What To Wear to a Summer Wedding

Wedding season is here, and the requests are pouring in for advice on what to wear to a summer wedding.

(dress is old // shoes)

I did one of these posts for winter weddings back in January, and today I’m sharing summer wedding guest outfit ideas for the four basic levels of formality: formal/black tie, cocktail, dressy casual, and beach/destination wedding.

Wedding Guest Dresses: Formal/Black Tie

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

Weddings labeled formal or black tie are usually held in the evening, and they require a floor-length gown. (Men should wear a tux.)

For a summer wedding, I like to wear lighter weight fabrics like chiffon or even a scuba material, and I generally stay away from heavily beaded gowns or anything velvet.

I typically go for lighter and brighter colors as well. I would also steer clear of prints for a formal dress code. In the formal outfit above, I selected a beautiful shade of heather lilac, but that dress also comes in a bunch of other colors.

The shoes I paired with this dress are by Naturalizer. I intentionally chose a pair with a lower heel so they should be comfortable for dancing all night long, but since there isn’t any bling on the dress, I went with shoes and a bag with crystal embellishments.

Even in the summer, it’s nice to have a wrap in case it gets cold in the evening, and don’t overlook the accessories. An evening bag is a must for a formal wedding, and sparkly jewelry to complement the dress is appropriate as well.

Wedding Guest Dresses: Cocktail Attire

dress (simliar on sale) // shoes (Gold Leaf) // bag // earrings // bracelet

Cocktail attire indicates a semi-formal event, so you’re looking for a knee-length or midi dress that is dressier than what you might wear to work or church. Basically, it’s a formal dress with a shorter hemline, s 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. (The look above would be more appropriate for a daytime event.)

The dress I chose for this look is a sleek sheath that comes in several solid colors, and the twist detail at the neckline makes it special. I chose gold strappy sandals and a dramatic pleated metallic clutch with a bow to keep the outfit festive. The bag really makes the look.

Since the dress doesn’t need a necklace, I chose a fun pair of statement earrings to bring some attention to the face and I added a chunky pearl and gold bracelet. For a daytime event, these pieces work just fine, but for an evening event, I might choose jewelry that’s a bit more formal.

Wedding Guest Dresses: Dressy Casual

dress // shoes // bag // earrings // lip gloss

Typcially a daytime wedding or an event in a more casual location is a dressy casual affair. You still want to dress up, but keep it a little more understated. For this look, I picked a dress that I might wear to church, and I added beige leather ankle strap sandals.

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. I chose earrings that are a mix of gold and pearls to complement the style and formality of the dress.

You don’t need a fancy clutch for a daytime event, but you also don’t want to carry your everyday shoulder bag. I chose an ivory leather crossbody shoulder bag with gold hardware.

Beach/Destination Wedding

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

I’ve been getting more and more questions about beach weddings, so I decided to add this as a separate category. Even beach weddings can vary in formality, so definitely ask around and see what others are wearing, but I came up with a look that looks like a casual beach wedding to me. Think maxi dresses and sundresses and summery prints.

The floral midi dress I chose for this look is very much on trend right now, and I feel like it bridges the gap between dressy and casual, but I rounded up more options in the shopping widget below.

Shoes are probably the biggest consideration for a beach wedding. If you’re going to be walking on the sand, a flat sandals will be the most appropriate. I love the pearl embellished jelly sandals I included in the graphic above. If it’s on grass, or there is some type of ground cover, they may be a little too casual. You could definitely do a low wedge sandal instead, to level up the look a bit.

I added picked a handbag in a natural material, as opposed to leather or anything with sparkle or shine, and I added some delicate silver tone jewelry to complete the look.

Complete the Look

I addressed appropriate shoes, bags, and accessories with each outfit; but these are important components of any wedding guest ensemble and should not be overlooked.

Shoes should match the formality of the dress, and try to create some contrast with a variety of textures. For example, don’t pair a sequin dress with sparkly shoes. Mix it up.

Your bag can match your shoes, but you don’t have to as, as long as it coordinates with the look and aligns with the formality of the event. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. If you don’t have something that works, maybe try to borrow one from a friend.

You probably won’t need to consider outerwear for a summertime event, but feel free to bring along a wrap that coordinates with your outfit, if you think it might be chilly inside the venue.

And don’t let your jewelry be an afterthought. I usually choose one statement piece that doesn’t compete with a feature of my dress, and then the other pieces can support the statement piece.

For example, if the dress has a big shoulder detail or it’s really busy in the neckline, go with statement earrings and a small pendant or no necklace at all. Then definitely add a bracelet. If the dress has an open neckline and you feel like it needs a statement necklace, go with smaller supporting earrings and a complementary bracelet.

Finally, leave your clunky smartwatch at home. If you don’t have a delicate, dressy watch that goes well with the rest of your jewelry, it’s best to go without.

Pantyhose: In or Out?

Ahhhh… the great debate! Women feel very strongly about pantyhose, and it seems to be a regional thing.

I maintain that pantyhose are a classy and appropriate choice for a dressy winter event, but I try not to wear them in the summertime if I can help it. Self tanner can be a great substitute for pantyhose, and a lot of women recommend the Sally Hansen leg makeup.

If you do end up wearing pantyhose, go with a sheer pair that matches your skin tone, and be sure to wear a closed-toe shoe (or toeless pantyhose are an option, I guess. I’ve never worn them though.)

Whew! This is a long one, but I hope it’s helpful! I am not an expert with any professional qualifications, but I do pay attention, and I think my advice here is pretty reliable. That said, a lot of these topics depend on your region of the country and the culture of your area, so take it all with a grain of salt.

If in doubt, ask around, and see what others are wearing, but most of all, wear what makes you feel most comfortable, and have fun!

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9 thoughts on “What To Wear to a Summer Wedding

  1. Here’s my beef with available dresses and most that you posted as well since it seems all to be available in the dressier category…SLEEVES. So many of us over 40, 50 & 60 are very insecure about our arms…we want them covered and dresses with short or 3/4 sleeves are almost impossible to find. I do wish that dress designers would ask what women our age want.
    I have a wedding end of June and after much looking I’m going to have to pull out a dress I wore 5 years ago when I lucked out and found one with short sleeves.
    Last year my son got married and I ended up having to have a seamstress add short sleeves to a dress since I couldn’t find one with sleeves that wasn’t very old looking and frumpy…the little bolero jackets are not a good alternative. Ok…done my rant lol.

  2. Great post. I’m trying to figure out what to wear for 2 weddings right in a row on weekends in August. One is I’d say casual, Summer and the other even more casual, Summer as its jut the reception following their destination wedding in Mexico that only immediate family are attending. I think the Summer reception at the parents house is the one I’m not sure about. I guess just a casual Summer dress and since walking on someones lawn, I’d think flats even would be appropriate. Would flowy linen wide leg pants be appropriate? I just realized I hadn’t thought of the jewelry for the actual wedding one and I’m wearing a dress I’ve had in my closet since before the pandemic with the tags still on it. Cyndi had styled it and its a classic style and right above the knee. I’m still trying to find the right sandal for it. I want 2″ heel, for sure under 3″ and the ones I’ve found my size has already been sold out for awhile. I have one due in the mail anytime to try. The silver short zipper in the back at the top of the neck is throwing me off. I don’t like darker nude with it, so thinking maybe I need to go with off white sandal. The dress is a cobalt blue. What do you think? The dress is a very simple sheath type style. I tried the Dolce Vita Cafe’ color braided sandal in the shorter heel and the color seemed muddy up to the dress color. I think maybe silver seems too over the top for a casual Summer wedding. I have silver ones I’ve only wore once to my daughters wedding I could wear but is the kitten heel dated? Ummm decision. Another thing I realized from your post, is I haven’t decided what to have my husband wear. He needs me to dress him. LOL Is it appropriate for him to wear the same slacks and shoes to both weddings 2 weekends in a row and both are family weddings? LOL I could change his shirt. LOL Anyway, I better get to figure things out. Things are selling fast. Thanks for your great helpful post.

    1. First of all, your husband can totally wear the same thing. No one will notice. Or if they do, they won’t think a thing about it. Must be nice, right? Sure, change out his shirt, if that makes him feel better.

      The shoes, it is hard to say without seeing them b/c it’s about a lot more than just the color. The style, the material, the shade, the amount of embellishment… etc. That said, I love metallics with shades of blue. Or a nude. If you go off-white, bring in that with accessories too.

      And the pants sound nice. I realize I didn’t touch on pants or jumpsuits in my post, and I should have… it was just already so long.

      1. Thanks Jo-Lynne. I always appreciate your replies. My husbands dress slacks are very nice. They are the ones he wore only once to my son’s wedding. I had them dry cleaned and they’ve been ready to go. LOL
        I think I keep leaning toward metallic silver sandals for my cobalt blue dress, but then I think a silver clutch seem over the top for a casual Summer wedding. 🙂
        Your post are never too long for me. 🙂 I think jumpsuits are a great idea, just hard to navigate the bathroom when out and about. 🙂 Have a great day and I guess I better get moving on finalizing our outfits for the 2 occasions.

  3. Your advice to leave the smart watch at home is spot on! I totally forgot to change out mine for a more delicate watch at my daughter’s wedding, and it definitely showed up in the wedding photos.

  4. Thank you for the post! What do you think about an olive green jumpsuit with snakskin chunky strap sandals for an afternoon barn wedding in June?

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