What to Wear to Every Summer Wedding, From Black Tie to Beachside

I love any excuse to get dressed up. Maybe it’s just me, but one of the first thoughts that runs through my head when I receive any sort of invite is “what am I going to wear?” And while a new outfit is obviously not necessary for every event, it can make things a little more fun. We’re quickly entering peak wedding season and searching for a perfect summer wedding guest dress is officially top of mind.

How to Find the Best Summer Wedding Guest Dress

However, sometimes shopping for a summer wedding guest dress can be stressful—especially when the dress code leaves you in the dark. Between navigating the unspoken rules and trying to make a statement without outshining the bride, finding a summer wedding guest dress is almost as hard as finding a wedding date.

But don’t stress! If you’re attending a wedding this summer and have no clue what to wear, we’ve broken down every wedding dress code below, complete with shopping recommendations so you can find your perfect summer wedding guest dress with ease.

Black Tie Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

Black tie attire requires a long, formal, floor-length gown. When shopping for a black tie summer wedding guest dress, look for an elegant, sophisticated dress that still accounts for the season’s heat. Breathable fabrics such as chiffon, silk, and lightweight satin are a safe choice in material, while flowy, A-line silhouettes will keep you comfortable.

Black tie dresses are typically found in black, navy, and other deep jewel tones, but for a summer wedding I’d opt for a bright color or floral pattern to embrace the time of year. While your accessories should still be formal, a pearl necklace or shell-shaped clutch can help bring the summer vibes to your formal look.

Formal (Black Tie Optional) Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

If you’re attending a formal or black tie optional wedding this summer, there’s a bit more flexibility in the dress code compared to a true black tie wedding, but the goal is still to find a balance between style and sophistication. When it comes to dress length, you’ll see everything from full length to dressy cocktail, so choose a style that you feel most comfortable and confident in. Just be sure that if you opt for a short dress that it’s still formal and appropriate for the occasion.

A colorful pantsuit is also a playful twist on a formal summer wedding guest dress. I love a tea-length dress so I can show off a fun, fancy pair of heels. (Even though I always end up kicking them off about an hour into the reception!)

Cocktail Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

Cocktail attire is one of the most popular choices for modern weddings, as it’s a happy medium between formal and comfortable. Dressy mini and midi dresses become appropriate, and wedding guests can have a bit more fun with their looks. Summer cocktail weddings are the perfect occasion for a fun floral dress, as the shorter hemline lends to just the right amount of pattern. Accessories also have their time to shine with a cocktail dress, so choose a comfortable, yet stylish pair of heels and a matching clutch to bring the look full circle. A raffia or straw embellished clutch is a perfect way to add a summery flare to a cocktail summer wedding guest dress.

Semi-Formal Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

Semi-formal attire is one of those gray areas that can make shopping for a summer wedding guest dress feel impossible. It’s slightly less formal than cocktail attire, but still isn’t casual, so my number one tip is to base your outfit off of the time and place of the wedding itself. For example, if a semi-formal wedding is happening on the beach during the day, a slip dress with formal flats and lots of pearls fits the bill. However, if a semi-formal wedding is happening downtown at sunset, a midi dress with heels and sparkly jewelry might feel more appropriate.

You have some wiggle room here, but instead of letting that stress you out, have fun with it! When in doubt, I always feel like it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, so I tend to err on the fancier side.

Casual Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

Summer weddings with casual attire are most likely taking place outside or on the beach, so your outfit can be a bit more relaxed. However, don’t forget that a wedding is still a wedding, so “casual” doesn’t mean anything goes. Linen sundresses, floral jumpsuits, and matching sets are all comfortable, but still suitable options for this kind of summer wedding guest dress.

Now is also the time to think about where you’ll be walking and base your shoe choice on that. If you’ll be on the sand, opt for flats or heels that are easy to kick off, and if you’re going to be on grass, make sure that your heel is thick enough not to sink into the ground.

Destination Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

When shopping for a destination summer wedding guest dress, I like to let the destination inspire my outfit. Without getting too costume-y it’s fun to infuse little bits of your surroundings into your wedding looks, because the location obviously means a lot to the happy couple and chances are, the vibes of the destination will be carried throughout most of the wedding details. If a specific dress code isn’t mentioned for a destination wedding, don’t get too caught up in the length or material of your dress, but when in doubt bling it out with accessories.

When you’re traveling for a wedding, it’s also important to take into account dresses that fit nicely into a suitcase without wrinkling too terribly. If you’re worried, just call ahead to the hotel to make sure they have a steamer and/or come prepared with some Downy Wrinkle Release Spray!



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