18 Elegant Formal Wedding Guest Dresses for a Black-Tie Wedding

Dial up the glitz and glamour.

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dress

Courtesy of LoveShackFancy

Receiving an invitation to a black-tie wedding can be exciting but also a little daunting at the same time. After all, a black-tie dress code is one of the fanciest out of the bunch and requires guests to wear their swankiest attire. But fret not! With so many gorgeous formal outfits on offer, there's a black-tie ensemble out there to suit every style and budget.

What Is Black-Tie Attire?

A black-tie dress code is reserved for formal weddings and events. Guests typically wear floor-length gowns and tuxedos when attending a black-tie wedding.

For fall and winter weddings, formal attire feels all the more appropriate—especially for nuptials timed to the holidays or New Year’s Eve. Full-length gowns are perfect for such occasions whether you’re into a seasonal long-sleeve style, textured velvet number, or sparkling sequins. If you’re one to follow trends, consider puff sleeves, allover florals, and bold styles in statement-making hues. For subdued tastes, you can’t go wrong with a gorgeous black gown whether that means a one-shoulder silhouette, plunging V-neck, or asymmetrical shape.

Read on for the best wedding guest dresses for a black-tie wedding for every style, budget, and season.

Most Classic: BHLDN Navy One-Shoulder Dress

Brixen Dress

 Courtesy of BHLDN

This one-shoulder dress is divinely chic for the guest who seeks a classic silhouette with an updated twist. Cut from soft and comfortable jersey, you'll have no problem making your way around the dancefloor.

Best Budget: ASOS DESIGN Cami Maxi Slip Dress

black tie dress

 Courtesy of ASOS

The not-so-simple slip dress has made a major comeback. This high shine satin slip dress features a crisscross back and a gentle cowl neckline for a look that feels at once formal and effortless.

For the Minimalist: BHLDN High Neck Slip Dress

slip dress

Courtesy of BHLDN

For the minimalist guest, this fitted slip is a supremely sophisticated and flattering choice. Complete the look with statement earrings and dewy makeup.

Best Gold Style: Sabina Musayev Metallic Dress

Sparkle Dress

 Courtesy of Sabina Musayev

A wedding around the holidays calls for a festive dress. Bring on the sparkle and bring on the bows. Keep accessories simple – this dress does all the talking!

Best Pastel: Needle & Thread Ruffled Tiered Point D'Esprit Gown

pink dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

Soft pastel hues are always a good idea for a spring or summer now. We love this frothy pink frock for the guest who loves feminine details like delicate flutter sleeves and cascading ruffles.

Best Investment: Alexander McQueen One-Sleeve Lace and Crepe Gown

black tie dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

Attending a wedding is an investment so invest in a dress that you'll wear again and again. This elegant gown crafted from exquisite crepe and hand-cut eyelash lace would make a timeless addition to any formal wardrobe.

For a Fall Wedding: Markarian Velvet-Trimmed Brocade Gown

pattern dress

 Courtesy of Markarian

Moody prints are always a sophisticated choice for a fall or winter black-tie wedding. This exquisite gown from Markarian is trimmed with sumptuous and warm velvet making it appropriate for any cold-weather event.

For a Garden Wedding: Erdem Floral Gown

floral gown

 Courtesy of Matchesfashion

For a spring black-tie wedding, florals are forever classic. We're picturing this floor-length beauty at a gorgeous garden wedding surrounded by rich greenery.

For a New Year's Eve Wedding: For a Jenny Packham Sequined Chiffon Wrap Gown

black tie dress

 Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

Give them glitz and glam in head to toe sequins. This statement-making gown is perfect for a New Year's Eve black-tie wedding. Keep accessories minimal–this dress does all the talking.

For a Summer Wedding: LoveShackFancy High/Low Dress

pink dress

Courtesy of LoveShackFancy 

If you're headed to a summer or destination wedding, this unique LoveShackFancy high/low dress is a no brainer. Dressy enough to adhere to a black-tie dress code and playful enough to complement a destination wedding venue – this dress is the best of both worlds.

Most Romantic: Monique Lhuillier One-Shoulder Glittered Tulle Gown

sparkle dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

For those attending a black-tie wedding around the holidays, a dress featuring a little sparkle is a no brainer. This dreamy tea-length dress is crafted from glittered tulle giving it just the right amount of subtle shimmer.

For a Winter Wedding: Jenny Yoo Velvet Flutter Sleeve Dress

black tie dress

 Courtesy of BHLDN

A black-tie wedding in the winter calls for a gown in rich textured fabrics like luxurious velvet. This elegant flutter sleeve dress comes in 5 sophisticated colors to complement every style and skin tone.

Most Unexpected: Prabal Gurung Long Sleeve Wrap Front Combo Dress

Prabal wrap dress

 Courtesy of 11 Honore

A contrast of bronze sequins and black jersey make this plus size dress flattering and eyecatching. The faux wrap design cinches you at the waist while the sexy high slit elongates your legs.

Best Little Black Dress: Brandon Maxwell Off-The-Shoulder Silk Maxi Dress

black dress

Courtesy of Moda Operandi

No matter the occasion, you can never go wrong with a classic little black dress. We love this one in particular for its alluring neckline and lustrous, silky, sheen. Wear with shoulder-grazing earrings to highlight the off-the-shoulder silhouette.

Most Glamorous: Monique Lhuillier One Shoulder Draped Satin Gown

pink gown

Courtesy of Moda Operandi

Channel Old Hollywood glamour in this stunning, floor-sweeping gown. The thigh-high split not only adds an element of sexiness, but it's also elongating to boot.

For the Expecting Guest: ASOS Maternity Pleated Dress

green dress

 Courtesy of ASOS

Deep jewel tones like emerald green are a supremely sophisticated alternative to wearing black to a formal wedding. This versatile green maternity dress could easily be worn to a winter wedding in a ballroom or a spring wedding in a garden.

For a Spring Wedding: Agua by Agua Bendita Cotton Poplin Maxi Dress

floral dress

Courtesy of Moda Operandi

For a spring black-tie wedding, florals are forever classic. We're picturing this floor-length beauty at a gorgeous garden wedding surrounded by rich greenery.

Best Back: Galvan Satin Halterneck Gown

purple dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

If you're looking to show off those shoulders and arms, go with a halter-neck dress. Wear your hair up to showcase the bow at the back.

What to look for in black-tie guest outfits

A black-tie dress code traditionally calls for formal outfits like floor-length evening gowns, tailored jumpsuits, and tuxedos. If you're not sure where to start, it's helpful to let the venue and season guide your decision-making process. For winter black-tie weddings, look for outfits crafted from warm and textured fabrics like lace and velvet. Soft pastels, as well as pretty floral prints, are perfect for spring and summer weddings, while jewel tones like emerald green, classic navy and, rich burgundy are always a fitting choice for fall or winter nuptials. Certain details like dramatic skirts, classic necklines, and shimmering embellishments will instantly make a silhouette feel black-tie-worthy. And if you're looking for a foolproof black-tie outfit, you can never go wrong with a timeless black gown or jumpsuit.

FAQ
  • What is a black-tie dress code?

    A black-tie dress code is reserved for formal weddings and requires that you wear a formal outfit like a floor-length gown and tuxedo.

  • What should a wedding guest wear to a black-tie wedding?

    Guests attending a black-tie wedding typically wear floor-length evening gowns. Formal dresses in black and navy are also a popular choice for black-tie weddings as are gowns with allover embellishments.

  • Can I wear a short dress to a black-tie wedding?

    Short dresses are typically more appropriate for less formal weddings. When in doubt, run your outfit by the couple or opt for a floor-length gown to err on the safe side.

Why Trust Brides

Contributing writer Sophie Moore is a former fashion editor at Brides and is an expert in all things bridal attire, from couture wedding gowns to the perfect "something blue" accessory. She researches and sources the best fashion items for brides, grooms, wedding guests, bridal parties, and more. Sophie's go-to black-tie outfit is a simple silkly gown styled with eye-catching accessories like shoulder-grazing earrings or colorful shoes.

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