How To Pick The Right Dress To Wear To A Wedding

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What to Wear to Any Type of Wedding

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Figuring out what to wear to a wedding, especially the right dresses to wear to a wedding, doesn't have to be tricky. First look for a dress code, then do a little research on acceptable looks for that level of formality or occasion. (Spoiler alert: You probably already have at least one dress in your closet that will work for most weddings.)

If the invitation doesn't give a dress code, first look at what time the ceremony takes place. Typically, daytime weddings are less formal than those that take place after 6 p.m., but if you're still at a loss, look up the venue in advance, or get in touch with another guest to get their advice. Spring and summer weddings are a great time for pastel colors, floral prints and more playful looks. Fall and winter weddings call for your favorite little black dress, jewel tones and even a faux fur stole.

It's time to cut down on all that time you spend wondering, "What should I wear to this wedding," concentrating on finding a dress, separates or jumpsuit that makes you feel amazing—and know that you can reach into your closet and have exactly what you need.

To help you find the perfect wedding guest dress for any ceremony and reception you might have this spring or summer (wedding season is here!), we put together a cheat sheet slideshow of dress ideas, dress code clues and more.

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Informal Daytime Wedding

An informal daytime or morning wedding means you can wear a sundress, skirt and top or even dressy pants. Just remember that no matter how informal the wedding might be, it's not a place for jeans or shorts. Informal also means you don't have to wear high heels—a pair of pretty flats or flat sandals will work, depending on the weather.

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Informal Evening Wedding

An informal evening wedding suggests a dress, but also allows for a lot of flexibility—much like an informal daytime wedding. You could wear a romantic maxi dress and flat shoes, or a little black dress and low heels—either way you'll look both appropriate and stylish.

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Semi-Formal Daytime Wedding

Semi-formal is a tricky term, but we suggest not over-thinking it too much. For daytime, a semi-formal wedding suggests a shorter style of cocktail dress and heels/sandals or dressy separates like an embellished skirt and blouse or a fun jumpsuit.

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Semi-Formal Evening Wedding

A semi-formal evening wedding is just slightly dressier than a semi-formal daytime wedding, but you can wear the same thing to both. A cocktail dress and heels or dressy separates (same as daytime) will look great but don't forget that an LBD is also an excellent option for a semi-formal evening ceremony. 

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Black Tie Optional Wedding

Black tie optional can be a tricky dress code for weddings! Just keep in mind that the "optional" allows for some variation and flexibility. (men can but don't have to wear tuxedos). Usually, it means you can wear either a cocktail dress and heels or a longer formal dress—either is acceptable. (Trendier dressers at black tie optional weddings may opt for a fancy midi dress in lace or velvet or sleek jumpsuit in crepe or satin.) 

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Black Tie Wedding

Black tie weddings are typically the dressiest type of ceremony, and an occasion to put on your absolute best. The black tie dress code requires a formal dress (usually long though a very dressy knee-length dress could be appropriate, too), or your dressiest cocktail attire with heels and nice jewelry. Accessorize with a minaudiere handbag and either chandelier earrings, pearls or a jeweled statement necklace.

(If you can't afford a high-end dress but want to wear something seriously special (or designer!) check out Rent The Runway.)

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White Tie Wedding

A white tie occasion is the dressiest of them all—and not typical of modern wedding ceremonies unless the bride or groom is royalty or titled. Women will want to wear a long, floor-length gown (possibly with a fuller ball skirt) and their best jewelry—maybe even gloves! White tie also implies a certain level of tradition and modesty, so leave the high slits and low necklines for another, less dressy occasion.