One of the shopping requests I get most often is for wedding guest dresses. I wish I had more weddings on my calendar to shop for myself, but since I don’t, I thought this post would be helpful for all of you who are shopping mode. Growing up in the Mormon church, the dress code for wedding receptions for most of those weddings is VERY casual and very different, so I was a bit clueless about what to wear when it came time to buy dresses for non-Mormon weddings.
I’ve learned a few things over the years and usually know what to wear, but I still end up asking friends and googling a bit, so this post will also help me when I have a wedding to attend. (Although most of our friends are now married!) I do miss that, for the most part, wedding season is behind us. I love an excuse to get dressed up and go to a pretty venue!
In this post, I’m rounding up my favorite wedding guest dresses for all types of weddings. Some events call for black tie, some are much more casual and, thankfully, there are loads of retailers that carry styles for all types of weddings at a lower price point than in years past. I’ll update this post anytime I find a new dress I’m excited about. When sourcing for this post, I had the most success finding gorgeous dresses at a decent price point at these stores:
For a wedding that calls for semi-formal or dressy casual attire, you have the world as your oyster. In fact, I find that for weddings like this, I usually already have something in my closet that I can wear! The best rule of thumb for a semi-formal wedding is to think about the time of day and the setting of the wedding. If the celebrations will take place outside, you may want to opt for a breezy maxi dress or simple mini dress with block heels or sandals. If the wedding is indoors, a dress with sleeves may feel more appropriate. You have lots of freedom when it comes to a semi-formal dress code. I’d personally wear any of the dresses below for a semi-formal wedding, so I’m going to lump them all under cocktail attire.
One of the most popular dress codes for weddings is cocktail attire. This typically means a mix between day and night, and on the dressier side of that spectrum. There’s no need for a floor length, formal gown, but you’ll also want to opt for something that’s dressier than your everyday shirt dress. When in doubt, a semi-formal mini dress paired with heels is a safe option. Here are a few recent favorites that would easily work for a wedding with cocktail attire.
I’ve always gravitated towards longer dresses when I’m shopping for weddings. This midi length dress is a prime example. I love the festive puff sleeves, flattering square neckline, and the simple (but very fun) cutout on the side. While navy doesn’t necessarily scream summer, the linen blend makes this ideal for warm weather. I love this dress for an outdoor or more casual wedding, since linen is so relaxed. This style gives “everyday dress” but elevated. Not only would it work with these heels for a wedding, but it could also be worn for summer dinners outdoors with a pair of slide sandals, like these options I rounded up.
This pink and orange cutout dress is ideal for a summer wedding. The color combination is fun and unexpected, and the cut out is a fun way to make this a little dressier. The material is a mix of linen and cotton, which is a lightweight, breathable combo. I’d pair this dress with a pair of tall strappy heels, and a fun clutch (but not too fun, let the dress have it’s moment). (If you like this color combo as much as I do, you’ll like this this bikini set too – you can see it on me here, in my round-up of my favorite swimsuits of the season!)
If you prefer a shorter dress, this hot pink mini dress is a show stopper, but still has an affordable price tag. The puffy shoulders and sleeves are on trend but not too over the top. The neckline is also flattering since it shows so much of the décolletage without being too low cut. The hot pink is perfect for summer, and will look even better with a tan. (This is my favorite self-tanner.) You could wear this dress with any style of nude heels, and a simple clutch would finish off the look just perfectly. Since the dress has texture already, I’d stick to more neutral heels like these and a simple clutch like this.
My jaw dropped when I saw this dress. I know yellow isn’t everyone’s top pick, but for those who feel great in yellow, this is a beautiful option. I LOVE the midi length, the ruffle front and back, the bow tie in the back, and the tier drop skirt. And it has pockets. Enough said. This is a great option for a wedding where the ceremony is held in a church, because of the length and sleeves, but it will translate to the dance floor seamlessly.
Strapless styles are making quite the comeback this season, and I’m very much on board. I love this style because of the muted color and midi length, which is flattering and comfortable. If bright colors like the pink and yellow options linked above aren’t your thing, this is a calming green color that still makes a statement without being as bright. I’d also pair this with neutral heels and a neutral clutch and let the color and neckline be the statement.
I personally don’t wear halter styles often, but I wanted to include this pick since so many people love the style (it is incredibly flattering on most body types!). If that’s you, the Jasmine Halter Mini dress may be just the thing for your event! The silky look (note, this isn’t actually silk) feels elevated and dressy, and the soft pink is perfect for spring.
This Arijana Mini Dress by Revolve is definitely more of a cocktail party dress vibe than the rest of the dresses in this post. While it’s obviously flattering and pretty, I think it would work better on someone taller so that the cutout lays more flat. It was pretty open and breezy on me since my torso is shorter (I’m only 5’1″). It’s also very fitted in the rear, so size up if you’d prefer a looser fit.
If you’re looking for a dress that’s flattering and feminine, but not too showy or bold, this is the dress for you. The RSVP Me Dress by Steve Madden has a perfect soft sweetheart neckline with an off the shoulder cut (SO flattering), a soft (but fun) floral print that’s appropriate for spring and summer, and a comfortable smocked top. I love everything about this look, and I know it could be worn for years to come.
I LOVE this ruffle mini dress by Ulla Johnson. The version I have is from a few years ago, but their current colorway and shape is beautiful (and could be worn many times since it’s a solid color!). I’ve worn it to weddings, parties, and dinner dates. It even can be dressed down with sneakers. It’s a splurge, but you’ll get a lot of wears out of it.
Hello, gorgeous! This lace covered mini dress is a wedding guest dress if I’ve ever seen one. I love the ruffled collar – especially with my hair pulled back and statement earrings, like these. If you love the cut of this dress but aren’t a lace girl, then this similar dress is for you. (I own it in black and it’s gorgeous and even bump friendly.)
I wish I had something to wear this dress to. WOW. The pleated silky fabric and the boxy shoulder cut is SO fun. You also can’t beat a dramatic deep v-neck style either for a dressy occasion. The blue is absolutely stunning as well.
For a wedding that calls for black tie attire, this means your date gets to pull out his tux! Black tie is the most formal option for weddings, calling for your nicest attire. Most women will opt for a floor length gown in a formal fabric (staying away from linen or cotton), but black tie is not limited to floor length gowns. A formal cocktail style dress or even a dressy fitted pants suit or jumpsuit is also appropriate, but you’ll want to err on the formal side. If the attire calls for black-tie optional or formal attire, you can expect to see the same styles. Men are not required to wear a tux to a formal or black-tie optional event, however they are welcomed to.
Yes. While there is some debate on whether black is appropriate, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to this. In fact, black is a fairly common color for women to wear to weddings, and I even find that black is more formal than most colors, making it a great option for a black tie event.
Here are a few of my favorite black-tie-appropriate finds.
I find a sleek, fitted gown like this to be a perfect wedding guest dress. It’s not too showy, but definitely feminine and flattering, and something you don’t get to wear too often! I own it in a deep emerald and it’s absolutely stunning. It pairs well with heels and fun earrings, but I’d sway away from a necklace and let the plunging neckline speak for itself. I also love this similar style from Lulus!
This long sleeved midi dress is stunning and appropriate for almost all weddings — including black tie! The silky soft look of the fabric makes it dressier and the combo of pink, red, and green shades mixed with the smocking is feminine and beautiful. The pink clutch the model is carrying with it feels like the perfect touch too.
Here’s an example of a non-floor length gown that’s still appropriate for formal or black-tie occasions. This high-neck halter dress has a soft satin feel that translates as dressy, and the asymmetric high round neckline adds such a fun shape. The darker color also helps make this dress a formal option.
When there’s no dress code specified on your invitation or on the couple’s wedding website, process of elimination will work best in determining what’s appropriate to wear. You can rule out black tie, since black tie is always specified, and from there, you’ll want to think through the event itself. Is it going to be held outdoors in the South? If so, opting for a colorful dress with heeled sandals is a safe bet. If it will be held indoors at a church, something with a little more coverage would be appropriate. In most cases, if there’s no dress code specified, cocktail attire is perfectly appropriate.
The most important thing to avoid is the color white or off-white. White is reserved for the bride! It may also be helpful to find out what color the bridesmaids are wearing and avoid that as well, but it’s not necessary. Jeans, sneakers, and super casual tops and pants are also inappropriate for a wedding. As guests to an event like a wedding, it’s important to show your respect by dressing up and avoiding anything that feels too casual.
I hope this is helpful! If you need help shopping for anything, feel free to leave a comment with what you’re looking for and I’ll do my best to help!
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