Summer Wedding Dress Codes 101

By: Rebecca Carhart

Warmer weather is finally here, which means wedding season is just around the corner. Your summer calendar is probably already filling up with back-to-back nuptials and who knows how many more save the dates and invitations are yet to arrive. While being invited to a wedding is an honor, it can get really expensive. Especially if you invited to the bridal shower and bachelorette party too.

Thankfully for you (and your wallet), you don’t have to drop a ton of cash buying multiple new dresses. Instead, you can rent a whole wardrobe of wedding guest outfits, that will ensure you have a new and suitable dress for every ceremony on your calendar. Because let’s be honest, once it’s on Instagram you can’t wear the same dress again for the rest of the season.

The key to finding the perfect wedding guest look is by dressing for the occasion. What you might wear to a laid-back beach wedding would not fit in at an elegant black-tie affair and vice-versa. And while a floral off-the-shoulder frock might fit in perfectly at an outdoor summer wedding, you should try to stay a bit more covered up for a more formal church ceremony. To help you navigate through the tricky world of dress codes, we’re breaking down what to wear to every type of summer wedding.

1. Black Tie Wedding: All Out Glam

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Dress: Show Me Your Mumu

If you get invited to a formal black-tie wedding, the best thing you can do is rent a long floor-length gown to avoid looking too casual. Stick with simple form-fitting silhouettes and keep embellishments to a minimum for an chic look.

Badgley-Mischka-Red-Sweetheart-Off-Shoulder-Gown Jay-Godfrey-Blush-Christie-Gown Christian-Siriano-Sunflower-Gown

Dress: Badgley Mischka, Dress: Jay Godfrey, Dress: Christian Siriano

While you may typically see a bevy of black or metallic dresses at black-tie affairs, feel free to switch things up and opt for gowns in brighter, more feminine colors since the wedding is taking place during the summer. Add height with a pair of strappy stilettos and don’t forget to rent a clutch to complete your look.

2. Semi-Formal Wedding: Chic Cocktail Attire

Dress The Population Green Lace Aurora Dress
Dress: Dress The Population

Semi-formal weddings are probably the easiest to dress for, as cocktail dresses are the norm. Since this type of dress code is less conservative than others, feel free to experiment with different silhouettes, prints, and fabrics. A knee-length strapless number, a sexy fitted midi with a plunging neckline and a ruffled mini dress, would all acceptable at semi-formal weddings.

Likely-Apricot-Driggs-Dress Prabal-Gurung-Red-Printed-Tiered-Dress Christian-Siriano-Blue-Cold-Shoulder-Ruffle-Dress

Dress: LIKELY, Dress: Prabal Gurung, Dress: Christian Siriano

Avoid looking too over-the-top and steer clear of frocks that feature crystal embellishments and beading. But if you want to jazz up your look, try a quirky bag or layer on some bling. Since your shoes will be on full display, make sure you have a killer pair of heels that are not only stylish but comfortable enough to dance the night away in.

3. Church Wedding: Elevated and Elegant

Diane von Furstenberg Camden Cove Wrap Dress
Dress: Diane von Furstenberg

Religious church weddings tend to more conservative than others, so be sure to stay away from cut-outs and instead opt for more classic silhouettes. Midi or maxi length dresses are both sleek and elegant and will fit in perfectly with the dress code.

Keepsake-Catch-Me-Lace-Dress Jill-Jill-Stuart-Floral-Jacquard-Dress Temperley-London-Emerald-Parrot-Wrap-Dress

Dress: Keepsake, Dress: Jill Jill Stuart, Dress: Temperley London

Rent a dress that keeps shoulders slightly covered or if you decide to go strapless, bring a lightweight shawl to cover up during the church ceremony. Since you are sticking to simple, demure dress options, feel free to add flair with a great necklace or pair of statement earrings and a pretty embellished handbag.

4. Garden Wedding: Fun and Flirty Florals

Marchesa Notte Purple Lace Flounce Sheath
Dress: Marchesa Notte

Headed to a garden wedding this summer? Play off the scenery and don a pretty floral printed dress. Whether you stick with one botanical pattern or find a dress that mixes floral prints, just make sure to rent a lightweight flowy dress, to stay cool outdoors during warm and sunny days.

AMur-Pink-Priscilla-Gown Tanya-Taylor-Garden-Print-Everly-Maxi Rebecca-Taylor-Orange-Floral-Printed-Wrap-Dress

Dress: Amur, Dress: Tanya Taylor, Dress: Rebecca Taylor

On the same note, it can get chilly once the sun sets. So if you expect the reception to go into the wee hours of the night, be sure to bring along a lightweight sweater. Avoid sinking in the grass by sticking with wedges or pair of chunky heels. And don’t forget to throw your favorite sunnies into your handbag before you head to the ceremony.

5. Beach Wedding: Easy Breezy Silhouettes

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Dress: Carolina K

Nothing says summer like a casual wedding on the beach! For the laid-back affair, stick with easy silhouettes that won’t cling or weigh you down. Sleeveless or short sleeve options in lightweight fabrics are a must if you don’t want to overheat in the sun. Bonus points if you stay on theme and rent a dress in bright colors or fun tropical prints.

Shoshanna-Yellow-Carmela-Dress Parker-Blue-Floral-Demi-Maxi Red-Valentino-Monkey-Print-Halter-Maxi

Dress: Shoshanna, Dress: Parker, Dress: Red Valentino

If the ceremony takes place during the day, be sure to layer on the sunscreen before you get dressed. Maneuver through the sand in a pair of sleek, lace-up sandals and accessorize with a chic straw sun hat for a bold look.