You receive something special in the mail.

It’s beautifully designed and made from a not inexpensive material.

There’s only one of two things it could be; either someone has sunk a lot of money into their new advertising campaign⸺in which case it’s going straight in the trash⸺or, you’ve just received a wedding invitation.

You begin to read it:

Wedding invitation

How lovely. You can't wait to give them your RSVP.

Wait a minute!

You read the invitation again. Back-to-front. Side-to-side. Top-to-bottom. But it’s not there.


Luckily, you’ve stumbled upon our list of stunning dresses for a wedding guest.

Why it’s So Hard to Dress for a Wedding

There are few occasions more panic-inducing than a wedding when it comes to deciding what to wear.

Sure, the bride has it easy. Something old, something new… yadda, yadda, yadda.

But what about the guests?!

I don’t think I’m alone here when I say I withhold my right to RSVP if your invitation skimps on the details.

There are just so many unknowns when it comes to weddings, especially if you haven’t been to many. But on the flipside, if you’ve been to a lot of weddings, the dress code can vary wildly.

Is it black-tie? White-tie? No tie? Day? Evening? Beach? Traditional?

It’s a little confusing, no?

The problem is that the traditional wedding is slowly becoming a thing of the past. As Cosmo noted, that means there is a lot of free reign when it comes to choosing an outfit.

This is both good and bad. While you can be a little more creative with your attire, there is still some general etiquette that needs to be followed when it comes to dressing for a wedding.

And let’s be honest, the thing we're most afraid of is turning up in a stunning wedding guest outfit that takes a little shine off the bride.

Hun, there’s a time and place to show off your outfits. This ain’t it.

Let’s not even mention the potential nightmare scenario where you may have underdressed. Yikes!

What Not to Wear to a Wedding

What exactly are the rules when it comes to dressing for a wedding as a guest?

Some are kind of obvious, others not so much. But there are some strict guidelines you should always follow no matter what type of wedding you’re attending.

    Never, ever, ever wear white

      That includes off-white, ivory or even a really pale blue!

      Yeah, I know. Duh. But sometimes it’s best to drive home the point.

      Don’t give anyone a reason, especially not the bride, to give you the stink eye at the wedding.

      I would hesitate to wear white even if it said so on the invitation!

      But if for whatever reason, you feel like it’s essential to wear a lighter shade, may I suggest the first of our 76 stunning dresses for a wedding guest.

      Pink mini dress

      Never go “too casual”

      Even if the invitation says casual attire, don’t take it as an excuse to roll out of bed and show up in your PJs⸺not that I would expect you to. But then again, you never know.

      It’s a cliché for a reason but it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

      If you want to stay comfortable, however, dress in a soft, natural fabric like cotton.

      Lantern sleeve dress

        Denim⸺nope, try again

        I’m not talking about jeans, I’m talking about denim in any shape or form. Skirts, dresses, overalls, you name it. 

        You can wear denim literally any other day of the week. Take a pass on this one and try something more like this.

        Long sleeve wrap dress

        Cover up your shoulders in church

          Yeah, it’s old-fashioned. But it seems like anyone who has a wedding in a church these days is a little old-fashioned. 

          In either case, be respectful and cover up your shoulders with something like this.

          polka dot midi dress

          Stay within the dress code

          I know I said it’s better to overdress than underdress but there are always exceptions to the rule. 

          Just as I said about not being too casual, don’t wear an evening gown to a beach wedding either. 

          Keep things simple like this dress.

          Short sleeve midi dress

          Rips and holes are a no-no

          That includes intentional holes, too. There are much more elegant ways to show off some skin.

          Check out this dress for example.

          Off shoulder midi dress

          Avoid sequins during the day

          In general, sequins are perfectly acceptable. But live about dotcom says to reserve them for evening occasions to avoid being overdressed.

          Try something like this instead.

          Black dress

          Keep it PG-13

          Overly sexual dresses, whether they’re plunging necklines or high-hemmed probably aren’t the best choice for wedding attire.

          You can still look feminine and attractive but just think family-friendly. No doubt there will probably be a few older relatives and kids about.

          This dress is just right.

          Low cut midi dress

          How to Dress for a Wedding

          Now that we’ve got the don’ts out of the way, what are some of the dos?

          Dress for the location

          When it comes to buying property, the general motto is location, location, location. Well, now it’s time to apply that same line of thinking to your outfit. 

          Insider says if you’re unsure of how to dress for a wedding, dress for the location instead.

          Is the wedding at a beach? Barn? Backyard? Or ballroom?

          If you use your noggin, the location will basically tell you everything you need to know.

          Here are a few location specific ideas you can borrow:

          Beach Casual Wedding

          Maxi dress

          Barn Wedding

          barn dress

          Ballroom Wedding

          ball gown

          Be prepared for an outfit change

          Okay, okay, let’s pump the brakes a little. When I say ‘outfit change’, I don’t mean your whole outfit.

          In the case of semi-formal events though, it’s not a bad idea to bring something like a spare pair of shoes. Your feet will thank me later, high heels can be murder on the dance floor!

          If in doubt, go formal

          This is really more of a break glass in case of emergency type situation.

          Let’s say you’ve just received the world’s worst wedding invitation⸺in which case you probably don’t want to go anyway. But if the invitation gives you no clues whatsoever, then a formal dress is your best bet.

          Use your best judgment and pick something like a cocktail dress or LBD. And pair it with some high heeled pumps or sandals.  

          Stunning Dresses for a Wedding Guest by Occasion

          Weddings come in all shapes, forms and sizes these days. But I’ve got you covered with the dress code etiquette for each.

          Plus, some stunning wedding guest outfit inspiration. Enjoy!

          How to Dress for a White Tie Wedding

          Martha Stewart Weddings says white tie is queen among formal dress codes. Time to pull out all the stops and find some truly stunning guest wedding dresses.

          Think ball-gowns and full-length, formal dresses. But consider the puffiness of your dress because it may be difficult to sit in.

          These dresses should provide you with some inspiration.

           ball gown

          Party dress

          Party dress

          off shoulder party dress

          Full length gown

          Real Simple also suggests wearing a full face of makeup along with your best jewelry and styling your hair in an updo. Pick some comfortable heels too.

          How to Dress for a Black Tie Wedding

          Although it’s not quite as boujee as white tie, you should still put your best foot forward for a black tie wedding.

          These are usually evening events, so dress accordingly.

          Floor-length evening gowns, formal cocktail or tea-length dresses are preferred. Take this as an opportunity to get your hair done too.

          Polish up with some accessories and fine or statement jewelry along with some nice heels.  

          Here are some stunning dresses to wear to a wedding that’s black tie.

          off the shoulder gown

          one shoulder gown

          Maxi dress

          red satin dress

          Split midi dress

          How to Dress for a Black Tie Optional Wedding

          Woah, woah, optional? This is where things start to get a little dicey in terms of outfit choice. But that’s why you’re here, right?

          My recommendation is to always play it safe and forget about the word optional.

          Black tie optional applies more to the men than women, so pick a chic cocktail dress and you’ll be fine.

          See if any of these stunning dresses for a wedding guest pique your interest.

          One shoulder dress

          blue gown


          Slit midi dress

          One shoulder cocktail dress

          off shoulder bodycon dress

          How to Dress for a Creative Black Tie Wedding

          Okay, what the heck does creative black tie even mean?

          Stylecaster says it’s a dress code that allows you to have fun. Yay! I think?

          Once again, it’s a little more cut and dry for men. For women, the best way to put it is to not take your look too seriously.

          You’ll be glad to know that this type of wedding is rare. And it’s usually reserved more for themed weddings.

          In any case, statement jewelry, shoes and handbags are all on the table, so play around with your look and see what you come up with.

          Or check out these wedding guest outfits instead.

          Crochet maxi dress

          halter dress

          red maxi dress

          Slip dress

          Maxi dress

          How to Dress for a Semi-Formal Wedding

          Semi-formal or cocktail weddings are the type of fun attire I think we can actually relate to.

          It’s still fancy but not too fancy. You know what I mean, right?

          You should definitely dress to impress but don’t feel like you have to abide by a strict dress code. You’ve got some flexibility here.

          Try these outfits on for size.

          Black maxi dress

          polka dot mini dress

          off shoulder bodycon dress

          A-line mini dress

          gold satin dress

          How to Dress for a Casual Wedding

          We’ve been over this already but it bears worth mentioning again, don’t go too casual!

          Ditto what I said before about dressing for the location because a casual dress code is still pretty vague. Consider the time of day as well.

          A sundress or relaxed maxi dress is completely fine here. So are natural hair and makeup.

          polka dot maxi dress

          wrap dress

          leopard slip dress

          Pinafore dress

           How to Dress for a Beach Wedding

          As if the dress code for beach weddings wasn’t vague enough already, you’ll be delighted to know that there are two kinds of beach weddings⸺Beach casual and beach formal.

          Hopefully the invitation will specify which. But The Knot says a good rule of thumb is to wear something you’d wear to a nice restaurant in summer.

          Take the elements into consideration, too. Avoid short skirts and dresses that are likely to be blown up by the wind.

          A tea or knee-length sundress is perfect for a beach casual wedding. Pair it with flat sandals and a wide brim sun hat. Flip flops are out of the question, even for casual attire.

           Beach maxi dress

          floral midi dress

          front knot midi dress

          Pineapple dress

          Boho midi dress

          In the case of beach formal, I would recommend either a floral or leaf print maxi dress along with some wedges or espadrilles. 

          I wouldn’t invest too much time into your hairstyle since you’ll be at the mercy of the elements. Go with a simple chignon bun or cover up with a sun hat.

          Leaf print maxi dress

          Off shoulder mini dress

          Long sleeve dress

          ruffle midi dress

          button front midi dress

          How to Dress for a Daytime Wedding

          The dress code for daytime weddings, like every other occasion, can be a mixed bag.

          An informal daytime or morning wedding can mean a sundress. Feel free to experiment with bright colors and unique fabrics.

          Orange sundress

          Yellow sundress

          Paisley print dress

          For semi-formal occasions, a cocktail dress and heels will get the job done.

          off shoulder polka dot dress

          black cocktail dress

          How to Dress for a Fall Wedding

          Fall weather can make it hard to dress for a wedding since the weather can be a little unpredictable at times. Be prepared to layer up.

          This is the perfect time to break out your favorite LBD with some suede heels. And since fall tones are quite muted, I would add a subtle pop of color to your look. Maybe some bright red lipstick or a statement necklace.

          Choose a dress that will keep you comfortable in any unexpected heat. You can always throw on a sweater when things start to cool down again.

          black midi dress

          Velvet dress

          V neck maxi dress

          long sleeve midi dress

          halter mini dress

          How to Dress for a Winter Wedding

          If you’ve been looking for an excuse to break out that festive sequin dress, this is it!

          Sequins and jewel-toned fabrics like emerald green and royal blue work great with any skin tone. And you’re bound to wear them again during the holidays.

          Consider a heavy fabric like tweed or velvet that will keep you warm on those chilly winter evenings.

          Boots might be too casual for a wedding but if it’s snowing, by all means, wear some boots. You can always change into your heels at the venue.

           Sequin dress

          gold gown

          burgundy mini dress

          Bodycon dress

          bodycon mini dress

          How to Dress for a Spring Wedding

          Springtime is the peak wedding season. And it’s not hard to see why. The flowers are blooming, the grass is growing, birds are singing⸺Ah, mother nature in all her beauty.

          Having said all that, keep your fingers crossed that you’re not invited to an outdoor wedding. Spring rain showers and wet grass are a recipe for disaster.

          If you are invited to an outdoor wedding, think ahead. Avoid wearing long dresses that could drag in the mud as well as heels that might sink into the ground.

          Wear closed-toe flats instead. An umbrella never hurt either. 

          lantern sleeve dress

          Floral dress

          maxi dress

          pink maxi dress

          yellow mini dress

          How to Dress for a Summer Wedding

          If you’re invited to a summer wedding, odds are that it’s going to be outdoors.

          Your mission is to look elegant while keeping it cool. I know, easier said than done.

          Wear breathable fabrics that won’t overheat you like silk, chiffon, cotton or linen.

          Summer is also a great time to dress in vibrant colors and unexpected textures.

          It’s an indoor event? Great. Just remember that the A/C will probably be working overtime, so bring a light shawl to stay comfortable.

          Feast your eyes on these stunning summer wedding guest dresses.

           strip maxi dress

          silk dress

          off shoulder midi dress

          mini dress

          off shoulder mini dress

          Key Takeaways

          • When the dress code is vague, remember that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
          • Never wear white or anything close to it. Bride = white; Guests = literally anything else.
          • A casual dress code doesn’t mean flip flops and tank tops. Dress classy but comfortable in a soft fabric like cotton.
          • Denim is a no go. Save it for the weekend.
          • Dress respectfully for church and cover up.
          • If there is a dress code, stick to it. This is not the day you want to stand out for any reason.
          • Don’t wear anything with rips or holes, even if they’re intentional.
          • Sequins belong to evening occasions.
          • Avoid overly sexual pieces. Don’t give grandpa a heart attack.
          • Use the wedding’s location as a cue for how to dress e.g. beach wedding
          • Bring a second pair of comfortable shoes where appropriate. 
          • When in doubt, choose a formal cocktail dress.
          • White tie is the most formal dress code of them all, so dress like you’re getting ready for the ball, Cinderella.
          • Black tie is usually an evening event, put in a similar effort as you would for white tie but feel free to wear a classy cocktail dress instead.
          • Black tie optional is basically the same thing so just forget about the word optional.
          • Creative black tie is kind of up for interpretation. Think black tie but with fun accessories.
          • You have a little more freedom with a semi-formal occasion. Have fun with it.
          • Sundresses and maxi dresses are perfect for casual weddings.
          • Beach weddings can be casual or formal, in either case, dress for the elements and never wear flip flops.
          • Experiment with vibrant colors and unique fabrics for daytime weddings.
          • In the fall, dress comfortably and be prepared for unexpected weather changes.
          • In the winter, dress in fun and festive jewel-toned colors or sequins.
          • In the spring, avoid wearing clothes that might attract mud, and bring an umbrella.
          • In the summer, dress in breathable fabrics like chiffon for outdoors and bring a shawl for an indoor wedding where the A/C is on full blast.

          Have some other occasions you’re not sure how to dress for? Subscribe to our mailing list below and get outfit ideas delivered straight to your inbox.

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