Before you start calling this a “white tie” night, let's brush up on your white tie decorum. You are in for a beautiful evening of stylish appropriacy. The 'white tie' formality encompasses a certain number of stayed traditions. These traditions are what differentiate formal from fancy. If you’re not sure, ask questions! We are here to help. Here are some common questions and answers. They will get you started in the right direction.
THEN: An invitation to a society wedding is recognized as “white tie” if three things—location, time of day and visual cues on the invitation itself (such as engraved printing and paper quality) communicate this formality to a guest pool educated to recognize these nuances. Most traditional wedding invitations were around 5″ x 8″ in size. Often these were a nice text-weight cotton paper, double folded in what is called a “french fold.” They would be engraved (also known as 'die stamped') in a dark ink and would have absolutely no motif unless the family were of nobility. The legal use of a family crest was taken very seriously. There was an inner envelope with the names of each guest invited within the household receiving the invitation. This was sent in an outer envelope for mailing or hand-delivery that had only the household name, like Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Stephens. A reply card was never included. A simple one-line request for a reply was the most, if at all, an educated host dare mention.
NOW: Today little has changed in formatting when the formality of 'white tie' is ventured. A white tie invitation still adheres to formal etiquette. The inclusion of a reply card is the most commonly accepted deviation from early traditions, however the construct of the reply card is very important. Folded wedding invitation cards have widely been replaced by thick card stock with a gilt edge in silver or gold. A modern take on including a motif is a couple’s monogram. This includes only the first letter of either of the couple’s first names or last names intertwined in a balanced design. While additional design aspects will make invitations quite fancy, further additiona in design tend to lessen the sophistication of a design, making the formality of the invitation itself in question. To kep the messaging tight, a white tie invitation remains very clean and minimal in design.
How do I tell my guests what to wear?
There is only one widely accepted way to tell guests what to wear to a white tie event. For a wedding held in a sanctuary of some sort, "White tie" is written on the reception card of your wedding suite, never on the ceremony card. If your wedding is at a secular location, or if your white tie event is not a wedding, the term is places in the lower right corner of the invitation.
What kind of bridal gown and guest attire are typical for the white tie wedding?
Something formal (floor-length, usually a bride will have a train but it’s no longer imperative) and what your proper aunt would call “in good taste.” This by no means limits you to a turtleneck and long-sleeves. It does, however, rule out large cut-outs and bearing more skin-than-dress. Whether you are the bride or a guest, the dress for this event is similar. Brides don’t have to wear white, but a lighter, nearly-white color is still called-for. Guests absolutely steer clear of white. Bridesmaid dresses do not have to match, but they should be formal and floor-length. Many times a black or white gown is an elegant choice, however that is not imperative. Ladies opt for long gowns, and long gloves are a welcome choice. Here is a breakdown of white tie attire.
What kind of tuxedo do men wear for white tie dress?
While the suit is important, men have a whole ensemble to consider that reaches past the common tuxedo. The groom and the other gents have little distinction from each other besides the corsage the groom may be sporting—and of course the gorgeous star of the show on his arm.
What other etiquette applies at the white tie affair?
Maybe you’re comfortable enough to whip out your phone for a quick check-in at your best friend’s festive wedding—but here, think twice. Head to a secluded area to take care of personal matters. Using that example, stay engaged while you are in the midst of the party. Brush on up basic manners. Keep your flash off and definitely don’t be the first one to take pictures. Never get in the photographer’s way. Dance when it’s time for guests to dance. No one cares how you dance, they care if you participate. Don’t get wasted. Use your flatware from the outside working inward with each course. Talk to the people at your table you don’t know. Have some social mingling questions ready to ask new faces. Introduce yourself to each person at your table. Do these things and you will be riding the high-society road just fine. You might even enjoy it!
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