From formal occasions to low-key beach gatherings, there's a dress for every type of wedding you're invited to.

By Olivia Muenter
Updated Apr 08, 2019 @ 4:45 pm
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Spring Summer Wedding Guest Dresses
Credit: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Summertime means warmer weather, dining al fresco, and, of course, attending all the weddings. Whether you love weddings or dread them, odds are you have to attend at least one or two this summer. While going to a wedding can be stressful in and of itself (What is an appropriate gift? Is it open bar? Do I need to rent a hotel room?), figuring out what to wear for weddings can only add to the frustration. And honestly, what does ‘cocktail attire’ even mean, anyway?

Figuring out dress codes is one thing, but then there is figuring out what to wear within that dress code. If you know the people whose wedding you are attending, odds are you can get a feel for the vibe. But if you’re still at a loss, the easiest plan of action is simply to ask the people hosting the wedding for a few more details. Is it a boho vibe? Is it ultra casual? What are other people wearing? People who have spent months or years planning a wedding are almost always excited to talk about it, so don’t feel shy about asking for some insight. It will make the process of finding something that fits the vibe of the wedding and your personal style that much easier.

Once you've figured out what type of wedding you're attending, check out our shopping suggestions below — it's going to be a long, love-filled summer, and you're going to need to be wardrobe ready.

Preppy Or Traditional Wedding

This is the type of wedding that has the ceremony at a church and the reception at a country or yacht club. You know the type. There will be shrimp cocktail and champagne. There will be monograms on virtually every surface. It could have taken place 50 years ago, or it could have happened last week.

All this is to say that this may not be the most comfortable environment to experiment with that sequin mini dress you’ve been saving. For a traditional wedding — regardless of the level of formality — less is more. Find a solid-colored dress with an interesting architectural detail, or a classic vintage-inspired dress you’ve been meaning to try.

Formal Wedding

Say you know nothing about the wedding you’re attending except that it’s formal. It’s your mom’s cousin’s daughter’s wedding and you don’t feel comfortable asking for more information because you’re not quite sure why you’re even invited in the first place. We’ve all been there. Don’t panic. Despite what you might think, a formal dress code actually gives you more flexibility. A floor-length dress would be appropriate, but so would a cocktail dress (below the knee). If you’re not sure which to choose, ask yourself in which situation you would feel more uncomfortable: if you’re the only one wearing a long dress, or the only one wearing a cocktail-length dress. Then go from there. Still unsure? Go for the ultimate happy medium — a midi dress.

Beach Wedding

Ah, the beach wedding. Great in theory, extremely sweaty in reality. The good news, though, is that beach weddings also offer a lot of options when it comes to wardrobe. They’re almost always on the less formal side of things, and give you the opportunity to put some heels with your favorite maxi dress and call it a day. You could even do a metallic sandal because, you know, sand. Not into maxi dresses? Find just about any other sundress and you will most likely be just fine.

Black Tie Wedding

Spring Summer Wedding Guest Dresses
Credit: Courtesy

The black tie wedding is elusive, but can often be the most anxiety-inducing when it comes to finding what to wear. But look at it this way: it gives you a real-life chance to wear an actual gown — or a tuxedo, if that’s more your thing. Since most of us don’t have full-out gowns just hanging in our closets, consider renting an option via services like Rent The Runway. Otherwise, your best bet is to stalk your favorite stores for sales. And when in doubt, just go for a floor-length black gown. They’re available at any price point and pretty much always look expensive and.

Bohemian Wedding

Boho chic weddings are pretty much everywhere these days. But sometimes it can be confusing trying to figure out what to wear to a formal or semi-formal event that takes place in a barn or a field. The best part of these types of weddings, though, is that it’s usually the perfect opportunity to wear something you already have in your closet or experiment with something a little bit more quirky. While some bohemian weddings might lean one way or another on the scale of formality, they generally leave a lot of room to experiment.