Question: “Hi Diane. My husband and I are invited to a “Texas Black Tie” Wedding. We are not sure what appropriate attire is, and a friend (and coworker) says it is okay for my husband to wear a black suit? What should I wear? We are also not clear about what to give as a gift since it says, “No gifts except your presence at our wedding”. The couple is not registered anywhere and I will feel cheap showing up empty handed. Please advise. Thank you, Sheila B.”
Sheila, I can certainly understand your predicament, especially since “Texas Black Tie” can mean a number of different things, and gift giving for the bride and groom can be difficult to navigate at times. Keep reading for my thoughts on these (and other) wedding etiquette topics.
Be specific with attire description. Guests generally appreciate a hint as to how formal (or informal) the wedding will be, as this allows them to dress accordingly. It’s best to make reference to the dress attire on the reception invitation (lower right hand corner), and on the wedding website, rather than on the actual wedding invitation. Be specific, “Black Tie” means a tuxedo for men and a long dress for women. “Formal” requires a dark suit for men and a dressy cocktail dress for women. “Casual” can be anything from an outdoor barbecue to a ceremony on the sand, with little direction, other than summer clothes or bathing suits. “Texas Black Tie” could easily mean boots and jeans to a sport coat and casual slacks. Make your guests comfortable by letting them know exactly what you expect. Be aware not everyone will know, or understand dress codes, and you may still get some people who will dress according to what they have in their closet.
Honor the “no gifts” request, or give to a charity in the couples name. If the invitation specifically mentions no gifts, then it’s appropriate to forgo a gift. Even if others don’t do the same, you are perfectly fine to follow the couple’s request. Some couples appreciate a charitable donation made in their name. I recently read an article on PBS News Hour about this topic. They featured an online registry, JustGive.org, that connects donors to charities based on their particular interest or cause. Websites such as this one make it easy for you to give, while honoring a celebration, and supporting a good cause.
It’s not obligatory to purchase a gift off the registry. While it’s nice, if for whatever reason you don’t find a suitable gift option, feel free to purchase a gift card or buy something you are comfortable giving. Make sure and include a gift receipt. A gift is not an obligation of a certain dollar amount and you should not overspend out of pressure or competition. For more of my wedding gift tips refer to my article on Huffington Post, Wedding Etiquette: 8 Tips to Surviving the Season.
Offer a meal to the wedding planner and vendors (photographer, DJ, etc.). It may or may not be in the contract, but offering a meal to those providing you with professional services throughout the night is a nice gesture. They may not take you up on it, but offering a meal is polite and will stave off hunger while they are working into the late hours.
Be respectful of blended families. You may only want your biological mom and dad in your wedding photo, but your dad has been married to your stepmother for 18 years. Consider taking multiple pictures, some with and without various family members to make sure no one is offended. Talk through the different scenarios in advance so there will be no tension on your wedding day. Each situation is different and there are no hard and fast rules – just keep in mind this is the beginning of a new season in your life as a married couple.
For more tips, refer back to Part I of Wedding Etiquette: Commonly Asked Questions, view my recent interview with Fox Austin, Wedding Guest Etiquette, and visit my Pinterest page for more fashion inspiration.