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How many times have you received an invitation to a wedding and found yourself staring at the dress code of the wedding guests for five to seven agonizing minutes?
Between optional black tie, semi-formal or no dress code at all, the vague language and etiquette surrounding it is honestly rude! While there’s no universal guide to wedding guest dress codes, there are a ton of fashion cheat sheets out there, just like the one you’re reading right now.
To help you find the best wedding guest outfit, we’ve unraveled the mystery 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 kill the wedding guest fashion game?
White Tie Wedding Guest Dresses
Let’s eliminate the big one first. White tie attire is the most formal dress code. Think of events like state dinners and royal banquets. Whether it’s a ball gown, a sheath or an A-line silhouette, a long evening dress is not a suggestion.
While this sounds super intimidating, consider this an opportunity to pretend you’re a royal or a maid who snuck into the party and found true love with a duke. Have fun and bring your A-game with accessories. How often are you lucky enough to wear lavish jewelry and elbow-length silk gloves?
Black Tie Wedding Guest Dresses
The second more formal dress code is probably the one you envision at a very formal, very chic wedding: formal dresses that skim the floor or the top of your shoes. However, you can always opt for a dressier midi dress. One way to elevate the midi dress is to add simple and elegant jewelry and accessories.
Black tie optional or formal wedding guest dresses
As for the optional black tie and formal wedding guest dresses, opt for midi or long dresses, such as a trendy and easy-to-wear satin dress. You can even get a little more adventurous with a more formal jumpsuit or colorful pantsuit.
There really isn’t much difference here between this dress code and black tie. When in doubt, remember that you’re not only allowed to dress more; it is encouraged. Since you have explicit permission to do so, why not make it up?
Cocktail Wedding Guest Dresses
Everyone loves a good cocktail dress code. As the more fun black tie optional younger sister, you’re allowed to opt for things like a short dress or a two-piece set. You can even pull out your favorite little black dress or formal romper. If you don’t have formal mini dresses, consider looking for midi, midi, or knee-length styles.
The delicate blend of elegance, comfort and celebration leaves you with plenty of options. Remember to lean more dressed than not, as cocktail attire is definitely not the same as casual or semi-formal attire.
Wayf Ruffled Midi Dress$103.95 (original $108)
Semi Formal Wedding Guest Dresses
Seeing “semi” appear on a wedding invitation is less than helpful. Like, is it dressed? Is it laid back? Are you supposed to wear sneakers with a party dress? (No.) What about strappy stilettos with a T-shirt dress? (Duplicate number)
As a rough guide, you should definitely look at cocktail dresses. If you’re planning on going for a sundress or jumpsuit, opt for something more formal. Essentially, you need to be more polite than not. At the very least, you have a little leeway – use your best judgement!
Casual Wedding Guest Dresses
A casual wedding isn’t exactly casual. While you can certainly dress more casually than any other dress code on the list, remember that you’re still going to a wedding. That means no flip flops, shorts, jeans, stains, dirty sneakers, etc., etc.
Think of it like dressing up for a first date at a nice restaurant; sundresses with sandals and cotton jersey fabrics are quite acceptable here, as well as nicer cuts. You just don’t want to be overdressed, so maybe ditch the silk maxi dress.
Shindig Universal Standard Satin Slip Dress$78 (original $158)
Festive wedding guest dresses
Here’s the funniest thing: the festive dress code gives you full permission to do anything. We’re talking OTT bright colors, tons of textures and bold accessories to complete the look (like these incredibly fun platform heels).
You should definitely use the season to inform your outfit choice, like wearing bright sparkles, dark greens and burgundy during the holidays. And if the invitation specifies a theme like Bridgerton or the 1970s, it makes it even easier to stick to the dress code.
Topshop Animal Print Slip Dress$25.20 (original $84)
Tropical or destination wedding guest dresses
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 another dress code on the invitation.
Think linens, light and airy summer dresses, flowers and vacation vibes.
Kate Spade New York Summer Floral Ruffle Dress$299.60 (original $428)
Wedding guest dresses without dress code
First of all, if you are planning a wedding without a dress code, please reconsider and spare your guests the frantic headaches and panicked text messages!
Second: If you attend a wedding without a specified dress code, I’m so sorry. However, it is much easier than you think! Just play it safe with cocktail or semi-formal attire and, if you can, discuss your outfit ideas with other guests – nothing too casual and nothing too formal or OTT. You have this; I believe in you!
ASOS Vila Mesh Smocked Mini Dress With Scoop Back And Bow In Green$55.25 (original $79)
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