M
Savvy May 2018

Formal wedding etiquette - possible for outdoor wedding?

MrMonkey, on March 31, 2018 at 9:15 AM Posted in Etiquette and Advice 0 17
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We’re looking to host a formal wedding outdoors on a gorgeous private estate. The guests will receive a weekly schedule with dress code suggestions beforehand so they know how casual or formal all the events leading up to the wedding will be, as well as the wedding itself (we have several dinners and events planned during the week for guests who would like to join). We are making the wedding the most formal of the events, but wondering if a black tie is not appropriate for an outdoor wedding? Mainly, I’m wondering how etiquette lies in requesting a higher level of formality for an outdoor wedding and reception. Or are there ways to increase the formality of an outdoor wedding to make it appropriate? Family will all be in gowns, but wondering what level of formality is appropriate to mention to guests?




(Details: Ceremony at 5 on grassy area, reception at 6:30 on floored area, live music and performances, served meal, full liquor, pool, pool hall, no wedding party, invites were gilded edges w gold foil print)




TLDR - What are the qualities that make an outdoor wedding formal? How do I formalize an outdoor wedding?


17 Comments

Latest activity by Green, on September 10, 2019 at 2:10 AM
  • rica
    VIP September 2018
    rica ·
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    I’m usually not a fan of dress codes, but I strongly suggest being very clear with your guests here. Different people assume different levels of formality with outdoor weddings and I think it’s easy to assume wrong. I don’t think you need to do anything different. Just talking about the wedding and the details you just mentioned should help get the point across.
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  • Sarah
    Master June 2016
    Sarah ·
    • Flag
    Honestly? I would never assume that a wedding taking place outside was a formal affair. I certainly wouldn’t if the ceremony was on grass, and I’d be annoyed as a guest if I had a formal gown and heels on and had to stand/sit in a grassy area and/or walk through grass either to get to the ceremony or to get from the ceremony to the reception.
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  • Officiallymrs
    Super May 2010
    Officiallymrs ·
    • Flag
    I wouldn’t want to wear nice heels with a formal gown on the grass !
    • Reply
  • NinjaBride
    Super June 2018
    NinjaBride ·
    • Flag
    Black tie is not just a dress code. Your wedding is not black tie, that is not an insult I’m sure someone will post all the stipulations on here to what makes an event black tie. Generally you don’t tell adults how to dress... the invitation should match the formality of the event so people are clued in but people will wear what the want.
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  • ISaidHallYes
    VIP November 2018
    ISaidHallYes ·
    • Flag
    You can totally have a black tie wedding that takes place outdoors as long as you have the other aspects. Are you having a band (yes), valet parking, top shelf liquor, plated multi course meal (preferable table side ordering), over the top flowers, etc. Those all make an event black tie.

    I think if I received your invite in the mail I would assume it was a formal event. Those invitations would definitely give that impression.

    A good idea would be to provide heel protectors if guests will be on the grass during the ceremony. Black tie affairs mean good shoes and I’d be sad to ruin them in mud :-)

    My sister was just invited to a black tie wedding outdoors at a plantation.
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  • NinjaBride
    Super June 2018
    NinjaBride ·
    • Flag
    Wear what they want ***
    • Reply
  • M
    Savvy May 2018
    MrMonkey ·
    • Flag
    There’s no mud, it’s a manicured lawn with flower hedges and seats.

    Ive been to galas that we’re hosted outside on gorgeous lawns ( formal) and so was confused why the same wouldn’t apply to a wedding. There will be seating and alcohol handed out before the ceremony begins.

    Thanks for the notes. Is the fact that the ceremony is on a grassy area the only aspect that makes it not black tie?
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  • Sarah
    Master June 2016
    Sarah ·
    • Flag
    Are you doing everything else that is needed for a black tie event? Valet parking, live band, white glove service, heavy cocktail hour, minimum of 4 plated courses for dinner, full top shelf open bar, champagne toast?
    • Reply
  • M
    Savvy May 2018
    MrMonkey ·
    • Flag
    (In response to a few folks)

    The place has walkways throughout, only the ceremony chairs are on a grassy area... I’m a little concerned about that,.. maybe I can rent a floor for that specific area?


    Re the valet- I’ve been wondering about that. Only 15 couples will be arriving from outside with cars, and a portion of them will be drop offs, and parking is fairly limited on the location. Thats one aspect I have to think through as anyone who arrives in car is in a rental...

    its a destination wedding so that makes me lean a bit down to not mentioning attire, but since my side will be dressed up, I’m concerned his guests will feel themselves out of place.

    guests are invited to the property at any point, we’re serving dessert and alcohol all day indoors leading to the ceremony, then cocktail hour with a performance, and reception with dancers, performers, band, etc.


    thanks so so much for your help! It’s giving me a lot of thoughts, though I still have no clear direction. Haha
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  • M
    Savvy May 2018
    MrMonkey ·
    • Flag
    Yes, full day open bar top shelf. There’s bartenders, but also whiskey bars through the estate that guests can help themselves to if they’re in a private area
    • Reply
  • The Nuptials
    VIP July 2018
    The Nuptials ·
    • Flag
    I will say this - my wedding is true black tie caviar and top shelf, valet, etc. And in casual conversations with friends no one is dressing black tie. Especially not the guys. My lady friends seem to be heading to rent the run way but the dresses they pull up and show me as still just ‘nice wedding’. I’m done reminding people, black tie has now become a pain in the butt for me. I’m doing my part but they aren’t doing theirs and I’m not going to concern myself anymore.

    A dear friend has an outdoor wedding she’s attending in May and the bride keeps telling her it’s black tie and she just rolls her eyes. Black tie and outdoors don’t usually go hand in hand under a tent. At this point do what you want but figure out if your guests are like mine or more traditional.
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  • The Nuptials
    VIP July 2018
    The Nuptials ·
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    Can I ask where? I can’t see your date or location but I think that will play in to how people dress.

    My invitations haven’t gone out yet but they are letterpress - ecru and gold and maybe that will set people straight? Idk kicking myself for black tie at this point!
    • Reply
  • M
    Savvy May 2018
    MrMonkey ·
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    In wine country. Most guests will be coming from NYC or Cali.

    Thank you all greatly for the answers- I’ve done quite a bit of research afterwards and have decided that I definetly disagree with many postings. Having been to many galas in NY and weddings- I’d say that many people are conflating one type of event with all black tie- which is not the case.

    I posted this elsewhere but I think it helps here.

    Overall, more formal events have entertainment- so it doesn’t matter if it’s a band or a show or whatnot. When you attend formal galas, they’ll even have exotic puppet shows instead of bands. And fundraisers tend to have a lot of variety acts.
    Ultimalty- an expectation is that a type of entertainment is provided. The reason DJ’s are not considered black tie is because they are not real entertainment- you can’t watch the skill of the musician as they pluck a string or admire the tenure in a voice with a dj.

    passed apps? That does not convey black tie either. Have you been to dinners with table
    side service? Or banquet service? (French or Russian service) There’s no passed apps- that would be odd. Instead the apps are brought to the table or are already on the table.

    same with flowers. Decor depends on settings, and when you have a court meal or banquet meal there are no flowers or centerpieces on the table.


    You can have a black tie event at an estate or other outdoor settings. Think Hampton’s estates, gardens(not very common in the US), or botanical gardens. The seating for dinner is expected to be covered, though.

    With black tie, it helps to look historically about the essence and where the dress originated, and take guidance from there. There are many forms of black tie.

    yes, alcohol should be available the entire day and evening freely.

    in terms of start times and days- ridiculous. Black tie events can happen on any day of the week. Jewish weddings which tend to be very formal, cannot happen from sundown Friday to sundown sat. That means they generally happen on Thursday’s, Sunday’s or fridays before sundown (5pm). As long as the reception starts are 6pm onwards, that’s a clue that the event will be formal.



    one Last Note! Generally- not all, but many more women appreciate an opportunity to dress up, it’s more frequently men who aren’t aware of choices or don’t have them that grumble at black tie. Just wear a nice dark suit then Smiley smile

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  • The Nuptials
    VIP July 2018
    The Nuptials ·
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    I was scratching my head when I saw this alert.

    Plan how you wish to plan.

    Isn't your wedding this month?

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  • Will & Tiara
    Super September 2019
    Will & Tiara ·
    • Flag

    I think you are doing everything right and on an estate property, elegance, upscale is already implied. You may want to add Dress: Elegant - Black Tie Invited but not mandatory

    I think with what you are offering, you should be fine. I would talk to the coordinator of the estate as to the grass issue. A rented floor would be a nice way to go to add more elegance.

    • Reply
  • M
    Savvy May 2018
    MrMonkey ·
    • Flag
    Everything is mostly planned, getting married in 3 weeks Smiley smile Just guests have been asking recently and that ended up being the main question. I ended up saying black tie preferred.

    I asked the forums as I was stressing about the black tie thing but was reminded by my family that everyone (on our side) will own long gowns and most all the guests have tuxes and prefer to wear them so I shoudl stop stressing about saying black tie, it’s not a burden. His guests are mostly military so they can wear dress blues without a problem.

    I wnated to make make sure I was offering a high level experience to guests and not putting anyone out but I realized (after lots of stress) that there was a disconnect and that my version of high level is really different (culturally we eat caviar for breakfast and it isn’t considered high end, just considered a Russian breakfast). I have been scouring for what other entertainment or touches I could add to the wedding to give guests a better experience, and honestly, having a bathroom attendant doesn’t really seem like one of them. Haha, it’s just been really amusing how etiquette and expectation is so different in different circles?
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  • G
    Green ·
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    This just happened to me...formal wedding outside....in the grass.... I didn't realize it until I got there that it was outside....I had on Christian Louboutins...ended up going to the car to get my flip flops....and it was 90 degrees.....I was hot....weather and attitude wise. OH....and i was required to wear black!! 😫

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