42 best wedding guest dresses and outfits

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While there’s nothing quite as exciting as getting to see the people you care about celebrate their love and commitment to each other, a little planning can go a long way when it comes to wedding season. You open the invitation, mark the date in your calendar and then what? There’s booking your accommodations, coordinating travel plans and, most importantly, picking out a wedding guest outfit.

Finding the perfect wedding attire can be both tons of fun and a little daunting. What exactly do the different dress codes mean? How do you find an outfit that both fits your personal style and is perfectly appropriate for the occasion and venue? Fortunately, that’s where our experts come in.

“I typically look for specific language indicating the formality [in the invitation],” says LA-based image consultant and celebrity stylist Philippe Uter. Typically, there are keywords like “casual,” “cocktail,” “formal” and “black tie” included in the invitation, he says, but if not, “the design of the invitation and the venue can offer clues about the expected attire.”

“Formal fonts and thick cardstock suggest a dressier affair, while whimsical designs or brunch invitations lean more casual,” shares Emily Ziegler, VP of merchandising and wedding-guest-style curator at Petal & Pup.

“Location and time can be another indicator,” she explains. “A beach wedding at sunset calls for lighter fabrics and flowy silhouettes, while an evening ceremony in a ballroom suggests a more formal look.” Stylist Allie Koehler adds that, “A barbecue likely means you can opt for something more casual, while a restaurant in New York City suggests your chicest attire.”

And if the invitation isn’t explicit with a dress code, other considerations include the couple’s individual style, cultural and religious components to the wedding and the formality of the venue itself.

When in doubt? “If you don’t see it on the invite or the website, it’s always best to ask,” says NYC-based fashion editor Belle Bakst. “You never want to show up in the wrong attire.” Ahead, our experts break down four of the most common wedding dress codes and share their picks and recommendations for each.

“Casual wedding attire is more formal than jeans and sneakers but less formal than a full-suiting look,” says NYC-based wardrobe stylist and fashion editor Lizzy Rosenberg. “It’s something that you can see yourself wearing on more than one occasion, not just this specific event,” adds Christina Wettstein, co-founder of the bridal market pop-up Melange de Blanc and Coterie White. “I think a lot of times formal attire requires tailoring, alterations and steaming, while casual attire should be more stress free,” she says.

“Casual dress codes often apply to unconventional wedding venues such as beaches, gardens or cafés,” says Alisa Chen, fashion editor at AW Bridal.

“Fabric choice would be top of mind in this scenario,” says fashion editor Leah Faye Cooper. “I’d opt for a dress in a lightweight cotton like gingham, seersucker or a standard nonstretch weave. For shoes, I’d go with a flatform sandal, and I’d stash my essentials in an understated mini bag or small clutch.”

Overall, a casual wedding usually implies a relaxed and informal dress code, says Uter, so we recommend opting for something comfortable and versatile.

Hill House Home The Ophelia Dress

“Casual wedding attire can include more day fabrics like cotton and don’t require full-length skirts or gowns,” says Bakst, who recommends this A-line, machine-washable option. “Some of my favorite day dresses that I’d wear to a nice lunch make a great option for a casual wedding.”

Staud Ellison Rib-Knit Sleeveless Midi Dress

Wettstein recommends this chic midi dress, suggesting “something less structured and more whimsical in a crepe, knit or chiffon fabric” when it comes to a casual wedding dress code. 

Allegra K Sleeveless Floral Ruffles Crew Neck Chiffon Smocked Dresses

This chiffon sundress is romantic and lightweight. While the fit-and-flare shape along with the fabric is a bit more formal, the smock bodice and flowy skirt make for a comfortable dress that you can wear all summer long.

Andre Assous Polina Espadrille Heel

“A maxi dress and sandals — not flip-flops — is a great direction to go,” Rosenberg says. She calls this pair one of her favorite dressy sandals for the season and perfect for celebrating in comfort and style, thanks to the modest heel height. 

Abercrombie & Fitch Emerson Poplin Wide Strap Midi Dress

Koehler will take “any excuse to wear florals” and recommends this sundress as a perfect option for a casual wedding dress code. Pair it with sandals and you’re ready for a romantic backyard wedding in Italy, she says.

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This gingham dress with a unique neckline can easily be dressed up or down. Pair yours with open-toe espadrilles for something truly casual or kitten-heel mules for a bit of elegance.

Ludlow Slim-Fit Unstructured Suit Jacket in Irish Cotton-Linen Blend

When it comes to menswear, “we usually see pants and a dress shirt versus a suit,” explains Wettstein. If you’re more comfortable in a suit, she recommends linen as a good choice depending on the location.

Untuckit Wrinkle-Resistant Linen Vin Santo Shirt

$105 at UNTUCKit

“I love a classic linen button down for a summer wedding,” shares Koehler. She recommends this wrinkle-resistant option — ideal especially if you’re traveling.

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Bakst recommends these pants, which are both perfect for more casual weddings and as a wardrobe staple for any guy. Certain colors are customizable in size and and with design details like pleating, button colors and more.

Lands' End Traditional Fit Short Sleeve Seersucker Shirt

Seersucker works for men too. Pair these with khakis or chinos in a complementary tone for a casual summer reception.

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“For men, I would suggest opting for a polo shirt, chino pants and a loafer shoe,” shares Rosenberg. She recommends this pant option from Fair Harbor, which she describes as “a casual trouser that looks presentable but not stuffy.”

“Cocktail wedding attire suggests a slightly more formal dress code, typically indicating semi-formal attire,” explains Uter. “Women could wear a cocktail dress or a dressy skirt and top, while men might opt for a suit and tie or dress pants paired with a sport coat.” For Kimberly Marcoux, co-founder of Melange de Blanc and Coterie White, a cocktail attire dress code means that you can have a little more fun with your outfit. “Cocktail attire to me, means short, playful and even color,” she explains. “You’re always safe with a little black dress, but who doesn’t love a pink mini with feathers or some exaggerated details like a flower, bow ruffle or print,” she shares.

“Wear a party dress, and dress it up with heels and fun jewelry,” advises celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger. “You can also opt for a fun jumpsuit or chic pantsuit. This is the chance to really have fun.”

Chen agrees, noting that the cocktail dress code is an opportunity to move away from traditional neutrals in favor of bold hues and statement prints. Looking to stay locked into a more muted color palette? Play with texture. “Combine different materials and textures, such as lace overlays, silk, velvet or chiffon to add depth and visual interest to cocktail dresses and suits,” says Chen.

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“A midi-length dress with elevated details like statement sleeves, a delicate lace overlay or ruffles all lend themselves to a dressier feel,” shares Ziegler. This stunning ruffled option is absolutely perfect for any tropical wedding destination.

Petal and Pup Anabelle Halter Neck Midi Dress

“Semi-dressy effortless elegance is a great place to start,” when it comes to cocktail attire, shares Ziegler. “Outfits should lean more towards evening party attire instead of daytime casual,” she explains. “Choose a flirty cocktail dress with a fun pattern or a more classic silhouette in a luxurious fabric.”

Steve Madden Lessa Sandal

Since you can go bold with cocktail attire, why not throw on a pair of statement shoes? These hot pink heels are the perfect pop of color.

Bardot Amalfi Maxi Slip Dress

“Midi dresses and form-fitting shorter lengths — without being too revealing — make great options for a cocktail dress code,” Bakst shares. She recommends this stunning red, classic slip-style dress. The halter neck tie closure is the perfect way to make a stylish statement without risk of upstaging anyone.

Mango Wrap Neckline Jumpsuit

When it comes to cocktail outfit options for women, “a dressy jumpsuit with a clutch and heels is a stunning option,” shares Ziegler.

Alieva Tiffany Dupioni Puff Sleeve Maxi Dress

“Cocktail attire is dressier, and appropriate for the evening without feeling overly formal,” shares Bakst, who recommends this showstopper. While the luxurious dupioni silk is perfect for a wedding, the dramatic sleeves and body-hugging silhouette make for a more fun, sexy look.

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Speaking of luxe fabrics like velvet, they work wonderfully on the guys as well. Bakst recommends one with silk-covered lapel and trimmed pockets from Suitsupply, but you can get the look for less with this Asos option.

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When it comes to cocktail wedding attire, you can get away without a tie and cufflinks, according to Rosenberg. If you’re not opting for a suit, she suggests a button down shirt, trousers and loafers. She’s a fan of this top, which features wrinkle-free technology so you can “look sharp all night long.”

Bonobos Jetsetter Italian Linen Suit

“Color suits are always a good idea, even if they’re just navy or neutral,” shares Marcoux. In addition to your standard neutral colors, this linen suit is available in a stunning deep green.

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A navy suit like this one that’s tailored to your body is a smart choice for a wedding that calls for cocktail attire.

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Uter describes this suit option as “super fun and cool,” and perfect for standing out in all the right ways.

“Formal attire typically calls for long gowns and black, dark gray or dark blue suits,” explains Bakst. She says a smoking jacket for men works, but a tuxedo isn’t required. Basically, a formal dress code is another way of saying “black-tie optional.”

“Formal wedding attire calls for elegance, tradition and a touch of luxury,” says Chen. “In recent years, there has been an evolution in formal wedding fashion, incorporating modern twists while maintaining a timeless appeal.” That means you can wear anything from a fancy cocktail dress to a gown, according to Erlanger. “I tend to find that people err on the side of getting more dressed up. For men typically you should wear a jacket and tie, more elevated than a cocktail look, but not full black tie.”

Abercrombie & Fitch Giselle Pleated One-Shoulder Maxi Dress

“This dress is a perfect timeless and seasonless choice, with the accordion design detail to elevate an otherwise simple silhouette,” shares Rosenberg. The versatile style comes in petite, regular and tall lengths. 

Reformation Anaiis Silk Dress

“Formal attire usually means a long gown in color for me,” shares Marcoux. This 100% silk dress is subtle yet sexy in all the right ways. 

Babaton Eyecatcher Dress

For the minimalist, this stunning strapless dress is made from a super comfortable yet luxurious crepe material. It’ll hug your curves in all the right ways and the length is ideal — long enough to qualify as a maxi dress and short enough to show off your shoes.

YMDUCH Sleeveless Off Shoulder Evening Dress
Lulus Heavenly Hues Maxi Dress

Offering stunning gowns at an accessible price point, Lulus has been our go-to destination for years. This romantic maxi dress is available in 13 colors, in sizes XS through 3X and has thousands of reviews — so you can get a really good sense of how it fits before making your purchase.

Significant Other Demi Backless Long-Sleeve Column Gown

Bakst recommends this elegant gown, which is perfect for those searching for a more modest dress or a piece that’s comfortable without a jacket for when it gets chilly.

Abercrombie & Fitch Plunge Cowl Back Maxi Dress

For a picture-perfect garment, it’s essential that what you’re wearing fits you like a glove. This stunning dress is petite-friendly and comes with free alterations — a service that can oftentimes end up costing more than the garment itself. 

Petal and Pup Belle Swiss Dot Tulle Tiered Maxi Dress

When it comes to a formal wedding dress code, Ziegler suggests opting for “a floor-length gown in a luxurious fabric like satin or chiffon.” She recommends this tulle maxi dress, which features deceptively comfortable details like an elasticised waistband and straps.

Todd Snyder Italian Tropical Wool Sutton Suit

“Men can’t go wrong with a well-fitted black or navy suit,” explains Marcoux. “And if I had it my way, always with a bowtie!”

Florsheim Rucci Plain Toe Oxford

“Formal wedding attire is when you break out the dress shoes and two-piece suit, tie included,” explains Rosenberg. “Florsheim has a great offering of dress shoes at a very competitive price point.”

Banana Republic Tailored-Fit Linen-Blend Glen Plaid Suit Jacket

While men might opt for a dark suit paired with a tie or a tuxedo if the event is particularly upscale, explains Uter, he also loves a light suit for this type of dress code. This option, which adds some extra interest with a subtle plaid print, is currently an extra 25% off.

Topman Skinny Fit Textured Two-Button Suit Jacket

A skinny fit jacket is a modern silhouette that flatters and elongates the figure. This one has narrow notched lapels and would look best with a slim tie to go along with it.

“Black-tie wedding attire is the most formal, and when you really get to embrace bringing drama and elegance into your outfit,” explains Ziegler. “Think about glamorous fabrics like silk or satin and classic silhouettes that flatter your figure,” she shares. When it comes to menswear, “tuxedos, formal dinner suits, cufflinks and shirt studs” are the way to go, explains Wettstein.

“Black-tie attire can be more costly compared to casual wedding attire, and you may not wear these ensembles again,” Wettstein adds. So another option you have are rental services like Rent the Runway or Nuuly, “so you can score a super high-end look and return it when you’re done.”

Hutch Siriana Satin Rosette Flared Gown

When it comes to a black-tie wedding, “floor-length, evening and ball gowns are acceptable,” Wettstein explains. But if you’re planning to wear a ballgown, like this absolutely stunning option from Hutch, “you should check the formality of the bride’s wedding gown first,” she shares.  

BCBGMaxazria Merritt Evening Gown

Bold details are a great way to spice up a formal, black-tie dress. Ziegler recommends a beautifully embellished bodice, or “a floor-length gown with a daring slit.” This option from BCBG, though simple in color, makes up for it in its dreamy yet daring silhouette.

Amsale  Satin One-Shoulder Gown

This luxe satin gown, recommended by both Wettstein and Uter, is quintessential black-tie attire. “I love how the top effortlessly drapes off the shoulder,” shares Uter. If you order from the Amsale site, it’s available in sizes 00 through 28 — all made to order, and in any of the brand’s standard fluid satin colors.

Norma Kamali Long Gloves

“Black tie is the fanciest of the fancy,” shares Bakst. “It’s reserved for the most special of occasions, so feel free to go wild and go to great lengths,” she explains. For a super fun and dramatic look? “Gloves are appropriate too,” she explains.

Bonobos Empire Stretch Italian Wool Tuxedo

“For men, a tuxedo is required for black tie weddings,” explains Bakst. This classic option from Bonobos features tons of customization options and different fits, so you can be sure you’re investing in something that’ll last you years to come. 

The Blac Tux Shadow Black Linen Tuxedo

A linen tux will help you stay cool for summer nuptials. This under-$500 option has a classic look and comes in customizable sizes. You can also add on a dress shirt, bowtie and all the other accoutrements you need to dress to the nines.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label Tuxedo Jacket

“Black-tie indicates a high level of elegance and luxury,” shares Uter. “Men are expected to wear a tuxedo with a bow tie and formal dress shoes.” He recommends this tuxedo jacket, adding that there’s “nothing sexier than James Bond attire.”

Corneliani Textured Wool Tuxedo

Wettstein recommends this textured wool tuxedo, which features smart peak lapels and single button closure. Made in Italy from 100% virgin wool and with a viscose lining, it’s undeniably luxurious and absolutely stunning.


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