I just recently received a wedding invite for my friend and photographer of the blog, Hannah. I’m so excited to celebrate her wedding this fall and am planning on bringing my favorite date, Cathy! The first thing I noticed, besides her invitations being stunning (our designer Emily did them!) was that she’s going ALL OUT! It’s a formal affair and it’s black tie! I don’t think I’ve ever been to a true black tie event and I am so excited to get all glammed up for it.
I’ll be honest, I thought I could get away with this navy beauty and not have to do any shopping. And maybe I could… but I probably shouldn’t. That navy Gal Meets Glam dress is definitely more of a semi-formal wedding look. A black tie wedding means it is definitely formal. Which means only one thing, gowns! It calls for glitz and glamour and I can’t wait to dive head into it!
Since I don’t own a single formal dress, I knew I had to do some shopping. My wedding date, Cathy and I, headed to the one place I knew would be perfect for this to share some formal wedding guest attire options, BHDLN. This beautiful brand was the place my sister found her wedding dress at, where Cathy bought hers and a place I’ve even shared on the blog before here in this platinum silky number. I couldn’t wait to browse and share some beautiful looks to inspire your next formal event.
Formal Wedding Guest Attire
Anytime you go to a wedding, casual or formal, you want to definitely abide by the dress code on the invitation. It’s there for a reason and always the first thing I check so I can start shopping! The venue, the vibe, the location and the couple all play a role in this decision. You can also see some of my favorite wedding dress codes broken down here. But today I want to talk solely about formal weddings. Black tie affairs, black tie optional and formal. Whenever you see these on an invitation, you’ll want to pull out all the stops for a fabulous dress (or a jumpsuit!).
TIP: I always like to ask the bride (or any of the wedding party that I may know) what the bridesmaid colors are. Nothing worse than showing up looking like you’re part of the wedding party when you aren’t!
What Is Formal Attire?
Formal attire is definitely defined as a full-length gown, very fancy cocktail attire from dresses to a really glamorous pantsuit. When it comes to the men, formal wedding attire means a tuxedo. And definitely, a bow tie, which I love! The only time a tuxedo is not required is when it’s black-tie optional. The “option” if you will is to go with a very nice dark suit. Navy is my favorite, but black works great too!. However, for women, formal attire, black tie, white tie and black tie optional all mean beautiful gowns.
There are several options to choose from when it comes to formal wedding attire. From floor-length gowns that hug the body that are simple, to embellished beautiful voluminous gowns. You can play with your hem a bit like Cathy and I did in today’s post with tea lengths or high lows. It’s a fun modern take on a formal look. My number one tip though is to always think about fabric. This is not the time to bring out cotton floor length maxis. Instead, choose fabrics like satin, lace and tafetta.
Formal Wedding Outfit Ideas
I wanted to share several great formal wedding outfit ideas. Cathy and I teamed up with BHLDN to style a few stunning dresses that work for formal attire events. From formal beach weddings to formal evening events, here are some great ideas to help you navigate shopping for one of these glamorous events.
Black Tie & Night Time Formal Weddings
The time you can really go all out on all the things. Think a fun train, lots of ruffles and sequins are fun here too. These dresses can be over the top too which is totally acceptable for a black-tie affair. Just always steer clear of white or ivory! Cathy’s lace dress works great for this. But I personally am so in love with my floral sleeveless gown that has a bit of a train. It’s so beautiful and has pockets!
Shop Black Tie Wedding Guest Dresses
Formal Church Wedding
For a formal church wedding, you’ll want to make sure your shoulders are covered and you aren’t too over the top with sequins and major ruffles and things. Keep things a little more traditional out of respect of the church. This lace short sleeved tea length dress is perfect for such an occasion.
Shop Church Formal Wedding Guest Dresses
Formal Beach Weddings & Summer Black Tie Weddings
If you’ve been invited to a formal beach wedding, you can definitely show off those shoulders and play with hemlines a bit. Keep in mind you’re still at the beach so the fabric should be lighter and flowier. And you can keep your colors a little lighter and embrace pastels. But you can also embrace bright fun colors too and some prints since it is the beach! Both of the below dresses are perfect for summer black-tie weddings or any more beachy weddings.
Even though your black-tie event may be at the beach, it still doesn’t mean you can wear tank tops. And definitely leave the flip-flops at home! And depending on the time of day, you may want to bring a light layer like a pashmina to cover your shoulders as it can get cool and windy by a beach. And my number one suggestion for a beach wedding, wear wedges or flats. You’ll thank me later!
Shop Summer & Beach Formal Wedding Guest Dresses
Black Tie Wedding Accessories
Lastly, you want to ensure your accessories also match the dress code. Leave the espadrilles and leather purses at home. This night calls for sequins, sparkles and all things dressy. I like to always bring out my fun small bags like this calf hair lady bag, or a sequined clutch. For shoes, You can always be safe in these strappy Steven Madden shoes and get away with them just fine. But to go over the top and really lean into the formal attire, opt for sparkles! Plus, love these under $100 ones that are for sure going to be comfy with that block heel.
Jewelry can go a few ways. I like to keep things simple especially if the dress is bold. A simple gold hoop or stud works. But if you want something more fun, a sparkly earring or tassel like I did above is always a great choice.