Orders Decorations & Medals with Black Tie & White Tie

Orders, Decorations and Medals with Black Tie, White Tie and Morning Dress

General Guidelines

It is acceptable to wear military and civil decorations at state and other prestigious ceremonial functions providing the invitation specifically calls for them.  The traditional wording in North America is White Tie – Decorations or Black Tie – Decorations.  The British Commonwealth equivalents are Evening Dress – Decorations and Dinner Jacket – Decorations or Black Tie, Miniatures.

Protocol for wearing decorations is governed by the various bodies which issue them.  Generally speaking, most organizations in English-speaking countries follow the same basic guidelines shown below.  In all cases, if a man has more orders than the guidelines permit to be worn at once, he should wear the most senior orders.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a White House white-tie dinner in 2007.  Note shortened riband. George Bush was not really into white tie but he wore it for the queen

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a White House white-tie dinner in 2007. Note shortened riband. George Bush was not really into white tie but he wore it for the queen

White Tie (Evening Dress)

  • broad riband (sash) with badge may be worn over the appropriate shoulder or replaced by a shortened riband (see photo on right); either type is positioned over the waistcoat and under the tailcoat
  • up to four stars may be worn on the left breast of the tailcoat
  • one neck badge suspended on a miniature ribbon of an order may be worn just below the bow tie
  • miniature badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the coat’s left lapel
King Willem-Alexander And Queen Maxima Of The Netherlands Visit New Zealand

King Willem-Alexander And Queen Maxima Of The Netherlands Visit New Zealand

Black Tie (Dinner Jackets)

  • one star may be worn on the left breast of the jacket
  • one neck badge suspended on a miniature ribbon of an order may be worn just below the bow tie
  • miniature badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the jacket’s left lapel

Canadian Instructions for wearing medals with Black Tie

Canadian Instructions for wearing medals with Black Tie


Morning Dress Instructions for Medals and neck badges from Canada

Morning Dress Instructions for Medals and neck badges from Canada

Morning Dress

According to Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, decorations are today rarely worn with morning dress and are largely restricted to special official public functions, religious services connected with the orders of chivalry or grand memorial services.  In these cases whoever is organizing the event should indicate whether decorations are appropriate.  If so, the following protocols generally apply:

  • up to four stars may be worn on the left breast of the coat
  • one neck badge suspended on a full-width ribbon may be worn under the shirt collar
  • full-size badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the coat’s left lapel
Medals, Tiara and Gowns worn by British Royalty

Medals, Tiara and Gowns worn by British Royalty

Here you can see a larger version

Medals, Tiara and Gowns worn by British Royalty

Medals, Tiara and Gowns worn by British Royalty

European Variations

Throughout much of Europe, white tie is the only attire considered formal enough to display one’s honors.  That is why in countries such as Italy, Germany, France, and Spain it is generally considered gauche to adorn a tuxedo with a sash, star or neck badge.  To avoid being taken for an arriviste, visiting Anglophones may want to consider the custom of confining one’s black-tie decorations to a rosette (see sidebar) or, less traditionally, a maximum of six miniature medals.

Daytime affairs grand enough to warrant full decorations will specifically call for Court Dress, High Uniform or even White Tie.  If a man chooses to wear morning dress to such an occasion it would be prudent to limit himself to two miniature medals.

Further Information

Following are links to selected protocol guides which provide further detail on the wearing of decorations, including instructions for women.

The Hereditary Society Community of The United States of America

United States Marine Corps Uniform Regulations PDF (paragraph 5203, clause 5)

United States Navy Uniform Regulations (paragraph 5303)

Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia PDF (chapter 30-6)

Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel PDF (chapter 11)

Royal Air Force Uniform Dress and Appearance Regulations (chapter 8)

Spink’s Manual for the Wearing of Orders, Decorations and Medals by Andrew Hanham (civil)

The UK Honours System: Order of Wear

Wearing of Orders, Decorations and Medals PDF (military and civil) updated 2013

Wearing Your Medals Wrong – Blog about wearing decorations in Canada incorrectly

Wearing of Honours, Awards, Medals and Decorations PDF (military and civil)

The Dutch Honours System PDF in Dutch, English, French, and Spanish

Vestire gli Onori by Fabio Cassani Pironti and Michele D’Andrea.  A

complete guide to the wearing of decorations in the Italian peninsula.

Formal Facts: Rosette

Rosette representing Society of the Sons of St. George.

Rosette representing Society of the Sons of St. George.

The lapel rosette originated with a Legion of Honor award created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.  It was later reduced to button size for wear on civilian clothing and today it is awarded to members of both public and private organizations.  It is made from the silk used for the band of the related medal and is worn in the lapel buttonhole.

Remembrance Poppies

Vintage Flanders Poppy Poster

Vintage Flanders Poppy Poster

The wearing of artificial poppies is discussed under Classic Accessories to best dispel any misconception that they are mere dress accessories.

Summary
Article Name
Orders Decorations & Medals with Black Tie & White Tie
Description
Learn how to wear your medals, neck badges and decorations with white tie, black tie and formal morning dress. The country you are at plays an important role too.
Author
Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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