Celebrate In Style: Must-Have Dress Shoes for Weddings and Formal Events

Choosing the right men' or women's shoes for special occasions, such as a wedding, family celebration, or work function, is essential to complete your outfit and create a polished, stylish look. As they can genuinely make or break your overall appearance, it is necessary to know how to wear dress shoes with style and confidence.

That said, with so many different types of dress shoes, dress codes, locations, and styles to consider, it's easy to get lost in the sea of shoe options. Fear not, though, we are here to guide you through the maze of men’s and women’s formal shoe etiquette and help you find the best pair of comfortable formal dress shoes. 

Whether you are looking for traditional wedding shoes or comfortable occasion shoes, read on to find the tips you need to choose the right pair that will complement your outfit and add a touch of elegance to your overall appearance. In this article, we will go over best practices for different venues and discuss how to choose the right dress shoes for a formal occasion for both men and women.

*A quick note: if you are attending a traditional celebration where you will be expected to follow a customary dress code, confirming the traditional footwear style for your chosen outfit is crucial. Here we will be focusing exclusively on modern footwear.


First things first: let's talk about formality

Modern dress shoes range from casual to formal, and your most important task is selecting the right level of formality for the occasion. Casual dress shoes are typically made from softer materials and have a relaxed style. Formal dress shoes are usually made from stiffer materials and have a more polished appearance. The most formal of all dress shoes are patent leather, which is often reserved for the most elegant occasions.

The most popular styles of dress shoes for men are Oxford shoes, which have closed lacing, and Derby shoes, which have open lacing. Both styles are typically worn in black or dark brown and are paired with a suit or dress pants for formal occasions.

For women, formal shoes can vary more depending on the type of event and outfit in question. In general, though, high heels are typically the go-to choice for formal attire. Stiletto heels, in particular, are considered the most formal due to their sleek and elegant design. Other popular options for formal events include pumps, which have a closed toe and moderate heel height, and strappy sandals.

Now, let's dive into specific wedding or event scenarios and what shoes are best for each.

Weddings or events that happen in a church are typically more formal, as they are held in a religious setting. For church gatherings, it's important to select shoes that are conservative and polished. A pair of leather oxfords or derbies in a classic colour such as black or brown are appropriate for men, either the groom or guests. Meanwhile, the bride would do well with traditional white or nude, either with a modest heel or a flat wedding shoe—and closed toe is preferable. Female guests should avoid bright colours and stick to neutrals or soft pastels like lilac, sky blue, powder pink, or apricot.

Celebrations or events that take place in the city are often the most formal of all, as they are typically held in upscale venues such as hotels or event spaces. For city events, it's important to select shoes that are polished and sleek. For men, a pair of leather oxfords or derbies are a great choice. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also try a pair of loafers with a tassel or some texture. For women, high heels are the go-to choice for formal city events. From a sleek stiletto heel to more practical pumps with a closed toe and moderate heel height, you probably want to opt for at least a bit of lift. Strappy sandals with embellishments like rhinestones or glitter are also a nice choice in warmer weather. Avoid anything too casual, as city weddings are all about sophistication.

Garden parties and weddings are popular choices, especially during the spring and summer. In this context, select shoes comfortable for walking on grass and dirt. For men, a pair of loafers, dressy moccasins, or elegant sneakers in leather or faux leather are great choices. For women, classy sandals and ballet flats are great options. If you are the one getting married and are looking to add a little height, opting for a platform style is an excellent choice to keep you comfortable and sturdy on grass. For all in attendance, though, it is wise to avoid anything with a super high shine that might look out of place in a natural setting. Also note that delicate fabrics, such as silk, satin, or velvet, will be more likely to collect dust or grass stains.

Beach parties are a popular choice for good reason! The sound of the waves and the sun setting over the ocean make for a truly magical setting. For beach weddings, selecting shoes that are comfortable and appropriate for sand is essential, whether it is your big day or you’re attending as a guest. A pair of flat leather sandals or boat shoes are a great option for both men and women. Avoid anything too formal or stuffy, as the beach vibe is all about relaxation. That said, you might not want to go as casual as a pair of flip-flops–unless the invitation explicitly encourages it.

Pro tips for men’s and women’s dress shoes

When determining what shoes are formal, a few essential factors must be considered. These include the type of event, your outfit, and your personal style. Here are some tips to help you choose the right dress shoes for a formal occasion.

For Men

Stick to a neutral colour palette: Generally, dress shoes for formal occasions should be either black or dark brown. If you're wearing a black suit, black shoes are the best choice. Opt for dark brown shoes if you're wearing a navy or grey suit. However, make sure that the colour of your shoes matches your belt and other accessories.

Know your style options: There are various styles of dress shoes to choose from, including oxfords, brogues, and loafers. Oxfords are the most formal and are ideal for black-tie events. Brogues are slightly less formal and can be worn to semi-formal events. Loafers are the least formal but can still be appropriate for some formal occasions. Choose a style that compliments your outfit and personal style.

Dress for the event:The above tips apply for events in the city or church weddings, but if you have been invited to a celebration on a beach, it is ok to tone things down a bit. For beach weddings, you want something comfortable and sand appropriate, whether you are the groom or attending as a guest. A pair of flat leather sandals or boat shoes are a great option—although if it is your big day, you might want to check with your fiancé before deciding to bare your toes.

Consider details and the material:The details of your shoes are essential when it comes to formal occasions. Look for shoes that have a clean and sleek design without any bold patterns or decorations. A plain or cap toe is a safe option for most formal events. Dress shoes for formal occasions should also be well-made and in good condition. You do not want to wear anything with noticeable wear and tear, such as missing stitches or scuff marks. 

For Women

Women have a wider range of options when it comes to dress shoes for formal occasions. Here are some tips to help you choose the right shoes:

Choose your colour according to the event: The colour of your shoes should complement your outfit without being too matchy. Neutral colours like black, navy, and nude are safe options for most formal occasions. However, if you're wearing a brightly coloured or patterned dress, you can choose shoes that match the colour of your dress or opt for metallic shoes to add some sparkle.

Decide on style and heel height:There are many styles of dress shoes for women, including pumps, sandals, and flats. Pumps are the most formal and are ideal for black-tie events. If you have trouble walking in high heels, choose a low to medium-thick heel rather than a skinny one, since they’re easier to walk in. Sandals are suitable for summer weddings or outdoor occasions, while flats can be comfortable and stylish for long events.

Incorporate bling and embellishments carefully: The details of your shoes can make a big difference when it comes to formal occasions. Look for shoes with clean lines and minimal decorations. Avoid shoes with too much bling or embellishments for a beach wedding, where sand can cause damage, and they could look out of place. On the other hand, a bit of sparkle can elevate your look for a nighttime event in the city.

Match your heels to your dress length: If your dress skims the floor, choose a higher heel to prevent it from dragging. If your dress is shorter and less formal, meanwhile, you may be able to get away with a flat or sandals.

For everyone: Don’t skimp on comfort!

For both men and women, it is essential to remember that the perfect formal shoes are always the ones you can stand wearing all night. Nothing is worse than cutting an evening short because of foot pain! So remember, whichever shoes you choose, make sure you have already had a chance to break them in and are confident they are comfortable enough to wear all evening without issues.

We hope you now feel more confident about selecting what shoes to wear to a formal event and can get excited about assembling your next fancy look. We have plenty of Bata shoes and shoe brands for you to choose from, so you can put your best foot forward and enjoy your next special occasion in style and comfort.

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