Black Tie for Clergy, Vol. 18, Issue 34

Dear Etiquetteer:

I am a Pentecostal clergyman that works ecumenically and I’ve been invited to an award banquet gala of a large Catholic charity. There will be several Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Monks, Deacons and Nuns in attendance. Many from the Vatican. All in their formal attire and bedazzled with their religious accoutrements.

Within my tradition, we don’t wear clothing different from our laity. In the pulpit the older preachers/pastors wear a nice business suit with tie, while younger clergy may with an open dress shirt or polo shirt and jeans To a wedding we wear a black suit with tie. To a black tie event, would we wear a current trend/style tuxedo? How should I dress for this “Black Tie Event”? I always wear a small gold lapel pin with the name of the ecumenical nonprofit faith-based organization with which I’m affiliated.

Should I wear a tuxedo with black tie? Can I wear a banded color with pretty buttons and no tie? I really want to wear my gold lapel pin in, since I’m there regarding my work . . .

What say you?

Dear Clergyman:

Since your religious tradition seems not to include a uniform, Etiquetteer sees no difficulty in your wearing a conservative black tuxedo with modest accessories to the banquet. Gentleman’s Gazette published an interesting piece on clerical formal wear for Catholic and Anglican clergy, with illustrations, that might give you an idea of how your fellow banqueters may appear.

Conservative clothing, especially for formal occasions, tends to raise fewer eyebrows for the clergy. So Etiquetteer must advise you to consider a traditional black bow tie and waistcoat with a traditional pleated shirt and the plainest possible cufflinks and shirt studs. Banded collars that substitute some sort of jewel for a bow tie - well, Etiquetteer’s not a fan. And it sounds as though you’ll be traveling in some Heavily Bejeweled Company that night. You wouldn’t want anyone to have the uncharitable thought “Well, if that’s the best he could do . . . “

Discreet lapel pins may be worn with black tie, so by all means wear your usual pin in the buttonhole on your left lapel. It’s worth noting here, too, that Perfect Propriety demands only one lapel pin. Loading up one’s lapels like “flairs” on a waiter’s vest diminishes one’s formality.

You didn’t ask, but Etiquetteer does hope that you will encourage your younger colleagues in the clergy to make more of an effort with their “Sunday go to meeting” clothes. While it is most necessary in Christian traditions to avoid the sins of Pride and Vanity*, Etiquetteer was brought up by his father to show respect to the Deity and to the tradition of public worship by attending in a suit and tie. And it will help to establish their appearance of your younger colleagues as leaders in the church community.

Etiquetteer wishes you a beautiful and Perfectly Proper evening at the banquet!

*This is good practice in general, whether you do or don’t follow a religious creed.