What To Wear To A Black Tie Wedding, Especially When You Have No Idea What That's Supposed To Mean

It's officially summer, which means wedding season is upon us. And while we all enjoy gathering with friends and celebrating loved ones, first we have to figure out our outfits. Seriously, what do you wear to a black tie wedding?! Those two little words can be incredibly intimidating to see on a nuptial invite.

Thankfully that terminology actually comes with a bunch of set rules that honestly makes it easier to figure out compared to other dress codes. Mainly, it just calls for formal apparel, which means floor-length dresses for women and tuxes for men. However, these days most invitations outline the dress code as "black tie welcome" or "black tie optional," which really give you more options with greater variety to choose from. In that case, wearing a shorter, chic cocktail dress would suffice, as would a formal jumpsuit as well. Either way, black tie usually indicates the basic elements of a fancy pants gathering, where women wear heels, carry clutches, and have their hair done. But that doesn't mean you can't have some fun with fashion and style also.

If this all sounds gibberish to you, and you're more of a visual learner (trust me, I know the struggle), below are 9 extra tips and unique outfit ideas for a black tie weddings. Dress codes are hard, and finding something to wear for a black tie wedding can be harder. But with the help of some pieces already in your closet, and some extra inspiration and understanding of the dress code, you'll be the best dressed one there.

1. Bright Design

Causing a ruckus with a loud, printed dress at someone's wedding probably isn't the way to go. But if you're big on prints, a dress like this with a detailed, laser-cut pattern in a classic gown silhouette could be your perfect compromise. The pastel blue dress is floor-length with an empire waist and a plunging neckline, all elements that perfectly fall under the black tie dress code. With extra pizazz (without being boring or too loud), this BCBGMAXAZRIA dress would be a beautiful partner for a fun wedding.

BCBGMAXAZRIA, $109, BCBG

2. Ombre

Ombre clothes, along with ombre hair, were very cool a few seasons back but they lost their popularity as time went on. That being said, the design and color feature is still really pretty especially in a cocktail dress like this one from Halston's pre-fall 2015 collection. It's a basic dress but the ombre and the long, chiffon sleeves really make it something special. Imagine dancing on the floor in that dress, and tell me you don't like the way it looks.

And while this dress is partially white, it's excusable because of the main black hue. That goes for other dresses that feature white detailing in its design. While the wearing white to a wedding rule may still be in effect for some brides, more and more are making wearing white an option at their ceremony. And with a dress like this, you get the best of both worlds.

3. Jumpsuit

The rise of the jumpsuit has opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Jumpsuits can be casual, but they can also be black-tie appropriate, which Gigi Hadid proved in this dazzling Michael Kors creation. A jumpsuit with a fitted silhouette, accessorized with a clutch bag and pretty jewelry, can easily make you black tie appropriate. Sure, a formal dress is foolproof for a wedding, but they're not always original. A jumpsuit like Hadid's would stand out and dazzle, while still being dress code-appropriate.

4. Shirt Dress

I know what you're thinking. A shirt dress? To a black tie wedding? But hear me out. A black shirt dress, or really any other LBD, embellished with a pretty statement necklace, studded earrings, a cool clutch, and formal heels is just as black tie as all these other options. Everyone has an LBD in their wardrobe (and if you don't, hop to it), because it's a classic and can be worn to anything, including a formal wedding.

5. Graphic Mini Dress

I wear stripes just about every other day. And while my favorite, beat-up striped T-shirt might be unsightly at a black tie wedding, a graphic striped dress like this one wouldn't be. Aimee Song of the fashion blog Song Of Style dresses impeccably, but my favorite recent look of hers in this mini dress featuring thick vertical and horizontal stripes. The design is offbeat, with asymmetrical elements and an off-the-shoulder collar, but is still chic and formal enough to be black tie appropriate. Again, this type of white in a dress is totally fine, and totally pretty.

6. Colorful Midi Dress

The midi length in skirts and dresses is still very popular, and is really easily suitable for a black tie event. While this Dior design features a vertical design and embedded lace into the bodice and skirt, the midi length is the real showstopper. Falling right at the shin, the dress is an update to the floor-length requirement of black tie. Plus, it gives you a good excuse to showcase a beautiful pair of heels as well. Dancing in a midi-dress is so much easier than trying to dance in a full-length gown. That I can say from experience.

7. A Co-Ord Set

Co-ord sets are not only adorable, but they make for the easiest outfit ever. And if you have a formal set like Chriselle Lim of the blog The Chriselle Factor, you're in luck. Her light pink, flounced crop-top and skirt combination are the definition of pretty, while being totally acceptable in a black tie wedding atmosphere. Again, accessories can make a real difference with a basic outfit like this, so break out some formal hoop earrings (my current obsession) and a nice pair of platform heels.

8. Textured Cocktail Dress

When we think of texture in clothing, it typically gets confused with the actual print or design of the pieces. But when you're wearing a dress like the one on the far left, you really see how the make of the fabric stands out no matter if it had a print or design on it. Whether they're sequins, sparkles, or embroidery, texture is a definite way to stand out from the crowd and, in a formal cocktail dress, is super pretty.

9. Off-The-Shoulder Dress

Formal attire may have once meant covering your ankles and shoulders, but thankfully we don't live in that world anymore. Wearing heavy and constricting clothes at a summer wedding (when most of them usually involve an outdoor setting) would be absolutely dreadful. Being soaked in sweat is not a cute look. But with an off-the-shoulder design like this flowing mini dress worn on Annette Haga of the blog Nette Nestea, you're stay totally chill through the whole ceremony.

Images: tatyana_k/Fotolia