So you’ve found the perfect dress or jumpsuit for your next wedding, but what’s next? Many wedding guests often forget their accessories, but it is the accessories that complete an outfit. And while choosing the perfect shoes and jewelry is essential to any ensemble, finding an impeccable handbag should also be high on your list.
“Whether you are a guest or the main event of this special moment, I would like to stress how important it is to adopt your own sense of style, as you normally would, and not feel pressured to fall into the “fashion standards”, handbag designer notes Marina Raphael. “As it’s the only way to be truly present during this amazing time. And of course, there’s no better way to do that than with a prop!
Meet the expert
Marina Raphael is a fashion designer and founder of her eponymous handbag brand, Marina Raphael. Her handbags can be found at stores such as Harrods, Moda Operandi, Olivela and Harvey Nichols.
To help you navigate the world of gorgeous wedding-worthy handbags, we’ve put together a guide to help you find that handy accessory that’s capable of defining a complete look plus some shopping tips. Read on to find out more.
The best handbag for every dress code
As you may already know, there are several standard dress codes that couples follow when it comes to dictating fashion at their wedding. These guidelines apply not only to the clothes you wear, but also to the accessories you choose to wear, as shown below.
White-tie weddings are the epitome of formal dress, and according to Raphael, she suggests choosing a handbag that has a more edgy feel. I would recommend looking for statement pieces that complement your outfit, add texture and versatility, as well as play with the concept of what we expect from a handbag, advises the designer. Opt for small, traditional handbags with pearl or crystal details, in soft colors like black, white, navy blue or beige.
For black-tie weddings, Raphael says you can never go wrong with a small clutch with a bit of sparkle. I recommend looking for a size smaller, so it doesn’t take away too much from the rest of the outfit, while adding its own statement with a dose of sparkle, she says. Also, be sure to choose a silhouette that is contemporary and not too trendy.
Formal or black tie optional
Optional formal or black tie weddings allow you to have a little more fun with your handbag. Raphael recommends a handbag with an edgy twist, like the bag jewelry box of his collection. Although it still maintains its formal attire with its unique shape and construction, its elegant shape and color can complement almost any evening outfit, she says.
Cocktail or semi-formal
Cocktail and semi-formal attire go hand in hand, when it comes to bags. Both dress codes allow for a bit more practicality in terms of the sizes you can wear. Unlike white tie, black tie and formal wear, you can opt for a slightly larger bag instead of carrying a small clutch. Raphael recommends buying an envelope bag if you’re attending a wedding with this dress code.
Festive dress codes are all about fun and personality, so funky textiles, patterns and shapes will play an important role in your bag choice. This is an opportunity for you to bring out a handbag in velvet or suede, or with large prints such as palm trees and shells. Looking for a hint of glitter? Dark! There’s nothing more festive than a little sparkle. You can also play around with different sizes and silhouettes like sporting a butterfly clutch.
For me, a casual dress code would mean staying away from crystals, says Raphaël. Instead, she suggests looking for more intricate details and different textures. My favorite for this is the Doina bagthat combines vegan leather, organic and recycled cotton, she adds.
Tropical or Destination
What is Raphael’s philosophy when it comes to destination wedding handbags? Indulge your holiday 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 touch.
“I would definitely recommend keeping a power bank so you don’t miss capturing special moments, but I also think it’s important to keep a hair tie or hair clip with you at all times,” Raphael says.
Raphael says shopping for handbags should be viewed as an investment. “Opting for a timeless item to add to your wardrobe that is high quality will enhance more than one outfit and provide you with the versatility you need over the years to wear it on various occasions (not just the wedding you shop now),” she explains. At the same time, if you are looking for a handbag that you think will not be very useful, then there is no problem in choosing a cost-effective option.
Raphael says practicality is important when shopping for a handbag, especially an investment piece. At the same time, if you find yourself stuck with a handbag that doesn’t match your essentials, consider stacking bags. For example, his brand Canvas Cabana Bag and Canvas Micro Riviera can be effortlessly worn together as a layering option.
“The size of a handbag certainly depends on the dress code,” notes Raphaël. “However, if you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all option, this could work for multiple occasions. My advice would be to go for a mini bag that’s always going to be in style and can hold all your essentials without tiring you out.” If you choose a mini bag, Raphael says finding one with a cross-body strap will allow you to enjoy the night hands-free.
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