So you’ve found the perfect dress or jumpsuit for your next upcoming wedding, but what’s next? Many wedding guests often forget about their accessories, but it's the accessories that pull an outfit together. And while choosing the perfect shoes and jewelry are essential to any ensemble, finding a flawless handbag should also be at the top of your list.
"Whether you are a guest or the main event within this special moment, I would like to point out how important it is to embrace your own sense of style, as you would normally, and not feel forced to fall within 'fashion norms', notes handbag designer Marina Raphael. "As it is the only way you will truly be present during that incredible time.” And of course, there is no better way to do that than with an accessory!
Meet the Expert
Marina Raphael is a fashion designer and founder of her namesake handbag brand, Marina Raphael. Her purses can be found at stores such as Harrods, Moda Operandi, Olivela, and Harvey Nichols.
To assist you in navigating the world of gorgeous, wedding-worthy handbags, we’ve put together a guide to help you find this practical accessory that is able to define an entire look—plus a few shopping tips. Read on for more.
The Best Purse for Each Dress Code
As you may already know, there are several standard dress codes couples follow when it comes to dictating the fashions at their wedding. These guidelines not only apply to the clothes you wear but the accessories you choose to sport, as highlighted below.
White-tie weddings are the epitome of formal dressing, and according to Raphael, she suggests choosing a handbag that has a more avant-garde feel. “I would recommend looking for statement pieces that complete your outfit, add texture and versatility, as well as play with the concept of what we expect a handbag to look like” advises the designer. Opt for small, traditional purses with pearl or crystal details, in muted colors like black, white, navy, or beige.
For black-tie weddings, Raphael says that you can never go wrong with a small clutch with a bit of sparkle. “I recommend you look for a smaller size so that it doesn't take too much away from the rest of the outfit, yet adds its own statement with a dose of sparkle,” she says. Be sure to also choose a silhouette that's contemporary and not too trendy.
Formal or Black-Tie Optional
Formal or black-tie optional weddings allow you to have a little more fun with your handbag. Raphael recommends a purse with an “avant-garde” twist, like the Jewel Box bag from her collection. “While it still maintains its formal attire with its unique shape and construction, its sleek form and color can complement almost any evening outfit,” she says.
Cocktail or Semi-Formal
Cocktail and semi-formal attire go hand in hand, bag-wise. Both dress codes allow for a bit more practicality in terms of the sizes you can carry. In contrast to white-tie, black-tie, and formal attire, you can opt for a slightly bigger bag as opposed to carrying a small clutch. Raphael recommends purchasing an envelope bag if attending a wedding with this dress code.
Festive dress codes are all about fun and personality, so textiles, patterns, and funky shapes will play a huge factor in choosing your bag. This is your opportunity to break out a velvet or suede handbag, or one with large prints like palm trees and seashells. Looking for a hint of glitter? Go for it! There’s nothing more festive than a bit of sparkle. You can also play around with different sizes and silhouettes—like sporting a clutch shaped like a butterfly.
While you should stay away from jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers, a casual dress code doesn't mean you have to forego style (think lightweight and comfortable fabrics that you can dance in). “A casual dress code to me would mean to surely stay away from the crystals,” says Raphael. Instead, she suggests looking for more intricate details and different patterns and textures. “My favorite for this is the Doina bag, which combines vegan leather, with organic and upcycled cotton,” she adds.
Tropical or Destination
What is Raphael’s philosophy when it comes to destination wedding handbags? “Indulge your vacation mood by opting for fun accessories!” This means that straw or woven clutches, or small purses are the way to go. If the destination wedding is still black-tie, follow that protocol but with your own personal twist.
What should I keep in my handbag when attending a wedding?
"I would definitely recommend keeping a power bank so that you don't miss capturing any special moments, but I also think it's important to keep a hair tie or clip with you at all times, too," says Raphael. It's also a good idea to toss in lipstick, gloss, or balm so you can reapply after enjoying some food and drinks at cocktail hour.
Approximately how much should I spend on a handbag for a wedding?
Raphael says that handbag purchases should be looked at as an investment piece. "Opting for a timeless item to add to your wardrobe that is of high quality will elevate more than one outfit—and will provide you with the versatility you need over the years to wear on various occasions (not just the wedding you are currently shopping for)," she explains. At the same time, if you are looking for a statement handbag that you think won't get much use, there is no problem with selecting a cost-efficient option.
What should I do if my handbag is smaller than my cell phone or any other essentials?
Raphael says that practicality is important when it comes to purchasing a handbag, especially an investment piece. At the same time, if you find yourself stuck with a purse that doesn't fit your essentials, consider layering bags. For example, her brand's Cabana bag in Canvas and Micro Riviera in Canvas can be effortlessly worn together as a layered option.
What is an appropriate size for a handbag at a wedding?
"The size of a handbag definitely depends on the dress code," notes Raphael. "However, if you are looking for a one-size-fits-all option, that could work for multiple occasions. My advice would be to opt for a mini bag that will always be in fashion and can hold all of your essentials without tiring you out." If you choose a mini bag, Raphael says that finding one with a cross-strap will allow you to enjoy the night hands-free.