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Welcome to wedding season: where the hangovers are real, the dress codes are confusing, and we’re all sweating. As if the uptick in vaguely specific dress code attire hasn’t made finding a wedding guest outfit hard enough, summer weddings also require finding something that’s dress code appropriate while also seasonally appropriate. There’s a lot of “vibe interpreting” required for all these confusing wedding dress codes that, frankly, most of us just aren’t cut out for. So to help guide you on your seemingly treacherous wedding guest outfit search, here are some options based on the different dress codes.
Clearly I need to reevaluate my entire circle of friends because I’ve never attended nor have I even been invited to a white-tie wedding. White-tie dress code is the most formal of them all, requiring floor-length gowns, no exceptions. Your gown should be paired with your most elegant clutch and accessories and, if I were you, I’d take full advantage of the occasion and even add some trendy elbow-length gloves. You can make your gown more seasonally appropriate by choosing summery colors and fabrics.
Personally, this is my favorite wedding dress code out of the ones I’ve attended because I love an excuse to dress up. Black-tie dress code means you can wear a formal gown or elevated jumpsuit, either of which paired back to elegant accessories. Basically, think prom-adjacent attire minus the over-the-top tackiness and vodka-filled water bottles. Similarly as with white-tie, you can make your black-tie ensemble more summer- appropriate with light and bright colors, airy fabrics, and more breathable silhouettes.
Formal or Black-Tie Optional
This dress code can be confusing and definitely requires some of that “vibe interpreting” that I mentioned earlier. Black-tie optional is pretty much equivalent to formal and just means slightly less formal than black-tie. The biggest difference for women’s attire is that a full-length gown isn’t required, but something of the same dressiness “vibe” is still recommended. Basically, if you want to get wild and show your ankles then you have permission to do so but I’d avoid going above the knee for your hemline. Add a summer-feel to your formal look with vibrant summer colors or a lightweight mesh fabric.
Cocktail attire means that women can wear shorter hemlines but still need to look dressy. Long story short, it would be inappropriate to wear a gown but also inappropriate to wear a sundress. I realize that leaves quite a large gamut, but basically just think a specialty mini dress, elevated midi dress, or eloquent jumpsuit. Overall, this dress code does imply a bit more of a flirty and playful vibe, so have fun with it but still look classy. Keep it summer appropriate with shorter hemlines, seasonal colors, or even an elevated floral print.
Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual
Semi-formal or dressy casual might be the most vague of all the dress codes because there are no “hard lines” beyond no sweatpants. Rather, you really have to feel into the vibe of the wedding, so maybe just grab a crystal and the invitation and mediate on it? On second thought, maybe just text a fellow wedding attendee to see what they’re wearing and go from there. At the end of the day, err on the side of being over-dressed rather than under-dressed. Remember, it’s about special event elegance without crossing the line of “fancy.” Vague, I know, so best of luck.
As someone who recently attended a beach formal wedding, my biggest piece of advice is DO NOT underestimate the heat. As someone who also attended said wedding in a long sleeve bridesmaid dress, I’m going to suggest you steer clear of sleeves and any material that could potentially show sweat. Instead, opt for lightweight summery fabrics like linen or gauze. And, if you’re really someone who sweats easily, go for an airy printed maxi to help disguise any possible sweat stains. Oh, and bring a handheld fan, you’ll thank me later.
Daytime or Casual
Covid has made the backyard wedding quite a trend, and given how expensive weddings can get, I definitely see the appeal. Backyard or daytime weddings are usually more casual which means they’re perfect for a breezy sundress, pretty mini dress, or sophisticated set. The only “don’t” here is going too casual or too dressy. Just avoid dressier fabrics, overly casual fabrics, stiletto heels, sneakers…and you should be good to go from there.