The Best Wedding Guest Dresses for Every Dress Code

If your calendar looks like ours, you have a summer full of weddings ahead of you. Which means lots of champagne toast, lots of dancing to “Shout,” and lots of time spent trying to figure out what to wear. Whether the invite in your hand calls for black tie, cocktail attire, or an ever-confusing “party,” we’ve put together a foolproof guide featuring our favorite party dresses of the season. Need something for a beach party or church ceremony? We’ve got you covered there too. Check out all of our picks and a brief explanation of each dress code below.

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What to wear to a black tie wedding

Some people see the words black tie on an invite and think that means they need to invest in a red carpet-ready dress. While this may be the case in some circles, most of the time this dress code only calls for a long dress (ankle or floor length) in a luxury fabric. You might even get away with a midi, if it has a touch of drama, like feather trim or a bit of sparkle.

What to wear when the invitation says cocktail attire

Cocktail attire is probably the easiest dress code to stick to. All lengths are fine, and you can play up or downplay formality with a whole range of dress styles, depending on the accessories you choose. A mid-length brief or floaty mini can be a cocktail look if you opt for bold jewelry and a fabulous pair of heels. The same goes for anything adjacent to the dress, if you keep the rest of your ensemble relatively simple. Some of our favorites from the season are sexier and more colorful, but you can’t go wrong with a fun LBD.

What to Wear When the Invitation Says “Party Dress”

Think of party attire as a playful take on the cocktail party, where bright colors, cheerful prints, and fun textures (like ruffles, sequins, and highlights) are encouraged. While you can certainly get away with a simple, solid-colored sheath, if the couple goes out of their way to use that term, chances are they want guests to feel free to express themselves. A midi dress with some intriguing details is the move here:

What to wear to a beach wedding

A beach wedding calls for easy, breathable, non-binding styles that you’ll feel comfortable wearing while dancing barefoot in the sand. If it’s a tropical destination, you’re also allowed to show a little more skin than you otherwise would, so why not go for something with a fun cutout?

What to wear to a church wedding

Religious ceremonies, which usually take place in the morning or mid-afternoon, require a style suitable for the day that is rather modest. Florals and solid pastels are your friends here, and you might want to steer clear of anything over the knee. But that doesn’t mean boring! You can play with texture and volume, and try tongue-in-cheek versions of traditionally girly styles.

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