What to Wear to a Winter Wedding, Plus 50 Festive Dresses To Buy Now

What to Wear to a Winter Wedding, Plus 50 Festive Dresses To Buy Now
54 Start slideshow

We’re not sure about you, but when we open our mailboxes and find an invitation to a summer wedding, our thoughts immediately turn to easy-breezy dresses, cute sandals and maybe even ways to refresh a seasonal tan. On the other hand, winter wedding invites, while glamorous, typically present a bit of a challenge on the wardrobe front. Tights or no tights? Will I look silly in sandals? Can I wear a cocktail dress to a black-tie affair?

MORE: What to Wear to a Wedding: A Complete Guide

To answers those questions and more, we enlisted Jennie Ma, fashion editor at TheKnot.com, who gave us the 411 on what to wear to a winter wedding, as well as the answers some general “should I or shouldn’t I”-style questions.

Black-Tie Attire
Apart from white-tie weddings—which aren’t common—black tie is the most formal dress code you’ll probably face. Here, it’s customary to wear floor-length gowns, which some might consider staid. According to Ma, though, there are lots of ways to chic up a black-tie look, such as choosing a dress in a saturated hue or going for peplum detail. “Structured peplum gives a formal dress an edge, and makes it cooler,” she says.

Don’t own a gown and don’t particularly want to buy one for a one-off occasion? Ma says it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a dress you already have. “Not everyone has a gown, so in that case it’s okay to wear a cocktail dress,” she said, adding that if you do go this route, just make sure to keep the colors dark and seasonal (black, jewel tones, brown) so as not to look too casual. Conversely, Ma says it’s fine to wear a gown in a lighter shade, since the silhouette is inherently dressy. “If you’re wearing something floor-length, you can choose a lighter color—maybe light pink, blue, or purple,” Ma says. 

Cocktail Attire
If a wedding calls for cocktail attire, there’s no need to reach for that gown—knee-length or slightly above is fine, but steer clear of anything too tight, flashy or pouffy. Think of it this way: Fun is fine, but consider the type of dresses you’d want worn at your own wedding (a skin-tight sequin backless minidress? Probably not). “You definitely want to look chic,” Ma said, adding that stylish patterns and great colors aren’t verboten if the silhouette is appropriate. Also, adding some statement jewelry, such as an eye-catching necklace is a great way to add a bit of pizazz to a fairly restrained cocktail dress, she said.

Day weddings
While afternoon weddings aren’t as common in the winter as they are in the summer, they do occur. Here, Ma points out that they likely won’t ever be formal, so she suggests opting for festive cocktail or tea-length dresses in lighter fabrics, such as chiffon or jersey, as opposed to evening-ready silk or satin.

MORE: 26 Dresses To Wear to Any Winter Wedding

If all else fails …
If you’re not sure what to wear, Ma suggests going for—you guessed it—an always-chic black dress. Even the most basic versions can be made festive with the right accessories, she says.

Covering up
Since it is the winter, you’ll need something to keep you warm. Ma suggests leaving those cardigans, denim jackets and everyday puffers at home and investing in a fur (or faux-fur) jacket or classic overcoat, and a chic shawl or cashmere wrap in case you get chilly inside.

 Tights or no tights?
“Tights are definitely fine … why not?!” says Ma, who adds that if you’re in a chilly location, it’s better to stay warm than be uncomfortable. “There are also lots of really cool tight options out there now, so you can get a nice fashionable pair. Just don’t get anything too flashy,” she adds.

One thing’s for sure: In the dead of winter, a pair of strappy sandals aren’t the most desirable option in which to traipse around. Ma suggests seeking out alternatives such as pumps, peep-toe heels, or even dressy ankle boots (really!). “There are so many fashionable shoe options right now, like metallic pumps or black booties, which would look really cute paired with black tights,” she says.

After-party etiquette
Occasionally, the festivities won’t stop when the clock strikes midnight, as many couples organize after-parties—especially when it’s a hotel wedding. Is it acceptable to change into jeans, or is keeping your dress on a must?

“This really depends on the location of the wedding, says Ma. “If your hotel room is easily accessible, a lot of people do change. But if it’s another venue, most people won’t.” She suggests feeling out the situation to see what others are doing.”You don’t want to be the only one in jeans when others are still wearing their dresses,” she said.

0 Thoughts?
1 of 54

Going to a wedding this winter? You'll need a dress! Click through the gallery to shop 50 of our favorites, from black-tie looks to chic cocktail styles.

If the invite says "black tie," a gown's the way to go. We're loving this season's selection of anything-but-stuffy versions!

Lucienne One-Shoulder Silk-Chiffon Dress, $365; at J. Crew

BCBG Ruella Strapless Peplum Gown, $119; at Neiman Marcus Last Call

Adriana Papell Tiered Chiffon Gown, $198; at Nordstrom

Warehouse Chiffon Hem Maxi Dress, $67; at ASOS

Double Slits Navy Dress, $169.99; at Mango

La Femme Ombre SweetHeart Chiffon gown, $328; at Nordstrom

Carlos Miele Knock 'Em Dead Gown, $350 rental cost; at Rent the Runway

Steven Alan Cynthia Velvet Dress, $135; at The Outnet

Chiffon Gown, $125; at Modcloth

Silk Georgette One-Shoulder Gown, $365; at Ann Taylor

Rachel Zoe Silk Scarf-Collar Gown, $417; at Piperlime

Clean T-Shirt Maxi Dress, $116; at Topshop

BCBGMAXAZRIA Maryanne Gown, $140; at 6PM

Oasis Lace Gown, $211; at ASOS

Carmen Marc Valvo Silk-Chiffon Drape Evening Gown, $469; at Bluefly

Kimono Dress, $88; at Victoria's Secret

Zimmermann Ruched Strapless Gown, $475 at Shopbop

Alice by Temperley Opal Polka-Dot Tulle Gown, $243; at The Outnet

Lauren Ralph Lauren Low-Back Jersey Gown, $190; at Nordstrom

Whether a wedding calls for black tie or cocktail attire, a fabulous black dress does the trick. 

Tadashi Shoji V-Neck Tulle Fit & Flare Dress, $298; at Nordstrom

DKNY Black Metallic Floral Lace Peplum Dress, $480; at Stylebop

Pins and Needles High-Neck Chiffon Dress, $49.99; at Urban Outfitters

One-Shoulder Ruffled Dress, $170; at White House Black Market

ASOS Curve Exclusive Peplum Lace Dress, $79.16; at ASOS

Notte by Marchesa Ruffled Silk-Organza Dress, $337; at The Outnet

Vera Wang Lavender Ruffle Bead and Mesh Party Dress, $299; at Bluefly

Sentimental NY One-Shoulder Dress, $98; at E dressme

Lace Dress, $34.95; at H&M Stores

Sabine Metallic Lace Dress, $89; Piperlime

Alice + Olivia Harris Peplum Dress, $396; at Shopbop

Hybrid Dress With Frill Sleeves, $104.66; at ASOS

Thakoon Edition One-Shouldered Dress, $220; at The Outnet

Helmut Lang Lyra Drape Dress, $495; at La Garconne

Since cocktail attire is open to a little interpretation, have some fun with your dress. We're loving these colored, pattered and textured numbers. 

Ophelia Lace Dress, $495; at Shopbop

Tibi Epstein Strapless Dress, $450; at Tibi

Viktor & Rolf Mustard Yellow Ruffle Dress, $252; at SSense

Corded Lace Fluted Dress, $49; at Dorothy Perkins

Tinley Road Brocade Dress, $79; Piperlime

Xhilaration Strapless Pleated Chiffon Dress, $56; at Target

Day Birger Et Mikkelsen Embellished Silk-Habotai Dress, $359; at Net-a-Porter

Demestiks NYC by Reuben Diamond Print Bow Party Dress, $150; at e dressme

Apricot Paillettes Shift Dress, $59.99; at Romwe

Applique Floral Dress, $190; at Topshop

Fitted Dress With Frill Shoulder, $89.90; at  Zara

Lace Peplum Dress, $79.99; at Mango

Sleeveless Lace Sheath, $49; at Avenue

Magenta Embroidery Scalloped Dress, $77; at  Pixie Marrket

Milly Peau De Sole Cascade Party Dress, $275; at Saks Fifth Avenue

Black Printed Lace Deconstructed Frock, $298; at Tracy Reese

Ted Baker London Marinka Fit And Flare Dress, $198; at Nordstrom

Next slideshow starts in 10s

What I Want Now: Clothing Designer and It Girl Chrissie Miller Shares her Holiday...

What I Want Now: Clothing
Designer and It Girl Chrissie Miller Shares her Holiday...

Promoted Stories