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Let us collectively acknowledge one simple fact: No summer wardrobe is complete without a serious wedding guest dress rotation. It’s hard enough to curate an array of proper attire that meets the guidelines of any dress code, is genuinely easy to dance in, and is actually cute enough to warrant a spot in your closet in the first place. It’s even more challenging to strike this perfect balance without breaking the bank. But as enterprising wedding guests know all too well, there’s a solution to this seemingly impossible-to-navigate crossroads: Rent the Runway.
Rent the Runway has existed for years now. I was first acquainted with it in high school, when girls I knew would rent their prom dresses instead of dropping hundreds on something they’d never wear again. But as I grew older, my need for prom gowns and homecoming looks all but subsided; I stocked up on a couple no-fail LBDs I could rely on for dinners, parties and other semi-formal evening events. I was set—and then, wedding season arrived.
It was never unclear to me that my LBDs were ill-fit for any bridal occasion. Black may be endlessly chic, but weddings are concerned with happy romance—not sleek edginess. So I scoured the internet for wedding-worthy dresses I could add to my closet and rely on for years to come. But it’s become increasingly clear to me that maybe stocking upon a couple go-tos isn’t the move. Maybe that’s boring and monotonous. And maybe it doesn’t actually equip me to dress for any occasion, any setting, any dress code or any time of year.
Maybe the most efficient move isn’t to buy anything at all—and instead, to score stunning designer finds at serious discounts, and to return them after the wedding has come and gone. Maybe the key to a diverse, chic and truly versatile wedding guest wardrobe is to take each event as it comes—to let the setting and climate inspire your choice of look, instead of letting what you already own do the deciding for you. Plus, who doesn’t want the option to don a red carpet-worthy ensemble for a day, and to not have to pay the full price for it? (You’ll turn heads in person and in pictures, and without breaking the bank—need I, really, say more?)
1. Martin Grant Yellow High-Low Dress, $130-$168 at Rent the Runway
Sure to play well with all your favorite statement jewelry.
2. Derek Lam 10 Crosby Polka Dot Cami Dress, $85-$108 at Rent the Runway
Wearing white to a wedding is typically a no-no, but the black polka dots are sure to keep anyone from confusing you with the bride.
3. Line + Dot Striped Cruz Pleat Dress, $35 at Rent the Runway
A dress that’s easily dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.
4. Trina Turk Orange Origami Fold Dress, $35-$73 at Rent the Runway
Everything you love about a mini dress, combined with the comfort (and propriety) of a longer cut.
5. ba&sh Floral Heren Maxi, $75-$113 at Rent the Runway
So cute you’ll be wearing it long after your friend’s wedding has come and gone.
6. Cushnie Lavender Twisted Zipper Dress, $250 at Rent the Runway
A formal—but not too formal—option.
7. StyleStalker Riscal Gown, $60-$83 at Rent the Runway
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you’re probably less prepared for black-tie wedding season than you are for regular wedding season.
8. Saloni Grace Polka Dot Dress, $105 at Rent the Runway
An off-the-shoulder cut that feels anything but basic.
9. Alexis Hiroka Robe Dress, $90-$113 at Rent the Runway
Would wear this every day if it didn’t cost $585 to fully buy.
10. Jill Jill Stuart Floral Kiera Ruffle Gown, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
Black is usually wedding-inappropriate, but hey—you need something to wear to the rehearsal dinner.
11. StyleStalker Quinn Midi Dress, $30-$53 at Rent the Runway
Sleek enough for cocktail parties, dressed-up weddings and other semi-formal occasions.
12. Elizabeth and James Tangerine Shontae Maxi, $85 at Rent the Runway
Statement-making summer style that won’t steal (too much of) the spotlight from the bride.
13. Amanda Uprichard Floral Venezia Gown, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
When it comes to wedding season, florals are always a good idea. And this cut’s pretty irresistible, too.
14. MSGM Blue Striped Ruffle Dress, $120-$143 at Rent the Runway
Nautical, done the fashion way.
15. Reformation Winslow Wrap Dress, $40-$63 at Rent the Runway
Go low-key with a loose braid and sandals, or go full statement-making with vibrant jewelry and a fun hairdo.
16. Slate & Willow Blue Floral Print Midi Dress, $30-$53 at Rent the Runway
A floral for the fan of neutrals.
17. Reformation Champagne Peppermint Dress, $45-$83 at Rent the Runway
Render yourself a summer princess without taking any attention away from the bride. (Just double-check the bridesmaid dress color first.)
18. Vilshenko Black Salma Midi Dress, $185 at Rent the Runway
Surely the ruffles and floral details will keep people from deeming this black dress “inappropriate.”
19. Kate Spade New York Heartbeat Midi Dress, $75-$98 at Rent the Runway
Look closer, and you’ll notice those polka dots are actually hearts.
20. Badgley Mischka Lilac Petal Gown, $70-$108 at Rent the Runway
Look, super fancy weddings happen. And when they do, you’re better off renting a designer gown for $70 than you are buying it for $850.
21. Alexis Harmonie Maxi, $135-$158 at Rent the Runway
An incredibly fun option—if you don’t mind lots of eyes on you.
22. Hutch Olive Blair Dress, $30-$63 at Rent the Runway
A no-fail silhouette in a no-fail color. (Especially great for early autumn weddings, too.)
23. Badgley Mischka Orange Trapeze Dress, $45-$83 at Rent the Runway
Look chic without stealing the show.
24. Tanya Taylor Printed Ikatoksana Maxi, $110-$133 at Rent the Runway
An anything-but-average take on the floral maxi.
25. Badgley Mischka Cobalt Racing Gown, $85-$123 at Rent the Runway
Another classic gown that’s as subdued as it is sophisticated.
26. Three Floor Lisbon Sisters Dress, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
For the fan of florals who craves a less obvious option.
27. Halston Heritage Peony Crepe Gown, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
Fancy enough for a formal event. Romantic enough for a wedding.
28. Self-Portrait Red Floral Mini Dress, $60-$83 at Rent the Runway
A go-to you can sport during the summer—and layer over tights during the winter, too.
29. Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini Yellow Ruffled Ribbon Maxi, $175 at Rent the Runway
Cute enough to stun without overshadowing.
30. Fuzzi Lavender Patchwork Wrap Dress, $120-$143 at Rent the Runway
For the wedding guest who wants in on 2019’s patchwork trend.
31. Christian Siriano Leopard Ties Green Sheath, $190-$213 at Rent the Runway
This dress has it all—color, a form-flattering silhouette and a couple of adorable bows.
32. Jay Godfrey Lilac Alma Gown, $55-$93 at Rent the Runway
Another black-tie-worthy gown that’s equal parts sleek and romantic.
33. La Maison Talulah Superbloom Dress, $50-$73 at Rent the Runway
Unexpected floral options are absolutely abundant.
34. Self-Portrait Printed Crescent Dress, $55-$93 at Rent the Runway
Look like you walked straight off the runway and into this wedding (or reception, or rehearsal dinner).
35. Elizabeth and James Cavan Midi Gown, $75 at Rent the Runway
All kinds of elegant.
36. Keepsake Pretty One Mini Dress, $30-$53 at Rent the Runway
Another less-obvious take on the classic floral wedding guest dress.
37. ba&sh Wanda Metallic Maxi, $105-$128 at Rent the Runway
Just metallic enough to keep things interesting.
38. Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini Sienna Lace Dress, $165 at Rent the Runway
Sexy without skewing at all inappropriate, this textured dress wants to carry you to every chic event on your calendar.
39. Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini Floral Crochet Midi Dress, $145 at Rent the Runway
An LBD with enough fairytale appeal to earn a spot in your wedding guest rotation. (Or at least, in mine.)
40. Elizabeth and James Pink Trisha Dress, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
When all fails, you can undoubtedly rely on a millennial pink dress.
41. Black Halo Davina Gown, $70-$108 at Rent the Runway
Look, if you have an evening gown at the ready, I commend you. I definitely do not.
42. Tibi Violet Plisse Mini Dress, $105-$143 at Rent the Runway
A blank canvas for all kinds of fun accessories.
43. ba&sh Multi Weave Maxi, $75-$98 at Rent the Runway
As fit for summer as it is for early autumn.
44. Cinq a Sept Red Dianne Dress, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
A neckline that plunges just far enough.
45. Christian Pellizzari Striped Strapless Maxi, $70-$93 at Rent the Runway
Stripes have never looked so incredibly pretty.
46. Rochas Odium Dress, $300-$323 at Rent the Runway
An excellent option when the dress code’s too ambiguous to navigate.
47. Tory Burch Floral Corinne Caftan Maxi, $70-$108 at Rent the Runway
A floral that hardly feels like a floral at all.
48. Derek Lam 10 Crosby Ruffle Cami Maxi, $95-$118 at Rent the Runway
Ruffles and stripes make for a surprising match made in wedding guest dress heaven.
49. A.L.C. Margot Gown, $75-$113 at Rent the Runway
Sleek enough to wear to a black-tie wedding. Low-key enough to sport to a regular one. (Just vary your accessories accordingly.)
50. Nicholas Black Peony Popover Dress, $75-$113 at Rent the Runway
If someone comes at you for wearing a black, lace-covered, floral midi to a wedding, send them my way. I’ll tirelessly defend this dark-but-endlessly-romantic choice.
51. Halston Heritage Pink Cut-Out Gown, $70-$108 at Rent the Runway
Because you’ve always wanted to wear a floor-length, vibrant pink anything. And a black-tie wedding is definitely your opportunity to do so.
52. AMUR Eva Dress, $50-$88 at Rent the Runway
Amazing how much drama one big-ass bow can add.
53. AMUR Rayna Maxi, $105-$128 at Rent the Runway
Romantic bohemian comfort. (The only aesthetic I’m curating this wedding season.)
54. Saylor Silver Myriem Lace Dress, $30-$63 at Rent the Runway
Another great choice when the dress code is ambiguous—and honestly, a cute selection for any event on your calendar.
55. Emanuel Ungaro Multi Print Maxi, $330 at Rent the Runway
If your friend invites you to go a little high-fashion, take full advantage. I would. (When else will you have an excuse to wear a $2,200 gown?!)
56. Amanda Uprichard Ridgely Dress, $30-$63 at Rent the Runway
Cute, classic and just on-trend enough.
57. Halston Heritage Lilac Disco Maxi Dress, $100-$123 at Rent the Runway
Fit for black-tie weddings and lower-key affairs, alike.
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