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27 wedding guest dresses for every type of dress code because they’re all so confusing

Updated ·7-min read

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How many times have you gotten a wedding invite and found yourself staring blankly at the wedding guest dress code for five to seven agonizing minutes?

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?

Ieena for Mac Duggal Floral Print Halter Neck Chiffon Maxi Dress, $458

Credit: <a href="https://www.intheknow.com/tag/nordstrom/?utm_source=internallinks&utm_medium=internallinkstransactions&utm_campaign=internallinksnordtrom" data-ylk="slk:Nordstrom" class="link ">Nordstrom</a>
Credit: Nordstrom

$458 at Nordstrom

ASOS DESIGN tulle plunge maxi dress with bow back detail in powder blue, $100

Credit: ASOS
Credit: ASOS

$100 at ASOS

Bronx and Banco x REVOLVE Maxi Dress, $780

Credit: REVOLVE
Credit: REVOLVE

$780 at REVOLVE

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.

ASOS LUXE Curve wired ruffle one shoulder ruched midi dress, $84

Credit: ASOS
Credit: ASOS

$84 at ASOS

Lulus Keeper of My Heart Navy Blue One-Shoulder Maxi Dress, $68

Credit: Lulus
Credit: Lulus

$68 at Lulus

Sabina Musayev Astrid Dress, $490

Credit: REVOLVE
Credit: REVOLVE

$490 at REVOLVE

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?

Anthropologie Elyse Bias Slip Dress, $120

Credit: Anthropologie
Credit: Anthropologie

$120 at Anthropologie

Miss Selfridge tulle twist front maxi dress in pink, $87

Credit: ASOS
Credit: ASOS

$87 at ASOS

Eloquii Twist Detail Jumpsuit With Waist Ties, $119.95

Credit: Eloquii
Credit: Eloquii

$119.95 at Eloquii

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.

ASOS Never Fully Dressed Plus puff sleeve maxi tea dress, $147

Credit: ASOS
Credit: ASOS

$147 at ASOS

Wayf Tiered Midi Dress, $103.95 (Orig. $108)

Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue
Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue

$103.95 $108 at Saks Fifth Avenue

Anthropologie Halter Neck Mini Dress, $160

Credit: Anthropologie
Credit: Anthropologie

$160 at Anthropologie

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!

Reformation Sunnie Two-Piece Dress, $298

Credit: <a href="https://www.intheknow.com/tag/nordstrom/?utm_source=internallinks&utm_medium=internallinkstransactions&utm_campaign=internallinksnordtrom" data-ylk="slk:Nordstrom" class="link ">Nordstrom</a>
Credit: Nordstrom

$298 at Nordstrom

Good American Always Fits Plissé Slip Dress, $140

Credit: Good American
Credit: Good American

$140 at Good American

Hill House Home The Daphne Dress, $150

Credit: Hill House <a href="https://www.intheknow.com/tag/home/?utm_source=internallinks&utm_medium=internallinkstransactions&utm_campaign=internallinkshome" data-ylk="slk:Home" class="link ">Home</a>
Credit: Hill House Home

$150 at Hill House Home

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.

ASOS Annorlunda color block tulle dress in blue and lilac, $83

Credit: ASOS
Credit: ASOS

$83 at ASOS

Topshop Ruffle Off the Shoulder Long Sleeve Minidress, $93

$93 at Nordstrom

Universal Standard Shindig Satin Slip Dress, $78 (Orig. $158)

Credit: Universal Standard
Credit: Universal Standard

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.

STAUD Rylie Tiered Ruffle Maxi Dress, $495

Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue
Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue

$495 at Saks Fifth Avenue

Topshop Animal Print Slipdress, $25.20 (Orig. $84)

Credit: Topshop
Credit: Topshop

$25.50 $84 at Nordstrom

Selkie Puff Dress, $295

Credit: REVOLVE
Credit: REVOLVE

$295 at REVOLVE

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)

Credit: kate spade new york
Credit: kate spade new york

$299.60 $248 at kate spade new york

Eloquii Tiered Sheer Maxi Dress, $119

Credit: Eloquii
Credit: Eloquii

$119 at Eloquii

ASOS DESIGN Puff Sleeve Cotton Maxi Dress, $58

Credit: Nordstrom
Credit: Nordstrom

$58 at Nordstrom

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!

J.Crew Halter-neck dress in painterly floral, $248

Credit: J.Crew
Credit: J.Crew

$248 at J.Crew

ASOS Vila mini tulle smock dress with low back and bow detail in green, $55.25 (Orig. $79)

Credit: ASOS
Credit: ASOS

$55.25 $79 at ASOS

ASTR the Label Gaia Dress, $98

Credit: Shopbop
Credit: Shopbop

$98 at Shopbop

If you liked this story, shop these editor-approved picks from Nordstrom.

The post 27 wedding guest dresses for every type of dress code because they’re all so confusing appeared first on In The Know.

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