How to plan a black tie wedding, from glamorous dresses to best venues

Now weddings appear to be back on for 2021, it’s officially time to get excited about ones coming up this summer. You want your wedding to be the last word in elegance and luxury (not to mention a party for the ages), chances are you’re toying with the idea of a black tie theme. 

Currently, weddings have been made the exception to the delay to the England roadmap – with Boris Johnson announcing there would no longer be a cap on guests at ceremonies and receptions. It’s news brides and grooms-to-be, as well as wedding venues and planners were hoping for and can now start getting excited about.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said it was his “hope and belief” that the wedding and events industries would be open for business by summer – and he seems to have made true on that. With the UK’s mass vaccination programme well underway, it’s great to see that nuptials will also be allowed this year. 

With no restriction on guests, there’s no reason you can’t get stuck into dreaming up and planning your perfect wedding right now. If you’re after an elegant affair, here’s where to start… 

What does a black tie wedding entail? 

It’s first and foremost a dress code – floor-length dresses and tuxedos – but it also denotes a sense of formality. Think: an evening reception, sit-down dinner and opulent setting.

“A black tie wedding really creates a sense of occasion and implies importance,” says Anna Wills, founder of ARC events, who has helped organise weddings at some of the most prestigious venues in the UK including Kensington Palace and the V&A Museum.

“The choice of venue is key – throwing a glamorous formal wedding deserves the perfect setting for such an affair. Historical buildings with ornate interiors are an obvious winner, such as Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire or Banqueting House in London.” 

But where is a bride-to-be to start? For lavish affairs, the devil’s in the detail. From the save the dates to luxurious centrepieces and show-stopping venues, here’s our complete guide to planning a black tie wedding. 

Read more: How to plan a wedding during coronavirus

Best black tie wedding venues

Step number one: secure a venue that’s befitting of a black-tie bash. Mark Niemierko, who is widely regarded as one of the UK’s best wedding planners, says that, although it might sound obvious, you must remember to sort the “fundamentals” – guest numbers, date, location and budget – with your partner (and potential wedding planner) before you get bogged down in the details. These factors will determine which venues will be a good fit for you. 

He recommends “city chic” settings for a black tie wedding: think Draper’s Hall in the City of London, the Savile Club in Mayfair or the Battersea Arts Centre. However, a formal do can work just as well in the country: “One of my favourite venues is a little hotel in the New Forest called Lime Wood, where you could do a whole weekend wedding,” Niemierko says. And he should know, having organised Julia and James Cordon’s nuptials at Somerset’s Babington House. 

Here are a few of our favourite venues for inspiration: 

The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford