, so we just slid right in with etiquette. I’m sure your wedding will be magical and congratulations for the upcoming weekend!! xx, MAK

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For fellow college sweethearts Megan and Jack, getting to know each other meant walking to and from their dorm rooms for early morning classes at UVA. But when it came time to plan their wedding, they knew they wanted their celebration to highlight the beauty and history of their hometown of Richmond. With many out of town guests, Megan and Jack wanted to share as much of its charm as possible, so it’s no surprise they chose the beautiful Tuckahoe Plantation as their reception venue! Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, guests were served family-style as a way to encourage connections — a choice that easily became Megan’s favorite from the night!

Thanks to Ashley Cox for sharing M + J’s beautiful black tie wedding with us!

I love cascading bouquets, and I chose flowers that were mainly white with hints of blue and green. My bridesmaids’ dresses were a neutral color, so I wanted the flowers to provide a small pop of color. Our florist did an amazing job taking my vision and putting together bouquets that reflected my style.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. For the ceremony, we chose mostly classical music. For walking down the aisle, we wanted something sweet and peaceful, so we chose Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” At the reception, we had an incredible band called Soul Expressions who played mainly Motown and jazz music. We wanted music that would get everyone up and dancing. Our first dance song was “More” by Frank Sinatra. We love his music and felt that this song really encapsulated how we feel about one another.

Our priest, Father Michael Renninger, was wonderful. He met with us many times before the wedding to really get to know us as a couple, and he did a pre-rehearsal rehearsal for just the two of us so that we wouldn’t have to worry about making any decisions the day before the wedding (for example, what we wanted to be introduced to the congregation as). He has been a family friend for many years, but it was great to talk to him as a couple. More than half of our guests are not Catholic, and we think that Father Mike did a great job of making everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Shopping for my wedding dress was surprisingly easy and stress-free. I went to one salon and only tried on two dresses. I knew exactly what style I wanted, and that I wanted to have a long-sleeved lace jacket made to wear for the ceremony and remove for the reception.

We wanted our wedding to highlight the beauty and history of Richmond. Many of our guests were from out of town and were visiting for the first time, so we wanted them to experience as much of the city, its history, and its charm as possible. The Cathedral is in the heart of downtown Richmond and was built in the late 1800s. It is impressive, but not ostentatious. We didn’t need to fill the space with flowers and decorations because it is beautiful by itself. For our reception, we chose Tuckahoe Plantation. The plantation is about 20 minutes outside of the city, on the James River. Being UVA graduates, we were drawn to Tuckahoe because Thomas Jefferson lived there for several years as a child. The house and gardens were open for our guests to tour, so they had a chance to learn some of the history of the estate.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We loved the family-style dinner. It provided a chance for us to place together groups of people who might not know each other, but who we thought would get along. It was fun to look out during dinner and see everyone passing platters, laughing, and getting to know one another over amazing food. Our caterer did an incredible job of adding beautiful garnishes to the dishes so that each platter looked like a decoration in itself.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Jack and I met at UVA. We lived in the same dorm our first year and had the same early morning class first semester. We got to know each other while walking to and from class together. We were close friends for our first two years of school and started dating the summer before our third year. I was in Charlottesville taking a Spanish class, and Jack was interning in DC and would drive down every weekend to visit. For our first date, we went our for chocolate milkshakes at Ben and Jerry’s.
Tell us all about the proposal! Jack proposed the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2014. His family was in Charlottesville for the holiday, and my family was at our house in Richmond. We all drove out to meet at Pippin Hill to spend the afternoon wine tasting and then to get dinner with both families. Shortly after my family arrived, Jack pulled me aside to go on a walk. He proposed in the vineyard’s grapevines.
When did y’all get married? June 25, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 180
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our wedding cake was lemon with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream frosting. Because it was the middle of summer, we wanted something that was lighter. We decided to have a small, two-tiered wedding cake for the cutting, but we served mini cupcakes to the guests in a variety of flavors (including our wedding cake flavor) so that everyone could taste a few different ones.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I did! I borrowed earrings from my mom, and had my new monogram embroidered in blue into the hem of my wedding dress. The diamond in my engagement ring comes from Jack’s great-great-grandmother, I wore a bracelet that Jack’s mom gave me that was given to her by her mother (it dates back to the early twentieth century), and I wore a pair of Ferragamo shoes that were my late grandmother’s as something old. My something new was my wedding dress and veil.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Our planning was shockingly stress-free. Both of our families were very helpful in divvying up tasks. The one thing that does stand out as a challenge, though, was the guest list. There were many people that both families wanted to include, so we had to make some difficult decisions. One thing we did decide was to not include any plus-ones.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t stress about things that don’t go perfectly, because none of the guests know the whole plan, and they will never know if something was or was not meant to happen. For example, our getaway car showed up thirty minutes late, which allowed us to have an impromptu receiving line as our guests were getting on the buses to leave. Everyone thought that it was such a great touch that we got to say goodbye and give hugs, and no one knew that it wasn’t part of our initial plan!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We didn’t live together before we got married, so we are looking forward to setting up our new home and starting this next chapter!

Photographer: Ashley Cox Photography | Planner and Caterer: Lona Crittendon of Cater 2 Events | Ceremony Venue: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart | Reception Venue: Tuckahoe Plantation | Florist: Vogue Flowers | Wedding Cake: The Mixing Bowl Bakery | Rentals and Lighting: Commonwealth Event Company and Classic Party Rentals of Virginia | Band: Soul Expressions | Paper Products: The Preppy Pink Pony | Bride’s Gown and Accessories: Alyne | Gown Alterations and Bolero: Fariba Bridal Alterations and Design | Hair Stylist: Circle Square Salon | Makeup Artist: Kelsey Dewberry | Bride’s Shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” in Mist Grey by BHLDN | Menswear: Vera Wang | Transportation: James River Transportation

marissa Written with love by Marissa

    Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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    Every year, we do our best to fill our annual print edition with advice and tips that will help you not only plan your wedding, but also (more importantly), help you and your fiancé prepare for marriage. We ask every couple we feature how they go about preparing for life after the big day, and were so happy to include many of their answers in V8. Please enjoy their words of wisdom every Sunday here on Southern Weddings!

    Matt & Julie Weddings

    “We went to a couples’ weekend at our church, which was extremely beneficial. If your church offers one, I highly recommend it! Each couple was given a mentor couple and ours was such a blessing. They gave us great marriage advice, as well as helped us work through the challenges we had already faced as a couple.”
    Ellen + Robert

    lisa Written with love by Lisa

      Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

      Reply to: