Offbeat guest goes black tie: How do I blend into a black tie wedding?

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Offbeat guest goes black tie: How do I blend into a black tie wedding?
Rock your goth look with an ornate choker like this one
There's tons of advice out there about what to wear to a black tie wedding, but I was wondering if Offbeat Bride had its own take on the subject? I recently received an invitation to a black tie Nuptial Mass, and I am simultaneously excited and intimidated.

I want to be respectful, but I'd love any other offbeat ideas. The dress code plus the high-church element has me second-guessing myself more than usual. Thanks! – Chris

Great question from the perspective of a guest. When it comes to being yourself while still blending in with the rest of the black tie-clad guests, it's all about a few key elements. You can absolutely stick to your personal style, with a few adjustments to make sure you're not being too distracting or causing a scene among the Muggles and Mundanes. Here are the ways I'd suggest altering your look to keep it well within the “black tie” asethetic…

Get specifics on the crowd from the couple

Feel free to ask the couple what the general tone of the guests will be. If they know you, they may be able to steer you in certain directions to prevent any scandal on the day. You can also find out if the venue/church/ceremony space has any specific restrictions on dress. You don't want to be caught in an outfit that may actually offend someone in a culture or religion with which you're less familiar.

Offbeat guest goes black tie: How do I blend into a black tie wedding?
Totally subtle spikes in your metallic heels?

Keep it tailored

Depending on your usual style, simply keeping things a little more buttoned-up, a little more well-fitting, and sometimes just an elevated version of your usual style, is sometimes all that's needed. Find a good outfit that you love and get it tailored to fit you perfectly. There's a reason why celebrities often look great in their casual wear: they get everything tailored. It can make all the difference. Rumpled burlesque chic? Shocking. Tailored-to-your-skeleton corset? Heart eyes.

Offbeat guest goes black tie: How do I blend into a black tie wedding?
Don't like traditional ties? There are alternatives!
Wooden bow tie from Nebraska Wood Apparel

Keep it muted

If your usual style is on the wild side, the sexy side, or the extremely colorful or themed side, try to limit the outfit to a few select pieces that represent you. Maybe it's a wild bow tie, colorful and fun shoes with a more conservative dress, or a generally more muted version of your usual style that doesn't feel too inauthentic. Think you, just toned down a little.

If your hair is colored or cut in an offbeat way and you're worried it won't pass muster in the stuffier environment, you can always rock a chic hat, head wrap, or even a wig if you're really worried. But check in first with the couple — it may be a-okay as-is.

Toss a cover-up in your car

In case you get there and realize that you've totally missed the mark on the dress code, throw a cover-up, a sweater, or even an alternate outfit in your car for a back-up change of clothes. It's better to be safe than sorry.

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Comments on Offbeat guest goes black tie: How do I blend into a black tie wedding?

  1. pay attention to fabric. cotton and linen are less fancy-looking, while the same/a similar dress in satin/taffeta/organza is more formal.

    vintage (20s, 40s, 50s, 60s) dresses are a great sleeper hit for offbeat folks – they’re fancy-looking, they’re easy to find at most price points and for most body types, and they tend towards being modest enough for even the most conservative churches. (though they’re also a great excuse to rock a pretty shawl or wrap.)

    and you can never go wrong with a little black or long black dress. bling the snot out of it – beading, bold accessories, you name it.

  2. Maybe it’s because my brand of Offbeat all involves costumes and dressing as different people, but I guess I don’t see why being asked to dress up for one night in a way that’s “inauthentic” is such a big deal. Theoretically you love the people who set the dress code – why else are you going to their wedding – so if they want you to wear a “mundane” costume for the night so great auntie mabel doesn’t get belligerent, is that so terrible? But I also find the term mundane to be pretty disrespectful so I’m probably not really getting the perspective here.

    • I could be totally wrong, but because of the capitalization I took the use of “Mundane” to be a reference to the book series The Mortal Instruments, not just a word for “onbeat” people.

      • “Mundane” is a pretty old usage – specifically, the gleeful use of “freak the mundanes” when people are so pleased as punch that onbeats are a little started/unsure at seeing a ton of people in costume / goth / swordfighting in public / whatever. I’ve never heard it used in a flattering context.

        Kind of laughing that Cassie Clair lifted it to use, though. Never change, CC.

  3. My rule of thumb as a more alternative/offbeat person at work or formal events (unless they are my events), is have one loud/offbeat element. If you have colourful hair, a understated, yet elegant dress and hairstyle will be very classy without sacrificing who you are. Crazy shoes are a great way for both men and women to add some edge to an outfit, and for men, there is a huge amount of subtle offbeat elements can be brought in through ties, bowties, cuff links, as well as fabric of the suit itself. Jewelry is another way to bring some personality into an outfit. The main things is to not break the dress code, it WILL piss off the bride/groom/parents. I had a retro themed wedding in which I encouraged the guests to dress 1950s, but also stated Semi Formal. A couple guests showed up in grease style costumes, which included jeans. NOT COOL. As posted above, if you aren’t sure, or want to do something a bit boundary pushing, ASK the couple!

  4. Unless everyone normally dresses in black-tie appropriate clothing, nobody is going to be dressed in a way that represents their usual self!

    That said, to avoid being too out there, I would recommend picking an outfit that is a solid earthy or jewel toned color (or in a relatively simple pattern), and that is relatively modest for the occasion.

    If you’re second-guessing the modesty aspect, consider your typical school/church youth group dress code. It’s usually finger tip or knee length for skirts, no bare midriffs, no cleavage, and no spaghetti straps (though that last one may vary for a black tie event, especially if it’s in warmer weather).

    From there, pick accessories to make it your own. Octopus necklace? Periodic table earrings? Star Trek charm bracelet? Glittery shoes?

    If you’re still in doubt after you have your outfit picked out, run it past some friends and family for a second opinion.

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