Is the Black-Tie Dress Code Dead? 3 Wedding Planners Weigh In


(Image credit: @aimeesong@laurenegg)

In case no one remembers, I used to go to a lot of weddings—and I mean a lot. The circuit was such a big part of my social life that I would write about my experiences and findings as well as share my outfit research pretty regularly here on Who What Wear. Not surprisingly, however, due to the pandemic, those invitations stopped rolling in a little over a year ago and have only just started picking back up now that couples have more options for holding safe gatherings again. Between those that were postponed entirely and the "real weddings" that are now following up the micro-weddings that took place during quarantine times, it's about to be a busy summer, but I've noticed something different about many of the invites that have come my way…

While about 90% of the weddings I used to go to were strictly black tie, it seems like the casualness of life post-COVID is making its way into the world of events, too. Cocktail attire, formal, and even unique dress codes such as "garden chic" and "colorful formal" are appearing on invitations more and more. Since I'm the one my friends and relatives come to when they need help with dress shopping, I know others are in the same boat.

But is it really possible for the iconic black-tie dress code to be dying? In regards to what brides themselves are wearing, Business of Fashion recently reported the following: "With more weddings held outdoors during the pandemic, brides have gravitated to separates, blazers, minidresses, and jumpsuits." Aside from the venue factor, the article attributes the shift both to the way wedding planning has been rushed post-COVID as well as the influence of Gen Z, which not only favors individuality beyond the classic wedding dress but also "[thinks] the big party with hundreds of guests feels outdated."

Rocked by this information as well as my own observations, I recently decided to reach out to a few top wedding planners to hear their firsthand takes. While their views varied, one thing was made abundantly clear: Even if it's on pause or experiencing a temporary decline, black tie is neither nor ever will be dead. Great news for my dress collection, I must say. To read exactly what Guerdy Abraira, Jung Lee, and Lindsey Shaktman have to say, simply keep scrolling—and enjoy some of my wedding-ready dress picks along the way.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Guerdy Abraira)

"Black tie can never go out of style, but I think it is just taking a pause… for now! With the increase of micro-weddings due to COVID, weddings are taking place in backyards and other unique venues that have more of an eclectic and intimate feel, and thus, the attire formality has toned down! However, many couples have decided to wait it out and set a post-COVID-restriction date to be able to resume to larger and more opulent venues to ensure their wedding maintains that luxe and chic black-tie vibe." 


(Image credit: Courtesy of Jung Lee)

"Even though the weddings we are planning are outdoors, our couples and their guests are dressing up! They are so excited to plan their outfit. Whether people are having a 40-person wedding or 200, everyone is excited to dress up from head to toe! After all, it's their wedding! If this is not the time to dress up, then when? Also, because we have been cooped up inside for over a year, the preparation and anticipation of seeing family and friends in person in a gorgeous setting is all the more reason to get dressed up! Pre-COVID, it felt like a chore in attending so many black-tie affairs… Now, even our July weddings are formal attire. […] Being outdoors, one consideration is having to carefully plan their hair because of wind and shoes for the lawn and some outdoor walking." 


(Image credit: Steph Larsen)

"Formal celebrations will always transcend time, and that includes pandemics. Although lounge sets and outfits that seamlessly transition from a Zoom call to an afternoon snooze have become the norm, there are carefully pressed tuxes and steamed dresses hanging in closets, desperately waiting to be worn again. While there is certainly a surge in more casual, backyard affairs featuring the trendy "cottagecore" vibe, there is also a deep desire to host and attend no-holds-barred, full-glam soirées. The difference between pre-pandemic black-tie events and post-pandemic black-tie events will be a grander display of individual style. […] Gowns in bold colors and fabrics, unique silhouettes, and bow ties in loud prints are expected. To achieve the distinctly unique black-tie wedding you're dreaming of, invite your guests to dress 'black tie with a personal twist.' This way, you're not sacrificing the formality of your celebration, and you'll have memories and photographs to cherish that feature your gorgeously dressed loved ones showcasing elements of their personal style beyond a snapshot of 30 black gowns in a row." 

Next: 5 Summer Trends on My Wish List and Five I'm Wearing From Years Past


Since starting as an intern back in 2013, Nicole Akhtarzad Eshaghpour has held several roles here at Who What Wear, and she is currently Editor-at-Large. It was a less expected route, seeing as she was graduating from business school at USC when this all began, but it has turned out to be the best one for her. Fast-forward to 2024, and she's moved to NYC from her hometown of Beverly Hills and spends her workdays a little differently from when she was an intern starting out. Currently, she focuses on a weekly mélange of shopping content. As far as her personal style goes, she's largely drawn to classic pieces and neutral basics but will always make an exception for something colorful, printed, or bejeweled as long as it's deemed worthy enough. After all, the only thing she loves more than a good party is dressing up for one. On weekdays, she can usually be found at home eating something delicious for dinner and trying to force her husband to watch Summer House.