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Wedding Outfits For Every Venue & Occasion

Emily Henderson Fashion Wedding Guest Oufits For Every Venue Gif

Hey there, Jess here! In case you don’t know me, I’m the EHD Office Manager and Market Editor. Today, we wanted to cover something VERY important…wedding guest fashion. This year has been my first “wedding year,” meaning I feel like every weekend, I’ve been a guest at a friend’s nuptials (but really, it’s only been five events). And while five weddings in one year is laughable to some of my other friends who have been averaging EIGHT for the past six years, putting together a stylish look for each has not been as easy as I had hoped. Now, I am a big fan of the repeat outfit (two years of events in the same light blue maxi dress will prove that) but I wanted some fresh looks. My main problem was that all of these weddings are at different venues (restaurant garden patio and formal forest to name a couple ), so I couldn’t really repeat even if I wanted to because a ballgown is a little much for a backyard wedding.

After a few of the other ladies in the office shared my fashion woes, we thought “wait, maybe our readers also struggle with this, too” and were prompted to pull together an extensive wedding guest outfit guide. We thought through what would be most helpful to us, and dividing styled out looks by venue (or dress code, in some instances) felt right. Here’s where we landed: garden, seaside, alternative venue, semi-formal day, semi-formal night, formal. That’s six different types of weddings/venues with dress and shoe pairings for multiple body types, including petite, plus and tall. Our hope is that you (and I) will be prepared for any wedding ever. Sound good? Great. Let’s dive in.

Garden Wedding

First up, we have the garden wedding. Florals may not be required (or groundbreaking) but definitely encouraged. It’s also not a bad idea to be able to blend in with the surrounds after one too many champagnes when your “cool” uninhibited dance moves decide to make an appearance, am I right? For this type of venue, think upgraded flirty sundress with a fun-yet-simple shoe. Here, we stuck to happy, bright colors and flowy fabrics. We really love #9 and #10. The dress is light, playful and fitted, but you can still wear a bra with it (a deal breaker for me). Plus, those lilac shoes are so cute and look like you could dance in them all night. P.S. I blame Arlyn’s lilac trend post for making me kinda like purple now. WHO AM I??

1. Tiered Maxi Dress | 2. Mere Flat Slide Sandal | 3. Yellow Button Front Dress | 4. Floral Mini Dress | 5. Criss Cross Slide Sandals | 6. The Claudia Sandal | 7. Halter Maxi Dress | 8. Tie Bodice Dress | 9. Lilac Shoes | 10. Red Floral Dress | 11. Yellow Sleeve Tie Front Dress | 12. Three Strap Mule | 13. Creme Floral Mini | 14. Reed Strappy Flat Sandal | 15. Cut Out Maxi Dress

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Seaside/ Beach Wedding

Next up is the seaside wedding. For this type of venue, we suggest pieces that are a little more muted in tone (but still fun!)…like the ocean. In our experience, being near water means windy conditions so we kept most of the dresses long to avoid any Marilyn Moments—CYA…literally. #3 is a super flattering cut and at first look seems conservative but the fringe trim gives it a little playfulness. It also comes in petite, regular and tall. We also LOVE #4 and #10. Both of these could also go with the gingham dress for a great pop of color.

1. Short Sleeve Dress | 2. Lula Block Heel Slingback Sandal | 3. Gingham Off The Shoulder Midi Dress | 4. Remi Ankle Strap Sandal | 5. Blue Maxi Dress | 6. Daria Wrap Midi Dress | 7. Off The Shoulder Midi Dress | 8. Wedge Lace-Up Espadrille Sandal | 9. Floral Midi Dress | 10. Ruffled Heels | 11. Embroidered Plunge Front Maxi Dress | 12. Mel Slide Sandal13. Tiered Maxi Dress | 14. Low Scoop Ruffle Dress | 15. Michelle Cork Mules

Alternative Venue Wedding

What is an “alternative venue” you may be asking yourself? This is a wedding at a place like a brewery, art gallery, museum, restaurant, antique shop (people have done this and it’s pretty cool)…basically, anything NOT in a ballroom or by the ocean. This type of venue almost begs for you to think a little out of the box for your look. It’s a little more casual but a lot more fun. Number #9 and #10 are a great example of this. The well-fitted and brightly colored jumpsuit (comes in Regular too) is not the average wedding garb but so fun. Add those INCREDIBLE Rachel Comey striped heels and you have a knockout look. We also love love #15 and #16. A monochromatic look always comes off thought out and very chic.

1. Check Dress | 2. Blue Pumps | 3. Criss Cross Maxi Dress | 4. Cream Heeled Mules | 5. Belted Floral Midi Dress | 6. Rehearse Heels | 7. Kimono Wrap Dress | 8. Open Toe Suede Mules | 9. Striped Heels | 10. One Shoulder Jumpsuit | 11. Nancy Two Part Sandals | 12. Gingham Tie-Strap Dress | 13. Kaden Sandal | 14. Striped Linen Dress | 15. Green Slingback Shoes | 16. Ditsy Deconstructed Midi Dress

Semi-Formal Day Wedding

Now we move onto our more classic types of wedding attire. These are the styles you would probably wear to a church wedding depending on time of day/dress code required. Of course some churches prefer a more modest look than the reception might so adding a cover up for the ceremony is probably a good idea:) Now let’s start with a semi-formal day wedding. But what does semi-formal really mean? Could that term be vaguer? Well, I looked it up and the consensus was that it lies somewhere between formal and cocktail. Basically, this is not a dress you can dress down for brunch, but also not so formal that you couldn’t wear it out on a nice date. I hope that helps.

For our picks, we kept the color palette bright and the length mid to mini. It’s daytime so subtle patterns and eyelet fabrics are great; just casual enough with some flair. If you want something more structured like #3, #10 and #14, then go for a jewel to light color. This way it won’t feel like you missed the daytime memo. Also, never underestimate the power of a ruffle. They are fun and very forgiving. For your convenience we have devised a simple math equation for optimal ruffle forgiveness success:

Planned # of Pieces of Cake Eaten – Planned # of Songs Danced To = Ideal # of Ruffles

1. Red One Shoulder Dress | 2. Ava Leather Stiletto Sandal | 3. Cutabout Mini Dress | 4. Yellow Tiered Dress | 5. Sazzle Two Part Sandals | 6. Blue Embroidered Pencil Dress | 7. Luisa Sandal | 8. Embroidered Tassel Skater Dress | 9. Block Heel Sandal | 10. Drigs Dress | 11. Posted Ankle Strap Pump | 12. Floral Frill Dress | 13. Saffy Block Heel Pump | 14. Bow Twist Textured Midi Dress | 15. Rona Two Part Sandals | 16. Striped Mini Dress

Semi-Formal Night Wedding

Moving on to the sultry sister of the daytime semi-formal wedding: the nighttime semi-formal wedding. Finally, a wedding where you can wear a dark color that will hide the inevitable spilled drink on the dress by someone else. It literally happens to me at every wedding. For this roundup, we went a little darker but kept the playfulness alive and well. We love #1 because it seems conservative (high neck + mid length) but hello, it’s gold leopard print. Who’s conservative now?? We also are big believers in the flatters-everyone wrap dress. They may seem like a daytime style but as you can see from #4 and #15, as long as it’s in a luxe fabric, they are a GREAT semi-formal option.

1. Cowl Jacquard Midi Skater Dress | 2. Cut Out Sandal | 3. Dress With Rubberized Print | 4. Green Wrap Dress | 5. Shine On Sandal | 6. Lace Midi Dress | 7. Fergie Lace-Up Sandal | 8. Floral Maxi Dress | 9. Flutter Sleeve Crepe Sheath Dress | 10. Metseya Pump | 11. Ruffle Sleeve Midi Dress | 12. Kendally Pumps | 13. Polka Dot Mini | 14. Flory Geisha Printed Platform Sandal | 15. Thrive Dress

Formal Wedding

For the grand finale, we have the mother load of weddings: the formal wedding. Now, while it can seem intimidating at first RSVP, let’s be honest, who doesn’t’ love getting really dressed up every once in a while?? I mean, if prom was the last time you wore a floor-length gown, it’s been too long. We all ooo’d and ahhh’d over #8. It’s pretty much a home run. But for something a little more modest, #10 is so pretty. You are protected in the front with some flirt in the back…a pretty dress mullet. Solids are great for formal attire but not the only option. If you want to have a little more fun with some pattern, #1, #3 and #11 are still formal and sophisticated but say “I’m a stylish risk-taker.” Isn’t that the ultimate wedding guest goal??

1. Pretty Floral and Bird Embroidery Dress | 2. Penny Knotted Lamé Sandal | 3. Sunflower Ruffled Dress | 4. Ankle Strap Sandal | 5. Rose Gown | 6. Lucy Dress | 7. Pairus Scalloped d’Orsay Pump | 8. Off the Shoulder Tulip Gown | 9. Hazel Pumps | 10. Dusty Rose Dress | 11. Kimono Wrap Gown | 12. Carrson Sandal | 13. Sleeve Lace Top Pleated Midi Dress | 14. Cascade Cape Gown | 15. Floral Knotted High-Heel Sandals | 16. Valerie Rose Gold Espadrille Sandals | 17. Fatima Dress

There you have it! A complete guide to all things wedding guest fashion. Let’s raise a glass to the fact that you and I will never have to stress about what we are wearing to a wedding again and can focus on finding the perfect gift…and date. 🙂

What did you think of the combos? Let us know your favorites! Any great wedding outfit sources we missed? Have a great weekend. xx

  1. Cute looks! As a five-weddings a year for five years person, I appreciate this a lot.

    I do have to say that to me a lot of these looks read one step more casual than their titles (eg titled “formal day wedding” but looks “semi formal day wedding”). It could be a West Coast vs. East Coast thing.

    I’d definitely recommend taking the location of the wedding into account when deciding what “formal” means. It also probably depends a lot on the bride and groom, so think about their style too.

    For example, I’m going to a wedding in Washington state next week that is “dressy casual.” In DC, where I live, dressy casual probably means something similar to the “garden” looks above. However, knowing the bride (super casual style), the location (woods near her family’s house) and the guest list (mostly people from the PNW), I can probably assume it’s going to be more casual than what I’d expect out here.

    If in doubt, I always go for a look that is a little higher on the “formal scale,” because I’d rather be over dressed than under dressed (I also want to avoid situations like the time we had to scour rural New Hampshire for a tie the morning of a wedding because my boyfriend assumed “farm wedding” meant “casual wedding” and packed a look best described as “casual Friday at the office” when everyone else was wearing a semi-formal look).

    1. I thought that too! I’m in NYC (though of course have attended weddings all over the world… oh wedding season) and these looks are in general much more casual than I would wear to most weddings, even most of the ‘formal’ looks. Come to think of it the one wedding i went to in California was much more casual than I expected. Though, I tend to err on the side of overdressing than underdressing. So interesting.

      1. Ditto as a lifelong East Coaster – many of these felt very casual. But I once showed up to an early afternoon wedding at a country club in Pittsburgh to discover that it was formal attire and the wedding party was all in tuxes! Luckily we were not the only ones to make the mistake – my husband in slacks, a tie and blazer actually ended up in the middle of the spectrum with a few guys in jeans!

  2. Interesting post. It made me realize that I think wedding guests should stick to solids or–at most–subtle prints. Didn’t realize I had a preference! 😉

  3. Funny, that I am not getting a couple of the categories on my computer, including formal. The pictures that is.
    The dresses are cute. I think, though, like another person said, more solid colors for a wedding.
    Also, it’s interesting that a “church” wedding isn’t part of the consideration? I know that the “formal” applies to the reception, but I still think really bare dresses might need a little sweater or something for church. How traditional!

  4. Nice outfits. Lots of good ideas.
    I think I agree that maybe too many small prints for me. Favor more solid dresses for a wedding.
    I also think it’s interesting that these things don’t consider “church” weddings. I know the focus seems to be on the reception. But in the Midwest, at least, church is still a big factor in weddings. And a lot of people are traditional enough to think that really bare dresses, shoulders would need a coverup in church!

    1. …my thoughts as well.

    2. She addresses wearing a cover up at a church in the text of “Semi-formal day wedding.” 🙂

  5. I love this post! It’s so fun.

    I haven’t been to a wedding in years, but still love seeing all the amazing dress options.

    Thank you for including alternative sizes as well!

  6. “Finally, a wedding where you can wear a dark color that will hide the inevitable spilled drink on the dress by someone else. It literally happens to me at every wedding.”

    THIS IS MY LIFE. It’s always red wine. Always.

    Loved this post!

    1. Yep I got black coffee spilled all over my (pale blue) bridesmaids dress at my sister’s wedding last year. Still not over the trauma!

  7. 50% of these looks read way too casual for a wedding, regardless of venue. And I’m a born and bred Angeleno, land of casual dressing. I think it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed at a wedding, just my opinion. Cute dresses for summer bbqs though!

  8. Love this selection! Interestingly in the UK the print dresses would go down a storm, but black is traditionally a big no-no, although it’s becoming more standard, especially for evening weddings.

    I’ve also never been to or heard of a wedding where you could wear a full-length ballgown! Although obvs if you ever invited me I’d be there in an instant.

    British weddings I guess fall mostly into the categories of semi-formal, garden or alternative. But hats and fascinators are a big deal, and not just if you’re going to Meghan and Harry’s shindig.

    Basically this is a rambling way of saying I’m fascinated by the different expectations in different places.

  9. Thank you so much for including plus size options! <3

  10. bookmarking forever and sent this to my mom. we’re always trying to figure out what things like “backyard formal” mean on invitations!

  11. Love this round up!! I have soo many weddings next year, so i’ll be saving this for advice!
    I think the only dress i didn’t like was #16 for semi-formal day wedding, comes off as more of a cute club dress and not wedding appropriate IMO- but perfect for the after party!!

    Also, is there anyway to include the pricing when you hover over the image?
    I would love to see the price before I cross my fingers and click. (Lucy dress from formal night wedding- I’ll be saving up my piggy bank for you!!)

    Great job as always guys!! My favorite blog by far.

    1. That’s a great suggestion Jenna! We’ll definitely take it into consideration for future round ups! Xx

  12. This has opened my eyes–I pretty much only like the plus-sized options, and I’m not plus-sized…so now I’ll start looking where I normally wouldn’t, and get a good tailor! Thanks, Jess and team.

  13. This is great! Breaking it down by venue was a really fun idea.

    Would love one with some options for winter weddings too. Winter meaning snow. 🙂 Which I know isn’t something that will interest all your readers, but us northerners would be very appreciative!

  14. I’m at an age now that it’s my friends’ kids who are getting married, but it was fun to “browse” these dresses.

    I echo the advice about veering to slightly overdressed rather than underdressed, but that might be because of a childhood trauma. Both my older sister and I were invited to a birthday party, but because I was out sick the day the invitations were distributed, I missed getting mine. I rode along in the car to drop my sister off at the party. When we got there, the parents said “Oh, but you were invited TOO.” My dad gave me to option to go home and change from my t-shirt and corduroys into a party dress, but I was too eager to get to the party and said no.

    I felt so out of place the whole time. They had a clown who made some comment, too. Stupid clown!

  15. Ok so what about weddings where the ceremony is outside and early evening – which makes me think the garden/seaside look – but then the reception is inside and nighttime and feels more – evening/semi-formal??? This is always my dilemma because I don’t want to look to dressy in the sunlight hours but don’t want to be in a sundress while having a nice dinner, dancing and drinking champagne until midnight –
    Does anyone else struggle with this?

  16. Lots of cute options! Wish I had waited on purchasing a super cute red floral print Free People jumpsuit for a wedding in September because I’m skeptical about the fit and it feels like it will be too casual.

    Definitely going to check out some of these options if the jumpsuit doesn’t work. It is really hard to find the middle ground between too skimpy and too matronly for dresses especially for weddings.

    Thanks so much for posting!

  17. My last wedding was two years ago; mid afternoon very high church cathedral wedding and both grooms wore tuxes. The dress I’d ordered turned out to be a disaster and wound up in black silk pants and top with a colorful kimono jacket over top. It’s part of my dressy capsule; tops and bottoms and jackets I can mix for different looks. Fun post for a design blog; but fashion is very much all about design!

  18. You need a post like this for the guys out there. Hey guys, khakis and a polo shirt are not okay for a wedding! Or jeans! Since when did everyone get so casual for weddings?! There is a lot of money spent on these occasions, so at least dress up for the event. And ladies the $19 printed midi skirt from Target (even tho I love Target,) isn’t cutting it either! Liked the post, Emily!

    1. Haha I’ve never been invited to a wedding fancy enough that jeans or a skirt would be inappropriate. I guess my friends and I are all poor, and we’re out here in the Pacific Northwest where nobody really seems to care.

  19. I also love seperates for weddings. Unexpected and comfortable for dancing! I have a pink silk full skirt and a black chiffon skirt that I’ll pair with any number of tops and heels (with flat sandals in my bag, again, for dancing). I also have a lady tux that I can break out for a night wedding. I do love weddings! (Or any excuse to break out my vintage “where the heck am I going to actually WEAR this” finds…) I always feel like the focus is on the couple, and no one really cares about what I have on, so I take full license to wear all those great Goodwill pieces I hoard. Political fundraisers are great for this, too, as are non-profit galas. Leave safe at the office, amiright?!

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  21. This is great! You should do a men’s one. I feel like it would help my husband.

  22. Ha- I’ve been low-key looking for a dress to wear for my brother’s upcoming wedding (November, outdoors, Southern California) and IMMEDIATELY pulled the trigger on the beautiful Anthro wrap dress. Thank you!

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