All Dressed Up: What To Wear To A Wedding

what to wear to a wedding

Although attending a wedding is always a lot of fun (The food! The champagne! The romance!) choosing what to wear for the occasion can be a bit of a headache. Sure wedding invitations usually come with a dress code but even those can be confusing sometimes (‘lounge suit’ wedding anyone?) or not give you enough of an idea of what would be an appropriate outfit.

So if like me you suddenly have three weddings to dress for this year (oh my, are we at that age already?) here are a few tips and outfit ideas to help you get started.

The golden rules:

1. Dress up

Weddings are special occasions so guests are traditionally expected to dress up. Even if it’s a simple daytime wedding always err on the side of formal and over-dress rather than under-dress. And for goodness sake please don’t be one of these guests that turn up to weddings wearing jeans! I don’t care if the invitation says ‘casual’ – unless the people getting married are part of an ’80’s denim appreciation club’ or are getting married bare feet in their garage, jeans just aren’t appropriate wedding attire!

2. It’s all about the bride

It’s her day to shine so be mindful not to wear anything that might detract the attention from her. This means not wearing white (even she’s not wearing white- people would just automatically think of the bride when they saw your outfit) or anything that might upstage her in any way (leave that stunning sequined Versace dress for your next NYE party). Finally, don’t wear anything too sexy or anything that shows off too much skin – this is a wedding, not a nightclub.

3. Respect the dress code

As mentioned, dress codes can sometimes be a little confusing or complicated. However just because you don’t really understand the dress code doesn’t mean that you should just ignore it and wear whatever you want. Instead, reach out to other guests to see what they’re wearing or even contact the bridal party for some additional tips. People will appreciate you making an effort and it’s always polite to show some respect for the couple’s wishes.

Now that we’ve got the golden rules sorted it’s time for the fun stuff – picking an outfit! Here are some outfit ideas to suit most occasions:

Formal weddings

What to wear to a formal wedding

Alice Olivia blue sleeveless dress, Chi Chi maxi cocktail dress, ASOS black and white pleated dress / Modcloth emerald Cocktail dress

Formal weddings usually have dress codes that range from ‘semi formal’ through to ‘black tie optional’, ‘black tie’, and ‘white tie’.

  • White tie weddings are the most formal of them all so this is your chance to channel your inner Grace Kelly and don a beautiful floor length gown, complete with glamorous accessories such as long white gloves or a delicate shawl.
  • Black tie events are slightly less formal than white tie affairs but usually still call for a long gown or a dressy cocktail dress. ‘Black tie optional’ gives you the choice to either go all out with a floor length gown or to choose something less dramatic like a knee length cocktail dress.
  • ‘Semi-formal’ (or ‘lounge suit’) dress codes are a bit tricky and depend greatly on the time and location of the wedding.The goal is to wear something that looks smart enough to befit the occasion without going over the top or looking uncomfortable. A simple cocktail dress is usually the safest choice for this type of wedding – something in a lighter color for during the day or in a darker shade for a night time party. You could also go for a maxi dress, as long as it isn’t too dramatic.

Cocktail style weddings

cocktail wedding attire 2

Asos black Dress/ Asos Blue dress, / Modcloth green dress/ Asos red Dress/ Modcloth B&W Evening dress /

Cocktail style weddings usually take place in the evening and have a more relaxed, party like atmosphere than traditional weddings. In many ways, they’re the easiest code to dress for because you can often re-use something that you already own.

  • Go for chic cocktail dresses in darker shades and jewel tones.
  • It’s also fine to wear dresses with embellishments or with slightly shorter hemlines at this kind of wedding (just don’t rock up in a super mini Bodycon dress!).
  • If you’re stuck for ideas, a LBD is a fail proof option. A smart jumpsuit could fit the bill too!
  • If you can dance in high heels then this is the occasion to show off your favorite pair! (you might want to pack a pair of flats too though – it might be  along night!).

Garden party weddings

garden wedding attire

ASOS fit and flare cocktail dress/  / ASOS dress/ASOS hi lo maxi dress/ Pink dress/ Forever New green lace cocktail dress, J Crew a line sweetheart dress

As ‘garden party’ weddings typically take place during the day, they are often less formal than indoor weddings. The mood is usually ‘chic and romantic’.

  • Opt for feminine dresses in pastel shades or bright colors. Alternatively, a nice floral print will offset with the garden setting nicely. Vintage dresses are also a great choice.
  • Soft fabrics such as chiffon always look lovely and romantic but lace is an equally popular option. Just make sure you pick a breathable fabric as you might be seating in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Black dresses can look a bit out of place at a garden party so avoid wearing one if you can.
  • Grass and high heels sadly don’t mix so go for a chunky heels or nice wedges instead.

Beach (and casual) weddings

Beach wedding attire

Forever New Blue dress /Asos White & Pink dress / Halston Heritage one sleeve cocktail dress / Nordstrom orange Dress

Beach weddings (and other more ‘low key’ weddings) are sometimes the most difficult events to dress for because couples often choose to go with the elusive ‘casual’ dress code. This is when some people get confused and think that they can just turn up in shorts or jeans.

  • Unless it is specified in the wedding invitation (as in ‘shorts and flip flops welcome‘) steer clear from these kinds of outfits.
  • Instead opt for a pretty maxi dress, a cute sundress or a smart skirt/blouse combo.
  • Bold colors and florals always look great in outdoor settings and are perfect for a day time wedding.
  • If the wedding is taking place at night then you could also wear a simple LBD. Casual but still chic.
  • Swap your sexy high heels in favor of nice sandals or wedges.

I hope you found these tips useful! Do you have any weddings to attend this year? What will you wear?


  • These tips are really helpful! I’ve only been to one truly black tie wedding and it was so fun to get dressed up. Definitely a different feel than the mostly semi-formal wedding events that I go to!

    • I’d love to go to a black tie or white tie wedding, it would be nice to dress super glamorously for one night!

  • This is exactly what I needed!! I am going to my partner’s friends wedding in a few weeks and I don’t know this group of friends very well and I was stuck for ideas, but this was a great help!!

  • Great post and what gorgeous dresses! These are super useful tips for what each dress code means. :) I love dressing up, and white tie/black tie are my faves, because you really get to go all out and celebrate in style with the bride and groom.

    • Thank you Joy! I love black tie weddings too, it’s so nice to see people all dressed up and glamorous for a night.

  • Perfect choices!

    I’m going to a black tie wedding and its so good to know I was on the right track with my dress choices… Love the garden party looks too!

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