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How many times have you received a wedding invitation and stared at the wedding guests’ dress code for five to seven agonizing minutes?
Whether it’s black tie optional, semi-formal, or no dress code at all, the vague language and etiquette surrounding it all is honestly rude! While there is no universal guide to wedding guest dress code, there are plenty of fashion cheat sheets — just like the one you’re reading right now.
To help you find the best wedding guest outfit, we’ve uncovered the secret behind every wedding dress code. You can also find some of our favorite picks for the 27 best wedding guest dresses and outfits to buy right now. Ready to slay the wedding guest fashion game?
Wedding guest dresses with white tie
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. White tie dress is the most formal dress code. Think of events like state dinners and royal banquets. Whether ball gown, sheath or A-line silhouette, a floor-length evening dress is not a recommendation.
While that sounds very intimidating, consider it an opportunity to pretend you’re a king or a maid who sneaked into the party and just happened to find true love with a duke. Have fun and bring your A-Game with accessories. How often do you get the chance to wear lavish jewelry and elbow-length silk gloves?
Ieena for Mac Duggal Chiffon Maxi Dress with Halter Neck and Floral Print, $458
ASOS DESIGN tulle maxi dress with plunging neckline and tie back in powder blue, $100
Bronx and Banco x REVOLVE maxi dress, $780
Wedding guest dresses with black tie
The second more formal dress code is most likely what you envision at a very formal, very chic wedding: formal dresses that brush the bottom or toes of your shoes. However, you can still opt for a dressier midi dress. One way to elevate the midi dress is to add jewelry and accessories that are simple and elegant.
ASOS LUXE Curve ruffled midi dress with one shoulder ruffles, $84
Lulu’s Keeper of My Heart Navy Blue One-Shoulder Maxi Dress, $68
Sabina Musayev Astrid dress, $490
Choice of black tie or formal dresses for wedding guests
Opt for optional and formal wedding guest dresses with black tie for midi or maxi dresses, like trendy and simple satin slip dress. You can even get a little more adventurous with a more formal jumpsuit or a colorful tailored pantsuit.
There really isn’t much of a difference between this dress code and black tie here. When in doubt, remember that you’re not only allowed to dress up anymore; it is encouraged. Since you have express permission to do so, why not make it up?
Anthropologie Elyse Bias Slip Dress, $120
Miss Selfridge Twist Front Tulle Maxi Dress in Pink, $87
Eloquii Jumpsuit with Twist Detail and Tie Waist, $119.95
Dresses for cocktail wedding guests
Everyone loves a good cocktail dress code. As Black Tie Optional’s funnier younger sister, you’re allowed to opt for things like a short dress or a two-piece suit. You can even pull out your little black dress or formal romper. If you don’t have formal mini dresses, you should look for midi, tea length or knee length styles.
The fine mix of elegant, comfortable and suitable for parties gives you a multitude of options. Just remember to lean more dressy than not, because cocktail attire is certainly not the same as casual or semi-formal.
ASOS Never Fully Dressed Plus Puff Sleeve Maxi Tea Dress, $147
Wayf Tiered Midi Dress, $103.95 (Orig. $108)
Anthropologie halter mini dress, $160
Semi-formal dresses for wedding guests
It’s less helpful if “semi” appears on a wedding invitation. Like, is it elegant? is it casual Should you wear sneakers with a formal dress? (No.) How about strappy stilettos with a t-shirt dress? (double no.)
For orientation, you should definitely look at cocktail dresses. If you choose a summer dress or a jumpsuit, go for it in a more formal way. Essentially, you need to be more polished than not. At least you have some wiggle room – use your best judgement!
Reformation Sunnie Two Piece Dress, $298
Good American Always Fits Pleated Slip Dress, $140
Hill House Home The Daphne Dress, $150
Casual dresses for wedding guests
A casual wedding isn’t exactly casual. While you can definitely wear a more relaxed outfit than any other dress code on the list, remember you’re still going to a wedding. That means no flip flops, shorts, jeans, stains, dirty sneakers etc etc.
Think of it as getting dressed up for a first date at a nice restaurant; Sundresses with sandals and cotton jersey fabrics are totally acceptable here, as are nicer fits. You just don’t want to be overdressed, so maybe ditch the silk maxi dress.
ASOS Annorlunda color block tulle dress in blue and lilac, $83
Topshop Ruffle Off Shoulder Long Sleeve Mini Dress, $93
Universal Standard Shindig Satin Slip Dress, $78 (orig. $158)
Festive dresses for wedding guests
Here’s the fun: The festive dress code gives you full permission to go all out. We’re talking OTT bright colors, tons of texture, and eye-catching accessories to complete the look (like these hilariously fun platform heels).
You should definitely use the season to make your outfit choices like wearing shiny glitter, dark green and burgundy for the holidays. And if the invitation has a topic such as Bridgeton or the 1970s, that makes it even easier to stick to the dress code.
STAUD Rylie Tiered Ruffle Maxi Dress, $495
Topshop Animal Print Slip Dress, $25.20 (orig. $84)
Selkie puff dress, $295
Tropical dresses or dresses for wedding guests
Yes, tropical or destination weddings are so much fun — but the key is to always consider the heat. The last thing you want to do is sweat through your long sleeve crepe maxi dress. Fortunately, destination weddings tend to be more casual unless they specify a different dress code on the invitation.
Think bedding, light and airy summer dresses, flowers and holiday vibes.
Kate Spade New York Tiered Summer Floral Dress, $299.60 (orig. $428)
Eloquii Tiered Sheer Maxi Dress, $119
ASOS DESIGN cotton maxi dress with puff sleeves, $58
Dresses for wedding guests with no dress code
First things first, if you are planning a no-dress code wedding, please reconsider and save your guests frantic headaches and panicked messages!
Second, if you are attending a wedding with no mandatory dress code, I am so sorry. However, it’s a lot easier than you think! Just play it safe with a cocktail or semi-formal outfit and discuss your outfit ideas with other guests if you can – nothing too casual and nothing too formal or OTT. You can do it; I believe in you!
J.Crew Painterly Floral Halterneck Dress, $248
ASOS Vila Mini Tulle Smock Dress With Plunging Back And Bow Detail In Green, $55.25 (Orig. $79)
ASTR the label Gaia dress, $98
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