What To Wear To A Summer Wedding

Tina, here.

Wedding invitation arrives. Fear sets in. Maybe it's a church ceremony, on a beach or in a backyard. (Are these lovebirds crazy? Yes. But we, sweating in the summer heat, love them and forgive their youthful plunge into matrimony in such a hot and humid month.)

What do I wear? is all you can think about.

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How the heck are you supposed to dress for these summer weddings? An outdoor wedding can feel inherently less formal, but not so fast there cowgirls. Did you know that there is one thing that dictates the dress code for a wedding? And it's not the venue. Unless the invitation clearly states the dress code like Beach Casual (dress pants and a button down for him; sundress and sandals for her) or Dressy Casual (summer suit for him and nice knee-length dress for her), then it's the time of the ceremony that dictates the wedding guest dress code. Here's how to break it down, hour by hour.

I bought this dress (similar below) on sale last summer to wear on a few different occasions, and wore it out - and I'm still wearing it this summer.

Summer Wedding Dress Codes: By Time of Day

 4:00 PM and Earlier

This wedding is likely to going to be informal, unless the invitation clearly states otherwise. Think garden, beach, small home wedding. Just because it's informal does not mean you can wear informal clothes. You still need to be wearing what honors the occasion and the bride and groom, like a pretty skirt and blouse or dress. You don't want to be the stain on their perfect day that will be memorialized for generations to come by comments over the years that will go something like this, "Oh yeah, that's the bride's grandmother who showed up in a skin-baring dress showing all her tattoos."

5:00 PM

This wedding is also going to be informal, but not quite as casual as a 4:00 PM wedding. Which is why it's tricky to dress for...so take the middle road. You may see "Smart Casual" on this invitation. Men should be in dress pants and a dress shirt, a tie and sport coat is optional, but reeeaaally encouraged. A great compromise for an informal wedding/yet still respectful of the occasion is a nice church dress. Like something you would wear to a confirmation or even a luncheon. Your shoes can dress it up or down, depending on the type of venue


6:00 PM

Now things start to get interesting. Time to dry-clean your suit. A 6:00 wedding is almost always dressy casual, that oxymoron of a dress code. You'll see some people in run-around sundresses and others in embellished dresses. What to wear? Take into account the venue, the bride and groom's style and, of course, what the invitation says. If it says nothing, wear something on the dressier side. Men should be in a dark suit and a tie. A modest going-out dress, re: not a work dress, and nice shoes are in order for a 6:00 PM wedding.

7:00 PM

This timeframe means one thing: semi-formal, which means a cocktail dress for women and a dark suit for men, unless otherwise specified. Pull out your cocktail dress and wear it in all its glory. What do you mean you don't have a cocktail dress other than the one you bought 8 years ago and wore to that awards dinner? The time to buy a cocktail dress is when you find one you like, not when you need one. Cause you know you'll never find one then.

8:00 PM

Formal. An 8:00 wedding is by definition formal. It wasn't the only time the church was available. It's on purpose and so you want to dress for it.  If the invitation says white tie, whoa, this is fancy. White tie is always white tails for men and a very fancy, formal, floor-length dress for women. Black tie is always a tuxedo for men and a formal dress for women. Women can opt for a short dress or long in the summer, but for a fall, winter or spring wedding, floor length it is. You can always cut it off to reinvent it for another affair.

Black tie optional? That means men can wear either a tuxedo or a nice, dark suit; women need to stick with a formal dress, either short or long.
Shoes to go with any and every dress you see above? Pick one or two!


Shop similar to my dress below. (very limited quantities)

For summer I styled my dress with sandals, but for fall I could add brown velvet or satin heels.

Sparkly jewelry, like a pair of diamond feather earrings (similar), will take any dress you have up a notch.

So, what kind of attire is never appropriate for a wedding? Dresses that are white lace, immodest, or too casual. ALWAYS err on the side of being overdressed rather than being underdressed. Better to flatter your hosts than offend them.

My final thoughts for you, dolls. Respect the importance of the event by dressing up a little. You're witnessing these folks make a MAJOR commitment. And don't forget your presence there signifies your involvement to support that commitment for a lifetime. This is serious stuff. Not just a party. No pressure. Oh and one more thing. You don't have to wear hose in the summer.

Thanks for reading!