How To Nail Black-Tie Optional Wedding Attire–and Look Good Doing It

Looking and feeling like your best self is the only option.
Collage of three black-tie-optional guest attire outfits
Photos, left to right: Lulus, Anthropologie, The Black Tux
Naoimh O'Hare - The Knot Associate Commerce Editor
Naoimh O'Hare
Naoimh O'Hare - The Knot Associate Commerce Editor
Naoimh O'Hare
Associate Commerce Editor
  • Naoimh writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in shoppable roundups from gift guides to wedding fashion
  • Before working on editorial content, Naoimh wrote storefront descriptions for some of The Knot Worldwide's many wedding vendors
  • Naoimh studied creative writing at the National University of Ireland, Galway
Updated Jul 31, 2023
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First there was black-tie, now there's black-tie optional. If you have a bunch of question marks floating around your head, don't worry; you're not the first to try to decode this specific wedding dress code. I've got your back and am here to spill the tea on cracking the black-tie optional code and slaying your outfit game by breaking down the meaning and etiquette rules of the elusive dress code. Get ready to turn heads and make a statement as the ultimate wedding guest! Not only that, but we're sharing some of the top examples of what to wear for both men and women, including black-tie optional dresses, jumpsuits, tuxedos and suits.

In this article:

What Does Black-Tie Optional Mean?

Black-tie optional means that guests have the option of wearing their most formal attire (think: an evening gown or tuxedo) but can also choose to wear a formal suit or cocktail dress instead. Basically, you have some flexibility to play with your fit. Generally, a black-tie optional dress code means that the couple and their wedding party will be dressed in black tie. It's therefore courteous for guests to reflect this level of formality in their own attire. You can either go full-on glam in black-tie-worthy attire or opt for a slightly more relaxed but still formal ensemble.

One thing to keep in mind: A black-tie-optional dress code can sometimes appear differently on wedding invitations. Some couples write "black-tie invited" or "black-tie encouraged" instead. Typically, both of these terms mean that the to-be-weds really want their guests to wear a tux or full-length gown, but will also accept formal suits and dresses (especially if it's a daytime reception, which allows for a little more freedom). An evening black-tie optional wedding definitely calls for the dress code's most formal attire.

The Etiquette Rules of Black-Tie Optional Attire

Still have some questions about how to dress for a black-tie optional wedding dress code? I don't blame you, it's legit confusing sometimes. Here's a few pointers that might help:

Dress Length and Style

One of the biggest FAQs is dress length. Unlike a wedding that's strictly black tie, full-length evening gowns are preferred but not a must. A midi-length dress is also acceptable—just avoid anything above the knee as it will be too casual.

Finally, wedding guest jumpsuits are another gray area for guests seeking out black-tie optional wedding dress attire. Ultimately, whether or not a jumpsuit is acceptable depends on the style. Avoid anything that feels a little too laid-back (for example, patterns and brightly colored fabrics) and instead opt for something tailored and elevated. We've included a couple of stylish options below to help inspire you.

Black-Tie Optional Men's Attire

Black-tie optional men's and gender-neutral attire can be just as confusing as women's attire. Like, what type of jacket do you wear with dress pants? Well, classic black-tie attire means that tuxedos are mandatory, while black-tie optional means that the tuxedos are, well, optional. It's totally acceptable to swap out the tuxedo jacket for a structured suit jacket and an understated tie.

Colors to Wear and Avoid

For black-tie optional, try dark colors such as black, navy and charcoal, and deeper jewel tones like emerald and burgundy. Avoid anything that feels a little too laid-back (for example, patterns and brightly colored fabrics) and instead opt for something more tailored and elevated.

Black-Tie Optional Dresses for Wedding Guests

Whether you're ready to start shopping or just looking for inspiration, you've come to the right place. TLDR: We know where to find all the best dresses and jumpsuits for a black-tie optional wedding.

Black-Tie Optional Tuxedos and Suits

Whether you're ready to start shopping or just looking for inspo, I'm not here to gatekeep any of these black-tie optional dresses and jumpsuits. Keep reading to see some of our favorite styles for any and all upcoming weddings.

Ieena for Mac Duggal Ruffled Floral Cap-Sleeve V-Neck Gown

Ruffled floral wedding guest dress from Ieena for Mac Duggal
Photo: Anthropologie

Anthropologie is one of my favorite places to look for black-tie optional wedding guest dresses. The site offers beautiful designer outfits from a variety of well-known designers. The best part? This floral wedding guest dress from Mac Duggal is suitable for celebrations all year round thanks to the richly colored botanical print.

Lane Bryant Ruffle-Detail Fitted Midi Dress

Fitted midi wedding guest dress from Lane Bryant
Photo: Lane Bryant

As we already mentioned, midi and short dresses aren't off limits for black-tie optional dress code—so long as you don't go too short. This midi-length dress from Lane Bryant feels formal and contemporary at the same time. The faux-wrap bodice and built-in belt were designed to flatter your curves, while the pretty pleats and ruffles are chic touches.

Sachin & Babi Jenny Gown in Washed Indigo

Washed indigo wedding guest dress with side slit from Sachin & Babi
Photo: Sachin & Babi

If you're leaning more toward "black tie" than "optional," this stunning gown is a great choice. The pretty indigo hue is eye-catching, while the puffed crescent sleeves exude elegance. The empire waist, A-line skirt, and side slit complete this breathtaking black-tie optional ensemble.

ML Monique Lhuillier Sequin Wide-Leg Jumpsuit in Multicolored Sequin

Sequin wedding guest jumpsuit from Rent the Runway
Photo: Rent the Runway

What is a black-tie optional wedding without a bit of sparkle? This glittery jumpsuit comes in a stylish multicolored hue that'll complement a fall or winter celebration. The wide-cut leg is right on trend and would look excellent paired with a strappy stiletto or heeled sandal.

ASTR The Label Galia Dress

Cowl neck wedding guest dress with side slit from ASTR The Label
Photo: Revolve

This sultry maxi comes in a shade for every season: The Denim will look amazing for winter and fall weddings, while the Bright Fuschia and Lime are perfect for spring and summer events. An unfussy silhouette means that every detail of this dress gets to stand out, from the cowl neckline to the thigh-high slit.

DOLAN Halter Neck Jumpsuit Dolan Left Coast

Purple halter neck jumpsuit from Dolan Left Coast
Photo: Anthropologie

If you're a minimalist, this effortlessly elegant black-tie optional jumpsuit was made just for you. With a chic halter neckline, vibrant purple hue and functional side pockets, it's a sleek and rewearable jumpsuit for any formal event. Plus, you'll have a blast busting moves in the voluminous wide-leg pants.

Stolen Moments Dusty Pink Lace-Up Lace Maxi Dress

Dusty pink lace floral wedding guest dress from Lulus
Photo: Lulus

We've got plenty more black-tie optional dresses to come. Check out this formal pick from Lulus in the prettiest dusty pink shade. Pale pink floral lace laid over delicate pink knit fabric creates a light and airy look that still feels elegant. And with a plunging V-neck, banded empire waist and sexy side slit, it's a suitable dress for both daytime and evening soirées.

Needle & Thread Trailing Bow Gown

Pink sequin wedding guest dress from Needle & Thread
Photo: Needle & Thread

Needle & Thread's ethereal evening gowns are so gorgeous. Not only will you immediately fall in love with the dress's pop of pink, but the tonal sequins are a work of art in themselves, creating subtle bow patterns that cascade down the dress. Talk about a bow-ment.

Amsale Off The Shoulder Wide Leg Jumpsuit

Black one-shoulder wide-leg jumpsuit from Amsale
Photo: Amsale

If you're looking for a black-tie optional outfit that's stylish and practical, you've come to the right place. This jumpsuit for black-tie optional attire has a fashionable asymmetrical neckline in a chic satin fabric. Another plus is the pockets, which seamlessly blend into the garment's silhouette. Choose from two gorgeous colorways: black or deep navy.

Amsale Pryce Off-Shoulder Satin Column Gown

Off-shoulder green satin gown from Amsale
Photo: Anthropologie

It's not every day you get to dress up in fancy evening wear. Take this opportunity to wear something truly befitting the occasion, like this silky floor-length gown. The asymmetrical off-the-shoulder neckline adds character to the column silhouette. Best of all, it comes in six sultry colorways—as well as standard and plus sizes—making it one of our favorite dresses for black-tie optional weddings.

Adrianna Papell High Low Mikado Gown with Asymmetrical Detail in Midnight

Midnight blue high-low wedding guest dress from Adrianna Papell
Photo: Adrianna Papell

This high-low gown from Adrianna Papell is absolutely showstopping. The rich midnight blue shade is perfect for fall or winter black-tie optional weddings. The mikado fabric makes this gown look and feel absolutely luxurious, plus it's available in extended plus sizes.

Solace London Pleated Lila Dress in Yellow

Yellow wedding guest midi dress from Solace London
Photo: Rent the Runway

If your style is bright and bold, consider this sophisticated midi dress in a sunny shade of yellow. The asymmetrical cape sleeve is exactly the kind of statement detail we live for. Keep your accessories classic and minimal to maintain the black-tie-friendly look.

City Chic Harper Halter Neck Jumpsuit

Halter neck wedding guest jumpsuit from City Chic
Photo: Nordstrom

Looking for a black-tie optional jumpsuit that you can pull out for future special occasions? We've found it. Featuring a sophisticated halter neckline, comfy elastic waist and wide leg, it can easily be dressed up for a black-tie optional wedding. All you need is a stylish pair of stilettos and some fine jewelry.

ASOS DESIGN Peekaboo Shoulder Tuck Midi Pencil Dress in Frosted Sage

Frosted sage midi wedding guest dress from ASOS DESIGN
Photo: ASOS

ASOS has a range of black-tie optional women's attire in tall, petite, maternity and plus sizes. This chic one-shoulder wedding guest dress is designed to turn heads and features a showstopping twist detail on the bodice. And if you're attending a spring black-tie optional wedding, the sage shade will look whimsical against the blooming florals.

Lulus Extravagant Taste Light Blue Floral Jacquard Mermaid Maxi Dress

Floral jacquard mermaid maxi dress from Lulus
Photo: Lulus

This blue dress from Lulus is giving it girl energy for a black-tie optional wedding. This jacquard mermaid wedding guest dress features fun details all around. From the romantic allover floral pattern to its reflective silver threading throughout, it's a charming pick for your next luxe occasion.

Reformation Winslow Dress in Mademoiselle

Black floral wedding guest dress from Reformation
Photo: Reformation

This sweeping gown is available in six different shades, but we're particularly taken by the romantic black floral, navy and emerald hues. Feel free to choose whatever color best suits your style and the season, but keep in mind that lighter shades such as champagne should be avoided in case they photograph white. Dress up your outfit with gold jewelry and heeled sandals.

ML Monique Lhuillier Dark Floral Embroidered Gown

Dark floral embroidered mesh wedding guest dress from ML Monique Lhuillier
Photo: Rent the Runway

Floral embroidery adds an ethereal element to this illusion mesh gown by Monique Lhuillier. The modest high neckline and long skirt make it a great pick for anyone who prefers more coverage. You can rent this glamorous gown starting at $98 for a four-day rental, or you can purchase it at a discounted rate.

ELOQUII Tie Strap Wide Leg Jumpsuit

Black wide leg jumpsuit from ELOQUII

We can just picture this black jumpsuit at an upscale ballroom wedding. This black-tie optional fit features a princess seam bodice and flirty bow long sleeves, while the simple black wide-leg pants keep it chic. It's a comfortable and fashionable pick for your sophisticated soirée.

Amanda Uprichard Cherri Gown in Black

Black strapless wedding guest dress with side slit from Amanda Uprichard
Photo: Revolve

Still not sure what to wear to a black-tie optional wedding? Darker, traditional hues can instantly make an outfit feel more formal. Exhibit A: This black strapless dress by Amanda Uprichard. The sweetheart neckline, boned bodice and side slit give it a sleek, stylish edge.

Black-Tie Optional Tuxedos and Suits

On the hunt for black tie optional mens attire? Don't wortry, I've thought about that too. Check out our favorite suave styles for both men and women, below.

Suitsupply Dark Grey Checked Havana Suit

Dark grey suit from Suitsupply
Photo: Suitsupply

Suitsupply is a one-stop shop for contemporary men's formal wear perfect for black-tie optional weddings. This modern suit features a boat-shaped breast pocket with peak lapel and jetted pockets and actually lacks shoulder padding for a more casual look. Simply add a white tuxedo shirt, then you can officially move onto accessories. A white pocket square and black tie are foolproof options.

Indochino Hereford Cavalry Twill Blue Blazer

Navy blue twill suit from Indochino
Photo: Indochino

A black-tie encouraged wedding is your chance to don a seriously dapper dinner jacket, like this one from Indochino. The website is full of stylish men's attire for formal events, including dress pants and tuxedo shirts to complement the jacket. The deep navy blue suit color adds a unique edge while still looking appropriate for black-tie optional attire.

SuitShop Women's Suit in Burgundy

Burgundy women's suit from SuitShop
Photo: SuitShop

Suits are also a great option for women attending black-tie optional weddings. We love this stunning burgundy pantsuit from SuitShop. It's crafted from stretch-fit fabric for extra comfortability, while the dark burgundy shade is suitable for dressy events. Style your outfit with a chic pair of heeled sandals or bedazzled loafers.

Hawes & Curtis Navy Birdseye Tailored Suit

Navy tailored men's suit from Hawes & Curtis
Photo: Hawes & Curtis

Of course, it's black-tie optional, not black-tie period. Feel free to swap out the tux for a structured suit instead. Three-piece suits are an excellent option because the addition of a vest takes the formality up a notch. Remember to stick with a dark suit, particularly for evening events. Once you've got that figured out, a nice pair of dress shoes will complete the look.

ASOS DESIGN slim suit jacket in charcoal

Charcoal slim suit jacket from ASOS Design
Photo: ASOS

We know that buying a new suit can get expensive, so here's an affordable suit that can work for men's black-tie optional attire. The single-breasted suit jacket is equipped with notch lapels, a two-button fastening and functional pockets. Meanwhile, the fitted pants are crafted from a stretchy, plain-woven fabric. The charcoal is a refreshing shade for formal events.

BLACK By Vera Wang Notch Slim-Fit Tuxedo in Black

Black tie tuxedo from Men's Wearhouse
Photo: Men's Wearhouse

Men's Wearhouse is another one of our go-to's for black-tie optional tuxedos and suits. If you're leaning more toward timeless luxury, this slim-fit tuxedo by Vera Wang is a worthwhile pick. The set comes with a black tuxedo jacket accented with a grosgrain-faced lapel and matching flat-front trousers. Accessorize with a black bow tie and dress shoes to complete your luxe outfit.

The Black Tux Ocean Velvet Tuxedo

Black velvet tuxedo from The Black Tux
Photo: The Black Tux

If you're attending a black-tie optional wedding in the fall or winter, what about rocking a velvet tuxedo? The soft cotton velvet will add a luxurious element to your overall look. Matching accents on the lapels and pockets add a nice touch to the rich velvet fabric.

Banana Republic Onda Suit Pants and Jacket

Olive green suit from Banana Republic
Photo: Banana Republic

This black-tie optional men's suit is ideal for your forthcoming outdoor affair. The olive green hue is a unique shade for a daytime event, such as at the beach or garden. Another plus is that it's made with an impeccable blend of plush organic cotton and luxe linen, making it a great pick for warmer climates. Style your outfit with a white dress shirt, a simple necktie and leather loafers.

The Black Tux and Tartan Tuxedo

Tartan tuxedo from The Black Tux
Photo: The Black Tux

Depending on the wedding style and season, you could also play around with different patterns and textures. This slim-fit dinner jacket is covered in a tartan pattern that feels both fashion-forward and dressy for black-tie optional weddings. Wear it with a black bow tie, white tuxedo shirt and slim-fit tuxedo slacks.

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