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Can You Have a Casual Ceremony and a Black-Tie Reception?

It's time to rethink what black-tie really means.

Contributing Writer
wedding couple portraits walking mansion
Photography by: The Edges Wedding Photography

Different events usually call for different types of attire and different levels of formality, but what happens when you're hosting two events—say, a ceremony and a reception—in one day? Is it okay to have a casual ceremony and a black-tie reception, or is this an etiquette faux pas? Here's what you need to know about creating an event that's cohesive and comfortable for your guests.

 

Related: What to Know If You're Booking Two Different Venues for the Ceremony and Reception

 

A Cohesive Approach

Event design expert and founder of FETE NY, Jung Lee, says, "While you can take guests on a journey from ceremony to reception, things should tie together and make sense." That's why you wouldn't really want to have a casual ceremony followed by a very formal reception unless there's time in between. This could work if you're having a noon ceremony followed by a few hours of free time and a sunset reception, which gives guests a chance to regroup and get ready for the more formal evening affair.

 

Consider Comfort

Lee encourages couples to consider the comfort of their guests when determining the appropriate formality for each event. "For example, if you're having a beach ceremony but are requiring people to wear tuxedos, there would be a disconnect," she says. "Not to mention guests would be uncomfortable."

 

Rethinking What Black-Tie Means

If your ceremony is taking place outdoors, this doesn't necessarily mean it has to be considered a casual event. If it's a sunset ceremony, you can still encourage a black-tie dress code even though you're outdoors, provided that it works with the overall aesthetic of the event. So, you may be able to carry a black-tie attire theme all the way from start to finish. "Black-tie doesn't automatically mean stiff," Lee says, "There's a way to have casual moments at a black-tie event."

 

Mixing Black-Tie and Casual Elements

Lee recommends couples think of black-tie as elevated rather than completely formal, which can be taken into consideration when planning both your wedding ceremony and reception style. "People confuse formal with stiff and boring, and it doesn't have to be—some of our wildest weddings have been black-tie," she says, "There can be casual elements throughout a black-tie event. Formal just means elevated, and you can still make that fun."