How To Plan A Black Tie Wedding

by | Styling Wisdom, Wisdom


Venue: Bendooley Estate / Image by Justin Aaron Photography 

Black tie weddings are more than just the dress code – here’s everything you need to consider when planning your black-tie wedding.

Image by Tealily Photography 

There’s something that never, ever gets old about a well cut black tuxedo and a well tied black bow tie, punctuated by a brilliantly white shirt with dress buttons and cufflinks. Or a gown which gently grazes floor level as you dance the night away. Add into the mix that the reason for the black-tie celebration is a wedding – your wedding – and the possibilities for a glamourous, elegant (ok, we’ll say it – even slightly over the top) event are almost limitless.

Image by Tealily Photography 

We’ve created and overseen our fair share of black tie soirees over the years, and here’s our insider’s guide on what you need to never lose sight of, if you both want formal all the way.

Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia / Image by Tealily Photography 

Timing. And location, location, location.

Now there’s some very sensible reasons for why black tie is a little less common a dress code in Australia then say England or France: The weather. It’s hot here. It’s often humid. It’s just not tuxedo weather a lot of the time, in a lot of the places we call home. Which doesn’t mean that you can’t plan the black-tie wedding you’ve been dreaming of.

But perhaps steer away from a December date in Brisbane, or Sydney, or almost anywhere in Australia. Or opt for a chilled, air-conditioned environment for yourself and your bridal party, from the time you start getting ready, until the moment you arrive at the ceremony through to the reception. And that means providing that same chilled environment for your guests at the ceremony and reception too.

Image by Justin Aaron Photography 

If you want to combine the black-tie dream with an outdoor ceremony, opt to say “I do” in late Autumn or Winter. If that isn’t going to work for you, abandon the outdoor ceremony dream and choose a gorgeous venue that ensures neither of you, nor your bridal party, nor your guests, have a clue what the temperature or humidity is doing outside, as you exchange vows and then move to celebration mode.

No one, absolutely no one, wants to be standing in the afternoon sun, wearing a tux or an evening gown, when the temperature is nudging 25 degrees let alone 32 or more.

Venue: Bendooley Estate / Image by Justin Aaron Photography 

Location, location, location (again, because it’s so important).

The scope for where to hold your black-tie event is extraordinary – from magnificent, historic mansions or university halls, to a modernist building with a new take on chandeliers open to a water view, to luxurious country properties with luxe timber barns or marquees on offer. Choose the venue which excites you, which transports you to a space you never want to leave come the day.

However, keep in mind what the venue comes with a… sorry to raise the B word… budget. Don’t fall head over heels for a venue, hate on the chairs and the shape of the tables, book it and THEN discover it will cost you an additional $3000 to replace all of those for the evening.

Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia / Image by Tealily Photography 

Some venues even expect you to cover the cost of moving and storing their furniture for the time your celebration is on, and then to bring it all back in and set it up once more. Trust us. It gets expensive.

Venue: Bendooley Estate / Image by Justin Aaron Photography 

If you can’t shake the vision of crystal chandeliers from your mind’s eye, lean to the venues which come complete with them already in place. You can take it as a given, that the more you have to transform a space to turn it into something else, the more it is likely to cost you.

Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia / Image by Tealily Photography 

But the most wonderful thing? Weddings, black tie or otherwise, don’t have to be tick a box – some of the most beautiful black-tie celebrations we have been to have been held in barns, outdoors at home, in weather worn yachting clubs by the harbour and in rustic sheds transformed by the simple act of beautifully styled tables.

Image by Tealily Photography 

Mix it up like this, or choose a more traditional black-tie style venue, just make sure it fits you both like a glove.

Mailbox love

This is not the time for invitations to land by email or text message. The invitations you post set the tone for the style of wedding you are wishing to host. And that means starting out with stationery that at a glance, or a feel, sets a tone of understated black-tie luxury.

Image by Tealily Photography 

Everything from the stock selected, to the fonts used, will help set the tone. Letterpress is stunning, but so is a beautifully designed printed suite. This is not the time for the whimsical invites illustrated with deer antlers and quirky typefaces better suited to your favourite whiskey bar. Stating the dress code is Black Tie is vital.

Image by Justin Aaron Photography 

Some couples even go out of their way to stress the need to adhere to the dress code by noting it is Black Tie and Formal. An RSVP card which can be mailed back to you is another way to add a tone of formality to your stationery. And it’s all about the words too. Stick to a more formal tone for how the invitations are worded so guests again know at a glance they have been invited to a formal event.

Image by Tealily Photography 

Let the music play

Traditionally, black tie events call for the beauty of classical music played by a string trio or quartet or more.

But there’s no rule book saying your guests can’t enjoy the cocktail hour to the back beat of a classical Spanish guitarist or two. Or a jazz trio. Or an incredible crooner belting out 1950s song of the Frank Sinatra bent. More contemporary vibe your thing? Track down a DJ accompanied by a few players on sax and cello.

Once the dancing hours begin? Band, DJ, both. The choice is completely yours. Just ensure that they’re passionate professionals utterly dedicated to creating the vibe for a dance floor that heaves with happy bodies all night long.

Venue: Bendooley Estate / Image by Justin Aaron Photography 

Style it up

Now whatever the venue, if you’ve asked your guests to dress up, then the venue should be dressed up too.

Image by Tealily Photography 

Just because you’ve opted for a slightly rustic space or a modern space without a hint of cut glass or chandeliers, doesn’t mean dressing down the venue.

What is black tie style?

Traditionally it’s all about cut crystal, chandeliers, the finest silver cutlery, letterpressed menus, crispest white damask linens. The whole Gatsby dream writ large.


It’s all about your take on high style. It can be modern. It can be sleek. It can be classical. It can be black and white. Or white and copper. Or white may not make an appearance at all. It can be all these things and more. You’d expect us to say this, but reach out to a stylist whose style you love and trust, who can hold your hand through the process, take your loves and dreams, and translate the whole beautiful thing into a cohesive look that transports you both, and your guests, to somewhere truly special, truly worth dressing up for.

Image by Tealily Photography 

And you know the best thing about being armed with a fantastic stylist? The good ones know it’s not just about endless budgets, but how to allocate what you’d like to spend on florals and styling in the very best and wow of ways.


Image by Tealily Photography 

All styling in each photo above by Form Over Function

Ms Zigzag says: If you dream of a classic black tie wedding (and who isn’t after Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding on the weekend) then this guide is perfect for you! Such fantastic tips from invitation inspiration all the way through to venue styling. Thank you Form Over Function

About the author Form Over Function: The Form Over Function team believe everyone has the right to enjoy a celebration – no matter how big or small – that is unique, personal, and carried out with a sense of fun, or a touch of style and grace. So whether you turn to us to design and manage your complete event, need to hire just a single spectacular vase, or wish to use our creative assistance for any of the many possibilities inbetween these two levels of service, you can be guaranteed the same degree of attention to detail, care and innovation we offer to all our clients.



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