We have been invited to a Black Tie wedding on the weekend after Labor Day, 4:30pm ceremony, reception to follow. We have not attended any black tie events for some time, and would appreciate any tips on attire that you might care to provide.
I do not own a tuxedo, and intend to rent one. Is there anything I should know about pre-made black bow tie versus a tie-your-own black bow tie?
Is a cummerbund necessary, and if so, are there any guidelines on black versus other colors, patterns, etc?
Shoes: Is it mandatory to have black, highly polished, laced shoes that
could be highly uncomfortable, or is it permissible to wear one's own black
leather loafers that are a known comfortable option?
For my spouse:
Does she need to wear a long, solid-colored gown, or is a long print gown acceptable?
Is a cocktail dress suitable instead of a long gown?
Many thanks in advance for your advice.
Etiquetteer loves a good black-tie wedding, and is delighted to infer that the wedding invitation did not indicate “black tie optional,” which is such a cop out for gentlemen too lazy to get into a tuxedo. How pleasing that you are planning to wear one! Etiquetteer is happy to advise you.
A pre-tied bow tie on an adjustable strap with a hook is not nearly as Perfectly Proper as a bow tie you tie yourself. Practice makes perfect, as your parents taught you, so practice tying a bow tie a few times in the days before the wedding; this will eliminate any stress if you encounter difficulties while dressing on the wedding day.
You must wear either a cummerbund or a waistcoat. Black tie with just a belt will look incomplete and shoddy, not the impression you want to make. Etiquetteer is not a fan of cummerbunds (which doesn’t mean they aren’t Perfectly Proper) and frankly prefers a waistcoat. Unless the invitation indicated “Creative black tie” or some sort of wedding theme, it would be in the best of taste to choose a black waistcoat. Weddings call for conservative good taste (rumors to the contrary). You may also accessorize with an ancestor’s pocketwatch and chain, if you have them.
Now, about shoes. We must remember the words of Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas, who famously said “It is more important to look good than to feel good.” Life may be too short to wear uncomfortable shoes - just ask any lady about high heels! - but a wedding is short enough to wear Perfectly Proper black patent leather laceups. Loafers were designed for loafing, which is by definition not a formal activity. That said, Etiquetteer understands your concern about a certain level of comfort; one doesn’t want to be seen hobbling out of the reception in agony because of one’s shoes. As you search about for some Perfectly Proper evening pumps, get some of those foam insert thingies to stick inside them. They will help keep you light on your toes.
Madame Your Wife could certainly wear a print gown instead of a solid, as long as she doesn’t Upstage the Bride - the most cardinal sin any wedding guest can commit. It is not unusual at black tie events to see ladies in gowns of all lengths, so a cocktail gown wouldn’t be out of place. But a long gown certainly lends more of a sense of Occasion, which a wedding certainly is - and Etiquetteer rather fancies that photographs taken of the two of you together will be that much more impressive.
Etiquetteer wishes you and Madame Your Wife much happiness on this Joyous Occasion!