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Between a black tie optional, semiformal or no dress code at all, the vague language and etiquette surrounding it all is honestly rude! While there’s no universal guidebook 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 broken down the mystery behind each wedding dress code. You can also find a couple of our favorite picks for the 27 best wedding guest dresses and outfits to shop right now. Ready to kill the wedding guest fashion game?
White tie wedding guest dresses
Let’s get the big one out of the way 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, sheath or A-line silhouette, a floor-length evening gown is not a suggestion.
While this sounds super intimidating, consider it an opportunity to pretend you’re a royal or a lady’s maid who snuck into the party and happened to find true love with a Duke. Have some fun and bring your A-game with accessories. How often do you have the chance to wear opulent jewelry and elbow-length silk gloves?
Black tie wedding guest dresses
The second more formal dress code is most likely what you envision at a very formal, very fancy wedding: Formal dresses that graze the floor or the tops of your shoes. However, you can still opt for a dressier midi dress. One way to zhuzh up the midi dress is to add some simple and elegant jewelry and accessories.
Black tie optional or formal wedding guest dresses
As far as black tie optional and formal wedding guest dresses, opt for midi or maxi dresses, like a trendy and easy satin slip dress. You can even get a little more adventurous with a more formal jumpsuit or colorful tailored pantsuit.
There’s really not much of a difference here between this dress code and black tie. When in doubt, remember that you’re not only allowed to dress up more; it’s encouraged. Since you have explicit permission to do so, why not fancify it up?
Cocktail wedding guest dresses
Everyone loves a good Cocktail dress code. As the more fun younger sister of black tie optional, you’re allowed to go for things like a short dress or a two-piece set. You can even break out your favorite little black dress or formal romper. If you don’t have any formal minidresses, consider looking for midi, tea-length or knee-length styles.
The delicate mix of elegant, comfortable and party-ready leaves you with a huge number of options. Just remember to lean more dressy than not because cocktail attire is certainly not the same as casual or semiformal.
Wayf Tiered Midi Dress, $103.95 (Orig. $108)
Semiformal wedding guest dresses
Seeing “semi” pop up on a wedding invite is less than helpful. Like, is it dressy? Is it casual? Are you supposed to wear sneakers with a formal gown? (No.) What about strappy stilettos with a T-shirt dress? (Double no.)
For guidance, you should definitely look at cocktail dresses. If you’re thinking on going for a sundress or a jumpsuit, err on the side of more formal. Essentially, you need to be more polished than not. At the very least, you have a little wiggle room — use your best judgment!
Casual wedding guest dresses
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 that you’re still going to a wedding. That means no flip-flops, shorts, jeans, stains, dirty sneakers, etc., etc.
Think about it like dressing up for a first date at a nice restaurant; sundresses with sandals and cotton jersey fabrics are totally acceptable here, as well as nicer ‘fits too. You just don’t want to be too overdressed, so maybe scrap the silk maxi gown.
Universal Standard Shindig Satin Slip Dress, $78 (Orig. $158)
Festive wedding guest dresses
Here’s the fun thing: The Festive dress code gives you full permission to go all out. We’re talking OTT bright colors, tons of texture and bold accessories to complete the look (like these unbelievably fun platform heels).
You should definitely use the season to inform your outfit choice, like wearing shiny sparkles, dark greens and burgundies around the holidays. And if the invite specifies a theme like Bridgerton or the 1970s, that makes it even easier to adhere to the dress code.
Topshop Animal Print Slipdress, $25.20 (Orig. $84)
Selkie Puff Dress, $295
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 be doing is sweating through your long-sleeved crepe maxi dress. Luckily, destination weddings tend to be more casual, unless they specify another dress code on the invite.
Think linens, lightweight and breezy sundresses, florals and vacation vibes.
kate spade new york Summer Flowers Tiered Dress, $299.60 (Orig. $428)
Wedding guest dresses for no dress code
First things first: If you are planning a wedding with no dress code, please reconsider and spare your guests the frantic headache and panicked texts!
Second: If you’re attending a wedding with no specified dress code, I’m so sorry. However, it’s much easier than you think! Just play it safe with a cocktail or semiformal outfit and, if you can, discuss your outfit ideas with other guests— nothing too casual and nothing too formal or OTT. You got this; I believe in you!
ASOS Vila mini tulle smock dress with low back and bow detail in green, $55.25 (Orig. $79)
If you liked this story, shop these editor-approved picks from Nordstrom.
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