What to Wear to a Summer Wedding as a Guest

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There’s a reason why so many weddings take place during the summer: Between access to gorgeous outdoor venues, extended hours of sunlight, an abundance of in-season flowers, and bright, punchy color palettes, what’s not to love about these months? Summer nuptials aren’t just great for the couple: As a guest, you get to enjoy all the season has to offer for nuptials, too. If you’ve been invited to attend a ceremony and reception taking place in late June, July, August, or early September, selecting an outfit that fits the easy, breezy vibe of summer is of the utmost importance.

When choosing what to wear to a summer wedding, consider the usual suspects: venue, destination, and—of course—dress code should all inform what you wear. Ahead, brush up on some universally helpful etiquette tips for attending a summer soirée as a guest. Plus, discover a handful of outfit ideas for men and women depending on the dress code for the event.

Brides


What to Wear to a Summer Wedding

A good rule of thumb when choosing your outfit for a summer wedding (or any wedding, for that matter) is that being overdressed is always better than being underdressed. “It could appear as an insult to the bride,” etiquette expert Lisa Grotts explains. “When in doubt and if it’s not clear on the wedding invitation or website, ask the bride.” After that, the details lie in the dress code, as highlighted below.

Meet the Expert

Lisa Grotts (also known as The Golden Rules Gal) is an etiquette expert with over 20 years of industry experience. She’s an author, former columnist for The Huffington Post, and has appeared on media segments for NBC, The Today Show, and BBC News.

Photo by Shauntelle Sposto of Sposto Photography


Black Tie/Formal

Grotts insists that formal doesn’t need to be complicated for a summer wedding. Select “Long shimmery fabrics or silk is an elegant choice with loose or slit sleeves,” she says. “A wide-legged pantsuit is also very chic with evening heels.” As for men, “Black tie/formal means a tuxedo; midnight blue is a welcomed alternative to black with patent leather or velvet loafers,” Grotts adds.

In regards to how the venue factors into your look, the rules surrounding black-tie wedding attire will remain the same no matter the locale. One difference that may slightly change for women, however, is their shoe selection choice, as stiletto heels aren’t the best option for beach locations. Instead, women should opt for fancy wedges or formal sandals if the ceremony is taking place on the sand, then change into another pair of shoes if they’d prefer to wear heels for the reception.

Photo by Karla Garcia Costa


Semi-Formal

If the invitation indicates a semi-formal dress code, Grotts suggests a maxi dress for women. “Easy and breezy! It’s always a safe bet,” she says. “From V-necks to one shoulder or a high-low hemline. Wedges or a metallic heel would [also] complete the look.” What’s more, if shopping for an outdoor, semi-formal summer affair, a colorful palette of yellow, green, pink, and blue are wonderful hues for guests to consider when searching for a dress. On the other hand, men should consider a dark suit in navy or gray with a necktie for a smart semi-formal ensemble, Grotts adds.

Photo by Joel Serrato


Casual

“Floral and flowy” is Grotts’s motto for a casual summer wedding. In particular, she recommends dresses that are “Strapless, halter, or sleeveless but with a wrap.” For footwear, go for sandals or wedges, especially if the terrain isn’t suitable for heels. “To be extra chic, dresses with solid tassels around the sleeves or hemline act as a built-in accessory,” she adds. This is also a great dress code to lean into mini hemlines and pared-back beauty looks. As for men, Khakis or chinos with a blazer and open-collared shirt or polo without a tie would work,” Grotts suggests. However, she insists: “certainly no flip-flops!”

Summer Wedding Attire Tips and Etiquette Rules

While you’ll want to stand out in your top-notch look, you also want to avoid coming across like you’re trying to compete with the couple. “Your safest choice is to dress light and bright but not white,” notes Grotts, with one exception being if the couple requests guests to dress in white.

Another major consideration is location, as already specified a few times. “It all depends on the location of the summer wedding,” Grotts explains. “For a beach wedding, think sand, sandals, and a maxi dress. For an outdoor country wedding, you may have to walk on grass, which means wedges and a dress that won’t drag to the floor. For a traditional summer wedding, go for a polished and chic look.” She also suggests avoiding heavy fabrics and dark colors, as well as anything too blingy (for example, over-the-top embellishments).

Lastly, it’s vital to keep the weather top of mind when it comes to planning a summer wedding outfit since it’s the hottest time of year. “One should always be prepared to cover up in case your host has not planned for the worst, such as a covered or air-conditioned venue,” Grotts says. “Always check the weather and come with a shoulder wrap if your dress is strapless or sleeveless. Stick with light fabrics that won’t stick to your skin, such as linen or a cotton blend.” In other words, slab on the sunscreen and remember that “you can still look appropriate in hot and humid temperatures without overheating.” Phew!


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