What to Wear to a Wedding In The Summer: Five Dress Codes Decoded

Lauren Caruso
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Wedding Attire
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Photo: Candace Napier/STYLECASTER

If you’re anything like us (and, um, you are), we’ll wager a guess that you have a calendar filled with weddings this summer. Probably a couple in May, one in June and July each, and two more during Labor Day Weekend alone: The marathon of summer nuptials can get exhausting—and they’re not even here yet.

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And while we love any excuse to dress up, figuring out what to wear to a wedding in the summer is equally tiring: Not only are there a million rules—don’t wear the same color as the bridesmaids, you can’t upstage the bride, black might be a no-go in some circles, and for the love of all things holy, don’t wear white, unless, of course, it’s a white wedding—but decoding the invitation can give just about anyone a headache. What the hell does “Beach Formal” even mean?

Luckily, we broke down each of the major dress codes, (we’re talking casual, black tie, and everything in between) and found one hell of an outfit for you to wear to each type of wedding. Ahead, five wedding dress codes, five outfits, and if karma’s on your side, five open bars to hit. Oh, and congrats to the happy couples!

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Casual Wedding
Casual Wedding

Arguably, casual weddings are the hardest to dress for: Jeans and a tee certainly won't do, but you don't want to show up in a cocktail dress when everyone looks two degrees of separation from a pair of sneakers. Instead, opt for a flowy dress that you'll feel comfortable eating and drinking in—most casual summer shindigs have buffets, rather than sit-down dinners—and a pair of sandals that you'll actually wear again. Top it off with a statement bag and simple jewelry.

Veda Paradiso Dress, $345; at Veda; Anne Thomas La Baule in Mastice + Mesh, $244; at Need Supply;  Cornelia Webb Charmed Necklace in Gold, $108; at Tictail; Mercedes Castillo Pom Crossbody Bag $995; at Mercedes Castillo; Tenoverten Nail Polish in Baxter, $18; at Tenoverten

 

Photo: Candace Napier/STYLECASTER
Beach Formal
Beach Formal

The good news about "beach formal" weddings is that the beach can only be *so* formal. (We're pretty sure they tack on that last part to make sure nobody shows up in a bathing suit coverup.) At any rate, a swingy midi dress in a poplin fabric paired with a thick heel is a great foundation, and here's your excuse to bring the rattan bag you've been wanting to show off. Oh, and take it from someone who's been to enough beach weddings during golden hour to know better by now: Bring sunglasses.

MDS Stripes Wyatt Cami Dress, $245; at Club Monaco; Rattan Straw Circle Hand Bag, $95; at Pixie Market; Butter London Nail Lacquer in Minted, $15; at Butter London; RAEN Durante Sunglasses in Rose, $170; at Nordstrom; Mejuri Spheres Choker, $255; at Mejuri; Maryam Nassir Zadeh Lulu Sandal, $420; at The Dreslyn

Photo: Candace Napier/STYLECASTER
Cocktail Attire
Cocktail Attire

Cocktail attire doesn’t have to be synonymous with little black dress. This color-blocked number will stand out among the rest of the guests—in a good way.

Staud Takeshi Dress, $85; at Staud; & Other Stories Heel Strap Leather Sandalette, $95; at & Other Stories; Eddie Borgo Chet Minaudiere in Linen, $1,390; at Eddie Borgo; Mango Tear Earrings, $9.99; at Mango

 

Photo: Candace Napier/STYLECASTER
Black-Tie Optional
Black-Tie Optional

We love the idea of swapping out your traditional black gown with something more playful for a black-tie optional affair, like this jumpsuit. Pair it with an ultra-feminine bag, geometric earrings, and some shoes you'll be able to walk in.

C/MEO Collective Charged Up Jumpsuit, $179; at Birdcage Boutique; Laura Lombardi Gate Earrings, $160; at Laura Lombardi; Charles & Keith Lace-Up Strappy Sandals, $49.99; at Charles & Keith; J.W. Anderson Medium Pierce Bag, $1,690; at Need Supply; Smith & Cult Nail Laquer in Feed the Rich, $18; at Net-A-Porter

 

Photo: Candace Napier/STYLECASTER
Black Tie
Black Tie

The most formal of all dress codes—save for White Tie, which is usually reserved for Gala-like affairs—black tie weddings mean you're pulling out all the stops. Go for a demure short-sleeve gown with a high slit, a traditional minaudiere, and a swipe of red lipstick to truly get into character. Nobody has to know your earrings cost less than $10.

Reformation Julienne Dress, $388; at Reformation; Fay Andrada Lasso Cuff, $195; at The Frankie Shop; Club Monaco Juki Sandal, $329; at Club Monaco; H&M Rhinestone Earrings, $7.99; at H&M; INC International Concepts Tamme Clutch; $59.50; at Macy’s; NARS Audacious Lipstick in Annabella, $34; at Sephora

 

Photo: Candace Napier/STYLECASTER

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  • Casual Wedding
  • Beach Formal
  • Cocktail Attire
  • Black-Tie Optional
  • Black Tie

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