Black Tie Optional

When we got our friends’ invitation to their son’s Greenwich,  Connecticut wedding on New Year’s Eve, I sensed it would be a gala affair.  And sure enough at the bottom of the elegently engraved card were the words BLACK TIE OPTIONAL.

My husband hadn’t worn his tuxedo for a few years so I urged him to try it on and thankfully it still fit.

Then I checked the wedding registry and ordered a gift,  called the hotel to reserve a room, and booked the cat-sitter.

After deciding which of my two cocktail dresses I would wear – my black one or my other black one?  – we were ready for the big day.  Then I remembered two out-of-town wedding catastrophes in our past.

The first happened many years ago when my cousin was to be married in the garden of her parents’ wonderful Revolutionary-era house in Northampton, Massachusetts.   (See Rosie and Milt, The Literary Lady and the Second-Story Man, March 3, 2016).

Getting ready for that trip I packed our suitcase,  gathered all we needed for our year-old toddler,  and put my husband’s suit and my dress in a garment bag.  I hung the garment bag in the coat closet right near our apartment door.

Packing the car with the suitcase,  the toddler,  and all the requisite snacks and toys,  we forgot – you guessed it – the garment bag.  My husband and I went to that wedding in jeans.

Years later we were getting ready for another out-of-town wedding.  Our friend’s daughter was to be married at a vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork.

This time I zipped my husband’s suit into one garment bag and my outfit into another,  hung them both in the front closet and taped a big note on the apartment door for my husband to see that read TAKE GARMENT BAGS FROM CLOSET.

Unpacking the car on Long Island several hours later,  there in the trunk was ONE of the garment bags,  and by chance it was his.  So I went to another wedding in jeans.

This time for the gala New Year’s Eve affair  I was determined to play it safe and take full responsibility for getting our clothes to the wedding.  I zipped my husband’s tux and my dress in the same garment bag,  and carried it down to the car myself.

Later in our hotel room we were dressing for the wedding when I heard my husband ask,  “Where are my pants?”

Sure enough there was his tux jacket on the hanger,  but beneath  it – no pants.  So my husband went to the wedding in black tie from the waist up;  from the waist down he was in navy corduroy.  After all the invite did say BLACK TIE OPTIONAL.


Despite that satorial slip, we had a lovely time at the wedding.  Back in our hotel room I was hanging my dress in the closet when I noticed something crumpled up on the closet floor.  Apparently my husband’s tuxedo pants had slipped off their hanger.

I hope our next wedding invitation says COME AS YOU ARE.

Dana Susan Lehrman


  • I witnessed Playwright/Honorary Degree Recipient Arthur Miller apologize to 500 people at a black tie Brandeis Commencement Dinner when, in civvies only, he rose to speak: “Oops, I forgot my tux!” Some people just have more important things to think about. ~ Mike

    • Mike, I’ve heard that Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion was once at a black tie reception for foreign dignitaries when he was suddenly called to an emergency meeting of the Knesset.
      Entering the room where members of his cabinet were discussing urgent affairs of state dressed in their usual khakis and sandals, Ben-Gurion apologized for his tux.
      Excuse me, he said, I’m in my working clothes.

  • Since “trouble comes in threes” after the three “catastrophes” described in your blog you should be “wedding ready” from now on. You and Danny are obviously sought-after guests despite your sartorial slip-ups.

  • So funny. This reminds me of a story of my own. Years ago after dressing for my brother’s best friend’s wedding, I realized I had not purchased new roll of film. To run down to the store, I changed into a pair of sneakers. I forgot to change back into my dress shoes when I returned to the apartment. When the car arrived, I went downstairs, got in, and off we went. It wasn’t until I arrived at the location that I realized I still had on the sneakers. I apologized profusely to the bride and everyone for showing up inappropriately dressed. Later, my sister told me that she noticed my wearing the sneakers when I got into the car but assumed I had done so intentionally, so she didn’t say anything.

  • I’m the mother of the bride for the wedding at a charming LI vineyard and I can assure everyone that Dana and Danny were more than welcome at the wedding in their whatevers. Life is very casual out here on the East End. But the best part of the story was the loud scream from Dana when she opened the trunk and didn’t see the garment bag. Everyone came running thinking that she had discovered a dead body in her trunk.

  • I can relate to these “wardrobe malfunctions”! But you certainly handled these situations with aplomb!

  • Angela Osborne: Going to my high school reunion (our fifth) I went to great pains to get the “right” dress. I settled on a lovely grey (kind of metallic) long dress made of soft jersey cloth, a dress from Saks I already had in my closet. But when I tried it on the weight I had gained since graduation seemed to have settled in my stomach and so I thought I needed something new. The lingerie sales person a Lord & Taylor assured me that their “new” line of elastic stretch panty girdles were perfect and so I bought one and wore it under the dress. But still there was a slight “bump” just below the waist which I thought no one would notice. Wrong. At first I was telling people who were congratulating me on my pregnancy that I wasn’t pregnant. Then I figured, the hell with it and would just smile and say thank you. Hm…my first child arrived five years later…..I didn’t know how to explain to anyone what had happened but he problem went away. Every year after graduation fewer and fewer people would show up. They had either died or moved to Florida. And then the wonderful person who had arranged all those reunions died. I asked an older sister if she still went to her high school reunions and she said, no, people die, move, or are no longer interested. But I have maintained a friendship with one of my classmates = we are god parents to each other’s children and though geography separates us we remain in touch and phone each other often.

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