35 Formal Wedding Ideas for Your Black-Tie Celebration

cat denis wedding reception tables
Jessica Lorren Photography

Choosing a theme for your wedding is an important part of the planning process. And, sometimes, it can be the hardest. The reason? There are so many different styles to choose from. From minimalist and bohemian to classic and rustic, it may be difficult to decide how you want your big day to look and feel. Though we're partial to all of these styles, there's a specific way to elevate all of these themes: Consider a black-tie wedding.

What exactly goes into this type of formal event? Think decorative focal points in the form of over-the-top centerpieces, elegant cakes, and gilded details with a dress code to match (guests typically wear tuxedos and floor-length gowns). While these factors are necessary for a lavish fête, throwing a glamorous event starts with the right venue. Just look to the lofty ceilings and elaborate columns found at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, pictured here, for inspiration. The immaculate space served as the perfect setting for an elegant black-tie affair.

Ahead, you'll find a series of ideas to inspire your own formal wedding day. From the smallest décor details, like monogrammed napkins for your signature drinks, to larger style elements, like a chapel-length train, you'll find plenty of elevated inspiration in the following slides. Still unsure if a formal event is right for you? We think the following gorgeous photos, taken during a few of our favorite sophisticated weddings, will convince you to go for it. Click through to discover how these couples successfully pulled off their own elegant affairs.

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Personalized Invitations

lisa greg italy wedding invitation suite
Heather Waraksa

At this formal affair, Written Word Calligraphy and Design personalized the invitations for each guest. The notes were then housed in envelopes with a watercolor painting of the wedding's destination.

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Packed Welcome Bags

washington dc wedding welcome boxes champagne chocolate
Kate Headley

Scrawling calligraphy by Stacey Shapiro graced bottles of pink Champagne and personalized chocolate bars in these fully-stocked welcome bags.

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Champagne Tower

wedding champagne towers staircase with cascading flowers
A Bryan Photo

Greet guests with a Champagne tower. Add even more grandeur to the display by adorning it with a garland, like this one by Kim Starr Wise.

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Lenghty Train

lace wedding dress with long train
Greg Finck

A regal event calls for an extravagant wedding dress. This bride wore a gorgeous lace Elie Saab Couture gown with a dramatic train and veil.

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Realistic Sugar Flowers

vanilla wedding cakes rebecca yale
Rebecca Yale Photography

The best part about this regal cake? It is entirely edible. The Butter End ensured that guests would be wowed with these life-like sugar spray roses.

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Ornate Dishes

Kayla Barker

Napkins bound in fresh flowers were an elegant addition to this textured place setting.

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Elegant Escort Cards

Kati Mallory Photo & Design

This duo's escort cards featured the formal paper goods trifecta: vintage deckled-edge paper, a gold monogrammed wax seal, and delicate calligraphy by Deborah Allen Art.

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Monogram Décor

Pink and Leather Wedding Shoes
Ryan Ray Photography

Customize your reception by hanging a large monogrammed banner over your cocktail bar or head table—alternatively, use it to spruce up a bare wall.

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Piano Player

molly michael wedding pianist
Anne-Marie Bouchard Photography

To create a formal ambiance in your cocktail hour or reception, have a piano player fill the space with classical music.

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Gilded Invites

Olivia Leigh Photographie

Calligraphy, done in gold and charcoal gray, decorated the front of these ecru Alexa Pulitzer invites.

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Coordinating Flatware

wedding menu
Feather and Stone

Gold flatware provided an elevated contrast to the reception's slate gray menu.

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Gold-Trimmed Cake

large wedding cake with gold details
Jose Villa

The Butter End Cakery dreamed up this seven-tier confection—complete with gilded accents—for a majorly glam wedding.

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Tall Centerpiece

tall centerpiece with greenery and garden roses
Brklyn View Photography

When choosing a centerpiece for your reception tables, opt for a larger-than-life arrangement. This Violet and Verde mix was bursting with vibrant greenery and classic blooms, like garden roses and peonies.

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Gold Vessel

classic centerpieces amy arrington
Amy Arrington Photography

A gilded vase gave this Out of the Garden mix of roses, seeded eucalyptus, and hypericum berries a royal finish.

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Watercolor Table Numbers

cat denis wedding table number
Jessica Lorren Photography

At this Florida wedding, each reception table was dotted with a custom painted table number. The crest included tiny oranges, a nod to the celebration's location.

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Regal Stand

large white wedding cake with silver base
The Mullers

An embossed silver stand was the perfect complement to this ruffled five-tier Happy Hollow Bakery cake.

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Gold Place Setting

place setting with gold details
Elizabeth Fogarty Photography

If you're searching for a place setting that matches your wedding's elegant aesthetic, go gold. For this tabletop, Ida Rose Events chose plates and chargers rimmed with the precious metal.

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Signature Drinks

washington dc wedding cocktails
Kate Headley

Create a signature drink for your upscale cocktail hour. This couple developed these cherry-blossom mule cocktails and served them with custom napkins.

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Sophisticated Cake

vanilla wedding cakes abby jiu
Lisa Ziesing for Abby Jiu Photography

Buttercream Bakeshop added another level of sophistication to this vanilla-frosted three-tier by cascading a vibrant ivy vine down the front.

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Simple and Classic

classic centerpieces beatrice howell
Luna de Mare Photography

Flower Allie upgraded this arrangement of white and blush roses and white hydrangeas by placing the blooms in a sterling silver compote vessel.

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Dressed to Impress

Rebecca Yale Photography

In your wedding invitations, call on your attendees to wear their very best come the big day.

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Elaborate Stand

white wedding cake
Damaris Mia Photography

LoveCakes used tiny gold beads, fresh flowers, and an elaborate support to elevate the newlyweds' white, three-tier treat.

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Petite Centerpiece

classic centerpieces emily reiter
Anna Delores Photography

Though petite, Lark Farnum Design's display of pale pink peonies, garden roses and hydrangeas still made a sophisticated impact at this reception.

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Letterpress Stationery

classic invitation letterpress print tied with gold string and wax seal
Tie That Binds

Tie That Binds chose letterpress printing for every element of this over-the-top invitation suite, which featured a wax seal complete with a recreation of the wedding venue. The suite was then wrapped in handmade silk-thread paper.

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Elevated Place Settings

Abby Jiu Photography

On this tabletop, floral porcelain plates sat atop gold-rimmed chargers. Personalized napkins embroidered by Sarah Drake Design completed the look.

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Watercolor Monograms

cat denis wedding stationery
Jessica Lorren Photography

Lemontree Calligraphy & Illustration put a personal stamp on these baby blue invites by creating a custom watercolor monogram for the suite.

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All-White Confection

large white wedding cake with fondant flowers and topper
onelove photography

In a lofty and dark reception space, this all-white, four-tiered Jasmine Rae Cakes confection brightened up the elegant room.

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Groomsmen Attire

cat denis wedding groomsmen portrait
Jessica Lorren Photography

These groomsmen exemplify the best of a black-tie dress code. The group donned traditional tuxedos and black bow ties for the occasion.

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Monochromatic Suite

jermaine scott wedding dc stationery suite
Abby Jiu Photography

Gold calligraphy and a custom monogram were this fancy Cheree Berry Paper suite's main highlights.

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Marble Place Cards

kate austin wedding placecard tile
Greer Gattuso

Gift your guests sturdy marble place cards at your black-tie event. InLoft Calligraphy wrote each attendees name on small tiles, which also served as keepsakes.

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Floral Arrangement

taylor cameron wedding cake
Heather Payne Photography

Situate your glamourous cake on an equally gorgeous floral arrangement. This ruffled Megan Joy Cakes treat sat atop a mix of garden roses, dahlias, and anemones.

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Airy Venue

formal wedding reception with tall centerpieces
Sophie Kaye

The high ceilings of the Park Chateau Estate allowed for Adam Leffel Productions to create tall, extravagant mixes of lush greenery.

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Simple Setting

white and silver place setting with monogramed menu
Mango Studios

Around the Table and Bisous Events worked together to achieve this muted, but sophisticated tablescape.

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Fresh Flower Cake

simple wedding cake with floral details
Lauren Scotti Photography

There's nothing more elevated than a classic white wedding cake. That's why Frost It Cakery used only white frosting and fresh flowers for this black-tie wedding in the countryside.

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