What to Wear to a Summer Wedding

Some of you have requested a post about what to wear to a summer wedding, and I’m more than happy to go window shopping for you!

It’s been AGES since I’ve been to a wedding, but I doubt much has changed in the past 20 years…

Or has it?

Well, I’ll do my best. Some of you probably have a lot more experience with weddings lately so you can feel free to chime in with your best advice.

Deciphering the Dress Code

The first thing to consider is the dress code. If you’re lucky, the invitation will list some sort of dress code, but more often than not, you’ll need to gauge by the location and time of day how formal you should be.

Typically an evening wedding requires a cocktail dress or formal attire, and an afternoon wedding suggests something you might wear to church.

Of course these days, the issue is further complicated by location. There’s the church wedding, the backyard wedding, the barn wedding, the beach wedding, the country club wedding, the vineyard wedding, the garden wedding… and the list goes on.

You also need to understand the general style and culture of the family whose wedding you’re attending. I’m not talking about ethnicity here, but some areas of the country are far less formal than others, so that should also provide some guidance on the formality of your wedding attire.


Out here in the suburbs of Philly, I’m usually pretty safe attending a wedding wearing a dress that I’d wear to church, but we’re not exactly high society folks out here. Those who live closer to the city probably have a different experience than I do. Personally, I’ve only been to one wedding where guests wore floor length gowns.

That said, people also typically dress nicer than they would to, say, a backyard barbecue… unless, of course, the wedding IS a backyard barbecue… so then we’re back to considering the location.

For the purpose of this post, I focused on dresses that cover that middle ground because I figure that’s probably what resonates with most of you. Then we’ll talk about shoes and accessories because the dress is only half of the outfit, after all.

Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

It should go without saying, but for the record, never wear a white dress to a wedding. EVER. White is reserved for the bride, end of story.

Beyond that, any color is fine, but you don’t want to be too showy. Even though I included a few bright dresses in my roundup, I typically steer clear of red or anything that draws a lot of attention to myself. It’s okay to wear black, but I probably wouldn’t for a summer wedding.

You also want to keep it relatively modest — again, the bride should be the focal point, and you don’t want to wear anything that would attract attention in an overt way. So nothing too short or too bare should be worn by a wedding guest.

Here are the dresses I rounded up. These are just a starting point, but hopefully they give you an idea of what is in style right now and what should be appropriate for most summer weddings.

How to Accessorize Your Dress for a Summer Wedding

Once you’ve picked out your dress, you’re not done yet. Don’t neglect to consider your shoes and accessories. It is actually possible to ruin a perfectly gorgeous dress by not considering the rest of your outfit.

dress // bag // shoes // earrings // bracelet

You can always wear pumps with a dress, but for summertime a dressy sandal is more modern and probably more flattering.

When in doubt, go with a nude shoe — something as close to your skin tone as possible.

A nude shoe keeps the look current, and it also elongates the leg and generally makes a woman appear taller and thinner. Metallics are another great option.

Of course, there are times when a color would be a nice option, so take the dress into consideration, but a strappy nude sandal almost always works. A low wedge is great for those ladies who can’t do heels.

Also think about where you will be walking. If you’re attending an outdoor wedding where you may be walking on grass or sand, stiletto heels are not a good idea; opt for a wedge, flat, or block heel style instead.

Do not wear hose with sandals. If feel you absolutely must wear hose, go for the sheerest, most natural pair you can find (I recommend these), and then you’ll need to either buy the toeless ones or wear a closed toe shoe.

In the summertime, it really is best to go bare and use self tanner if you’re insecure about the color or condition of your legs. Midi length dresses or maxi dresses are also an option if you want some more coverage.

dress // sandals // clutch // earrings // watch

Also be sure to have a couple of accessories to compliment your outfit. Shop your closet if you can, but if you don’t have something a little dressier, consider adding a great pair of earrings or bracelet to your jewelry collection. You may not wear them a ton, but you’ll have them when you need them.

Nadri and Nina are two Nordstrom brands that do a really good job with affordable quality costume jewelry, and I also like the jewelry selection at White House Black Market.

Finally, leave the mom bag at home, and opt for a convertible clutch or wallet on a chain.

I’m a big fan of the WOC (Wallet On a Chain) because you don’t need a separate wallet. Just take your driver’s license and most essential credit cards out of your main wallet and put them in the card slots in your WOC, then throw in a lipstick, pack of tissues, keys, and phone — and you’re good to go!

You can usually tuck the chain inside and use it as a clutch, or wear it over your shoulder if you need to be hands-free.

Don’t get caught up in having everything match. As Clinton and Stacy like to say, It doesn’t have to match; it has to go. You can carry a neutral bag with neutral shoes that aren’t the exact same shade, or you can carry a different color bag altogether — as long as it goes with the outfit. I often find it easier to carry another color altogether, but it depends on your dress and shoes and other accessories.

Basically, you want to make sure everything you’re wearing works together in style and formality. You can wear a gorgeous dress, but if you throw on frumpy shoes or carry your oversized mom bag stuffed with everything but the kitchen sink, you’ll completely ruin the look. It pays to take a little time to be sure you have the right accessories for your dress. The good news is, once you have them, you can wear them again and again!

Finally, be sure you have the proper shapewear to look and feel your best. 

My favorite shapewear for wearing under dresses are the Spanx Shape Your Day Girl ShortsLadies, forget everything you’ve ever known about shapewear. If you get the right size, these are not uncomfortable, they aren’t going to roll down, and they aren’t going to make you any hotter than you already are. They simply smooth everything out and keep your assets in check. I wear a medium, for reference, so you may want to size up if you’re in between sizes.

These Soma Smoothing Shorts also come highly recommended, but I’m not sure how they compare as far as the control. The Spanx have a great medium control — it’s enough to hold you in but not so much that you feel constricted. The Soma shorts are also longer — and that can be an issue if your dress is on the shorter side. You don’t want them to show when you sit down.

Another option for women who don’t want to feel constricted is the Jockey Skimmies — they’re great for smoothing things out and keeping you cool, but they don’t have much control. It all depends on what you’re looking for, but all three options are great to have in your shapewear arsenal.

shaper shorts // convertible strapless bra

Also, make sure you’re wearing the right bra for the dress. You may need to try on a few different ones to determine which one flatters the most under your particular dress, and this is where taking pictures of yourself in the mirror can really help.

Make sure your bra fits properly and that it’s been replaced within the last year. If it’s stretched out or the wrong size, it won’t hold the girls in place properly, and that can be frump city.

Also, if you need a strapless or convertible bra to avoid straps showing, invest in one. You will have it for years, and it will come in handy again sometime, I’m sure. If you’re bigger busted, I HIGHLY recommend this convertible strapless bra.It really stays in place, and it’s fairly comfortable.It also comes with straps that you can make into a halter or cross-back style if need be.

Whew! I think that about covers it.

What would you add? If you’ve been to a wedding or two within the past few years, I’m sure you have some insights that I don’t have.

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