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Hosting a Black Tie Evening at Home

blackbowtie

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Originally posted this Men's Clothing, but realized too late that this is probably a more appropriate forum.

Inspired by a few (relatively) recent threads on black tie, and as part of my efforts to further integrate black tie/evening wear into my lifestyle, I'm thinking of hosting a black tie evening at home. All of the black tie/formal events I've attended have been big parties/balls involving at least a hundred people, and I'm thinking that a more intimate setting with fewer guests would be something worth pursuing.

This being Style Forvm, I'm convinced that some of you must have done this and would have some tips to share. I'm thinking of having around 20 guests.

Some questions that come to mind are:

- could I do without a caterer/bartender? Am planning to have finger food and let the guests help themselves at the bar. Or is that just not acceptable if you expect people to dress up?

- what is a good time for the party to start? I'm thinking after dinner i.e. 8:00 p.m.

- what "format" should the party take? In other words, should it just be a "normal" party where people come, drink, eat and then leave, with the exception being that they are dressed up? Or should I plan a "program" involving some activities? If so, what could those be?

- any thoughts on appropriate music apart from classical music?

- how to pitch the invitation requesting/encouraging black tie without coming off as (too much of) a snob? More importantly, how to encourage people to comply as best as they can to the dress code, again without being too fussy?

Any other thoughts would be appreciated.
 

Bhowie

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:facepalm:
 

Philip

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Watch an episode of Frasier
 

Nereis

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Been to a few of these sort of parties before.

A few rules of thumb.

1. Are you inviting friends from your university days?

2. Does everyone have black tie attire?

3. Is someone playing on a grand piano?

4. Does your house happen to have a helicopter pad?

5. Does your house happen to have a private library?

5. Are you bringing the guests in by boat?

6. Do you have enough whiskey?

Of those 6 things above, every single black tie party at someone's house has had at least 3-4 covered. Number 1 is the most important.
 

Piobaire

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If you invite me I will wear my formal Highland attire.
 

EBugatti

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In this day and age, a black tie event, whether privately held or at a public venue, is usually held for some celebratory reason which could range from hearing an impressive soprano give a few arias to a New Years Eve party to someone's birthday or other personal milestone. In all cases, it is not just a bunch of people hanging out in tuxes and eating chips and salsa and opening their own beers.

It is a "special occasion" and hence, staff would certainly be appropriate, a reason to invite your guests and even proper invitations might be in order. It seems like you want to have a bunch of friends over, make them dress up and then basically have an otherwise humdrum, run-of-the-mill, insipid gathering and doing so on the least possible budget. I here Safeway is having a sale on soda. :foo:
 

caxt

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So you basically want to throw a medium sized formal dinner party.

Some considerations:
-Try to make sure everyone you invite has access to a black tie rig.
-Send out written invitations at least 2 weeks in advance –ask them to RSVP but follow up with those who don’t.
-List the starting time of the party and dinner time. (7:00 and then 8:00 is a good time for dinner.)
-Should be clear the event is black tie. – “Black Tie Preferred” is probably best.
-Break out the silverware.
-Adult Beverages should be plentiful: I think it would be acceptable to have people pour their own drinks, however with twenty it may get a bit hectic.
-Lots of Ice.

Without help:
Food needs to be prepared in advance with precise timing for cooking and serving.
Food should be excellent, and I think this is doable without a caterer, but it would certainly be much easier on you/your Significant other if you had help. It should be a multi-course meal.

I think the biggest pitfall is: who is going to serve the food to your guests?
You could bartend and that might be a bit awkward, but I think hosting and serving are mutually exclusive roles.

As for activities I would suggest: drinks and conversation, dinner, and then cigars, drinks, and conversation.

But some ideas for “themes”: wine/spirit tastings, opera/ballet, movie screening, canasta/bridge/poker, dancing, music/symphony, sailing, etc.

Music: big band and swing.

Extra Credit: flowers, a centerpiece, seating chart, table settings, correct wine and champagne glasses, a “discard” table for empty bottles and drink glasses. A few small appetizers for before dinner.

Don’t have people bring food it’s very tacky –no one wants a black tie potluck.

A 1970s edition of Miss Manners can help you out greatly.
 

blackbowtie

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Been to a few of these sort of parties before.
A few rules of thumb.
1. Are you inviting friends from your university days?
...
Number 1 is the most important.

I'm curious, why is this important?


Been to a few of these sort of parties before.
A few rules of thumb.
1. Are you inviting friends from your university days?
2. Does everyone have black tie attire?
3. Is someone playing on a grand piano?
4. Does your house happen to have a helicopter pad?
5. Does your house happen to have a private library?
5. Are you bringing the guests in by boat?
6. Do you have enough whiskey?
Of those 6 things above, every single black tie party at someone's house has had at least 3-4 covered. Number 1 is the most important.

This is what I'm trying to get at. There is so much collective hand-wringing about the ever diminishing opportunities to wear black tie nowadays. I think it's partly because a lot of people think you need to own a mansion and have a helicopter pad to host a black tie event. While we'll probably never go back to the days when people habitually dress in dinner clothes everyday for dinner, I think there's value in trying to make the black tie experience more "mainstream", rather than something for multimillionaires, royalty, or fictional MI6 agents.

Lack of whiskey is not a problem I'm acquainted with.
 

blackbowtie

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So you basically want to throw a medium sized formal dinner party.
Some considerations:
-Try to make sure everyone you invite has access to a black tie rig.
-Send out written invitations at least 2 weeks in advance –ask them to RSVP but follow up with those who don’t.
-List the starting time of the party and dinner time. (7:00 and then 8:00 is a good time for dinner.)
-Should be clear the event is black tie. – “Black Tie Preferred” is probably best.
-Break out the silverware.
-Adult Beverages should be plentiful: I think it would be acceptable to have people pour their own drinks, however with twenty it may get a bit hectic.
-Lots of Ice.
Without help:
Food needs to be prepared in advance with precise timing for cooking and serving.
Food should be excellent, and I think this is doable without a caterer, but it would certainly be much easier on you/your Significant other if you had help. It should be a multi-course meal.
I think the biggest pitfall is: who is going to serve the food to your guests?
You could bartend and that might be a bit awkward, but I think hosting and serving are mutually exclusive roles.
As for activities I would suggest: drinks and conversation, dinner, and then cigars, drinks, and conversation.
But some ideas for “themes”: wine/spirit tastings, opera/ballet, movie screening, canasta/bridge/poker, dancing, music/symphony, sailing, etc.
Music: big band and swing.
Extra Credit: flowers, a centerpiece, seating chart, table settings, correct wine and champagne glasses, a “discard” table for empty bottles and drink glasses. A few small appetizers for before dinner.
Don’t have people bring food it’s very tacky –no one wants a black tie potluck.
A 1970s edition of Miss Manners can help you out greatly.

Thanks. There are many helpful tips in here. I've only had experience with hired help for a party of 60+ people, and was thinking getting help for only 20 guests might be overdoing it. But on second thought, it probably makes sense, all the same. I'm not planning a sit-down dinner, but more like an after dinner event where there'll be plentiful finger food and free-flowing drinks.

Thanks for the big band and swing suggestion, much appreciated. i also like the wine tasting idea, which should only get the party going.

I do believe that if one is over 30, and has a job, one is probably too old for organizing potlucks.
 
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wellsronald18

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I think some activities should also be there so that party doesn’t get monotonous.
 

curzon

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OP, how many of these guests presently own black tie attire? For those who haven't, how many are inclined to purchase (or rent) for this one occasion? Shall I assume women will be invited? Are they to wear appropriate gowns, shoes, etc.?

If you want to host a successful event you need to ensure almost all those you invite shall attend. This means that all the invitees: 1) already own the clothing; 2) are invited two months (or more) prior; and 3) the occasion and locale is commensurate with their effort.

OP, have you purchased a tuxedo and now have nowhere to wear it? If so, might I suggest you join a few charitable & cultural organizations and attend their balls. Or join the diplomatic corps.
 

Nereis

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I'm curious, why is this important?
This is what I'm trying to get at. There is so much collective hand-wringing about the ever diminishing opportunities to wear black tie nowadays. I think it's partly because a lot of people think you need to own a mansion and have a helicopter pad to host a black tie event. While we'll probably never go back to the days when people habitually dress in dinner clothes everyday for dinner, I think there's value in trying to make the black tie experience more "mainstream", rather than something for multimillionaires, royalty, or fictional MI6 agents.
Lack of whiskey is not a problem I'm acquainted with.

I'm assuming that anyone who went to university with you is from a similar socio-economic background and as such would already have black tie attire covered. I personally have never been invited to a black tie party that wasn't thrown by one of my friends from university days simply because you get a lot more variety in taste in the 'real world'.
 

ErnestoG.

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do make your own bbq pork sammiches. make three different kinds of cole slaw
 

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