With every new season comes the onslaught of requests for mother-of-the-bride/groom and wedding guest dresses, and this fall is no different. In fact, I think I have more requests for fall wedding guest dresses this year than ever before! I guess a lot of people are making up for lost time.
All that to say, today we’re talking about what to wear to a fall wedding, and I’ve rounded up a bunch of fall wedding guest dresses for your shopping inspiration.
There are lots of dress codes and varying levels of formality for wedding guest attire, but for the sake of simplicity, I condensed them into three: formal/black tie, semi-formal/cocktail, and dressy casual. That pretty much covers the bases, but if you need more guidance, there is lots of information and advice on the internet. #googleisyourfriend
What Colors Are Best for Fall?
I’m sure it goes without saying, but never wear white to a wedding unless it is requested, and I would include cream and pale shades of blush. There are very few rules of etiquette that aren’t considered antiquated these days, but that is one of them. In fact, it’s trendy for brides these days to wear white to all of their wedding-related events, and it is generally understood that no one else should.
As far as what color you should wear, fall wedding guest dresses in autumnal tones are appropriate, but not required. Jewel tones are nice too. I love a rich burgundy or emerald green, navy is always safe, and black is fine too. There are also some really pretty shades of mauve and taupe out right now.
Heavier fabrics are generally preferred in the fall, like a sleek scuba fabric or a rich satin or brocade. Velvet is okay, but I would wait to wear that a little later in the season. I consider velvet more of a winter fabric, but it depends on the weight and style of the dress. Lace and chiffon tend to look more summery, but again, it depends on the dress. Use your best judgement.
Also, I usually stick to solid color dresses for formal and semi-formal events, but when you get down to the dressy casual category, it is fine to wear a print.
Complete the Look
If you want to look polished and put-together, be sure to complete the look with appropriate shoes and accessories. That can take some time, so start early and plan ahead. There’s nothing worse than getting to the day of an event and realizing you don’t have a key component of your outfit, so it’s a good idea to give it a test run a few weeks before. Put the whole outfit on together, undergarments included, to make sure everything works together and you aren’t missing anything.
Yes, the cost of a wedding guest ensemble adds up, but the good news is you can often wear the undergarments and accessories again. As for the dress, you can probably sell it afterwards and recoup some of your investment, or consider Rent The Runway. I know a lot of people who have had good experiences with that, but if you are shopping for a dress, hopefully this post will help!
Formal/Black Tie Wedding Guest Dresses for Fall
photo credit: Verishop
For most of us, black tie is as dressy as it gets, Although white tie is technically dressier than black tie. White tie definitely dictates a ball gown for the ladies, but black tie gives you a little more leeway. If in doubt, wear a floor-length gown when the invitation says black tie.
Black tie optional is a little more permissive. You can certainly wear a floor-length gown to a black tie wedding, but it isn’t necessarily required. If you do opt for a dress that is not floor-length, it should be a dressy cocktail dress. If in doubt, ask around to see what others are wearing.
Once you choose your dress, be sure to think through the rest of your ensemble. Your shoes, accessories, and your handbag should match your dress in style and formality. This is not the time to grab your everyday leather tote, or the nylon crossbody you took to Disney World.
And since fall can be chilly in a lot of areas, you also want to remember an appropriate wrap. If you don’t have all of the necessary accoutrements, ask around. Oftentimes you can find a friend who is happy to lend you a beaded clutch or a silky wrap for the evening.
Semi-Formal/Cocktail Dresses for Fall Weddings
photo credit: Zappos
Cocktail attire indicates a semi-formal event, so you’re looking for fall wedding guest dresses in knee or midi lengths that are dressier than what you might wear to work or church or out to dinner with friends. Basically, it’s a formal dress with a shorter hemline, and it will have a dramatic detail or some sparkle and shine.
For a daytime semi-formal wedding, you can go a little less glam, but feel free to wear more embellishments and dramatic details if the wedding is in the evening.
Just like with the black tie wedding attire, you want to make sure your accessories match the formality of the event, and try to incorporate a mix of textures. For example, if the dress is sparkly or has sequins, go with a suede or satin shoe. Or vice versa.
Dressy Casual Wedding Guest Dresses for Fall
photo credit: Nordstrom
Typcially a daytime wedding or an event in a more casual location is a dressy casual affair. You still want to dress up, but you don’t need a cocktail dress. It’s more like something you would wear out to a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant.
It could even be a dress you would wear to work or church, but in that case, add accessories that are more festive than something you would wear to the office. You might also wear a jumpsuit. Prints are fine in this category, but I’d stick with solids for formal and semi-formal events.
When picking accessories for a dressy/casual wedding, you don’t want anything too glitzy, but you definitely don’t want to overlook this part of your outfit either. And while you don’t need a fancy clutch for a daytime event, you also don’t want to carry your everyday shoulder bag. A small crossbody bag that has some shiny hardware is a nice choice.
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11 thoughts on “Fall Wedding Guest Dresses”
This post couldn’t be more timely: I’m headed to a wedding to Colorado and both the ceremony and reception are in a barn! Thinking a dressy casual dress is in order, maybe a pair of cowgirl boots too. Great post Jolynne, thank you!
That sounds like fun!
Oh my that navy Alfred Sung dress❤️❤️
Even though I don’t have any weddings to attend, I really enjoyed reading this post! Thank you for putting it together.
I need your expert option on the walk through style. I love the style of the Kay Unger walk through dresses but my daughter says they look like pants with a cape. I really am uncomfortable in dresses but feel like pants are too casual for wedding so would a walk through style for a wedding be appropriate?
Well, I had to google that one! 🙂 That is interesting. Some could be appropriate for a wedding. I guess the question is, do YOU love it? Because it is appropriate to wear dressy pants to a wedding. Something like this- https://shopstyle.it/l/bK4bE
I’m currently trying to find a mother of the groom dress. I don’t want lace, mesh, or sequins and I’d like something I can wear a regular bra with so I’ll be comfortable. So far, not much luck…lol
Love the Maggie London dress in the semi formal catagory. Stunning. I had two weddings in August, but both casual weddings, but I was very shocked the way many dressed. No effort and like their old cotton tank dress like from Old Navy. Nothing wrong with Old Navy as I have some cotton dresses from there, but I try to dress for the couples special day. I think Covid days ruined many for putting out effort in dressing. Great advice in your post.
I bought that same Maggy London black dress just before covid. It was on sale half off for just a day or two at Nordstrom’s.. It looks and feels much richer than the store’s photos indicate. Great luck! But opportunities to wear it have since been rare indeed. That gave a new dimension to “all dressed up and nowhere to go”. Bummed! We are invited to a nephew’s wedding in Seattle next month. I wondered whether this dress would still fit in and fit me. Seeing your recommendation and intermittent fasting the past few months means yes! to both fit questions. This dress will be perfect. Thanks for the great advice!
A word of warning: My body shape is more inverted triangle than hourglass. The dress looks fab on me but my broader shoulders tend to work the zipper open as I move. I have read reviews from others experiencing the same problem. I asked a seamstress to install a hook and eye to tame that zipper. Now I can dance all night in my gorgeous dress.
That is awesome! Have so much fun!
This is a timely post, as we just received an invitation to a early October wedding in CO. According to the informal invitation and the casual location, I figured the dress would be cocktail. However, I’m really confused by the wording on the info page (on their wedding webpage). What do you make of this?
“Comfortable Cocktail Attire: We want you to be authentically you. Wear that sequined dress, or three-piece tux, or a combo of both.”
“Sequined” and “three-piece tux”, do not fall under “Comfortable Cocktail Attire” in my mind.
Can you help me think this through?