The Best Of Formal Wedding Guest Attire Ideas

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 dresses or a really glamorous pantsuit. When it comes to the men, formal attire means a tuxedo. The only time this 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 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,

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!

Formal Wedding Guest Attire by Jessica Camerata
Formal Wedding Outfit Ideas

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 fabric should be lighter and more flowy. And you can keep your colors a little more lighter and pastel. Both of the below dresses are perfect for summer black tie weddings or any more beachy weddings.

Formal Beach Wedding outfit ideas

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.

Black Tie Wedding Accessories

Shop Black Tie Event Accessories

Photos by Hannah Lozano

Jessica is an Atlanta life and style blogger. Aiming to bring practical tips to your every day life. Tips that you can easily tackle and make your life feel just a tad more 'put-together'.

Leave a Comment


  1. 7.3.19
    Lisa Autumn said:

    Oh god they all look dreamy!

    x Lisa |

  2. 7.3.19

    We clean up real good!

    Cathy, your Poor Little It Girl

  3. 7.26.20
    Magline Michel said:

    Hi can I wear satin dress on a formal summermorning wedding

    • 7.26.20
      Jessica said:

      I think so as long as it’s midi or long. Definitely dress it up with some great jewelry and a pretty clutch