What to Wear to a Summer Wedding for Every Dress Code

As wedding season approaches, you may find yourself asking: what do I wear to a summer wedding? The answer is: look at the dress code on the invitation! But today there are so many dress codes: what do they mean? Let us break down each wedding guest dress code so that you can make sure to look your best and feel totally comfortable from the ceremony to the party to the after-party.

From gorgeous wedding guest dresses to sleek tailored suit options, there’s a great outfit for every summer wedding. We also have wedding guest shoe options, wedding guest bag options, and a few extra pieces such as pashminas to wear over your shoulders, sheer capes, and more wedding guest accessories.

Are dress codes even necessary anymore? While we think everyone should wear what makes them feel comfortable, dress codes are really about setting expectations and making sure your guests feel comfortable (and look great, of course).

Below, we’ve answered all the most frequently asked questions about dress codes, changing outfits during a wedding, what to wear over your fancy clothes, and what to wear to a Scandinavian summer wedding (other than a flower crown).

Here are the best dress options for weddings in every dress code:

List Marker: Number 1Black Tie Wedding Guest Dress Options

A black tie dress code literally means “a black bow tie and a dinner jacket,” so wearing a tuxedo (regardless of where you fall on the gender spectrum) is an easy choice. In terms of dresses, “black tie” means: floor-length, and in a luxurious fabric like chiffon, silk, lace, or velvet.


Silk Maison Silk Maxi Dresses

Toteme Draped Silk Maxi Dress

Alohas Ilia Dress

Alohas Cinderella Crystal High Heeled Shoes




List Marker: Number 2White Tie Wedding Guest Dress Options

White tie dress code is the most formal dress code. It requires a white, hand-tied bow tie, an evening tailcoat, high waisted trousers, a pleated or plain stiff white evening shirt, patent black shoes, and a host of other very stuffy necessities. When you see “white tie,” it means the event is very formal, possibly official, and may include guests like heads of state or royals. Other dress codes that indicate white tie are “tails,” “full evening dress,” or “dress suit.”

When wearing a dress to a white tie event, go for the gown. That means floor length and luxury fabrics, similar to black tie. White gloves are traditional but today are considered optional.


Net-A-Porter Gowns

Rodebjer Saturnus Maxi Dress

Rixo Liza Dress

Judith Leiber Oval Drop Bag


What is the difference between black tie and white tie?

The biggest difference for black and white tie dress codes is for suiting. White tie events are the most formal, and there are a host of rules for white tie menswear attire including the type of shoes to be worn (black patent leather, black ribbon laces), how the bow should be tied (by hand!), and much more. In terms of atmosphere, “white tie” indicates the the event is very formal.



List Marker: Number 3Cocktail Attire Wedding Guest Dress Options

Also known as semi-formal attire, cocktail attire is perhaps the most common dress code for weddings. It’s less formal than black or white tie, but still dressed-up. Cocktail attire often bridges the gap between a midday or early evening ceremony and an evening reception. A tailored suit with a tie (not a bowtie) and a midi or knee-length dress are perfectly appropriate.


Rodebjer Wava Jobs Silk Dress

Cecilie Bahnsen Dresses

Silk Maison Blazer and Trousers Set

Flattered Emi Sandal




List Marker: Number 4Dressy Casual Wedding Guest Dress Options

Seems like an oxymoron, right? What on earth is “dressy casual?” All it means is your outfit should be slightly elevated; think floaty maxi dresses, A-line skirts, jumpsuits, printed button-down shirts, or tailored sets. As long as it’s not a sweatsuit or a pair of jeans, you’re probably on the right track.


Stine Goya Steely Jacket and Jesabelle Trousers

Acne Studios Madame Crepe Jumpsuit

Tory Burch Printed Silk Dress

Cuyana Mini Bow Bag




List Marker: Number 5Casual Wedding Guest Dress Options

Sometimes also written as “come as you are,” a “casual” dress code means exactly that – nothing fancy! It is always a good idea to feel your best when dressing for a wedding, so don’t wear anything sloppy. What you wear, exactly, for a “casual” dress code wedding can also be dictated by the time of day and the location. If you’re at a beach, go for something light and floaty (not a swimsuit!). If you’re in the forest, make sure you’re wearing shoes that can handle the ground, and so on.


Eileen Fisher dresses and skirts

Everlane City Stripe Draped Jumpsuit

Cuyana Dresses

Raffia Clutch Bag




What do I need to know about dressing for a wedding?


Do you have to wear a dress to a wedding?

Absolutely not! A dress code, even an extremely formal one, does not meant that you have to wear a dress. In the case that you do not feel comfortable in dresses (whether you identify as female or not), there are many non-dress options to look your best. You can just as easily wear formal suiting or something tailored for weddings. Even though weddings are about the couple getting married, there’s no reason for you to feel uncomfortable as a guest.

What does it mean when a dress code includes “optional”?

The most common “optional” dress code you’ll see on a wedding invitation is “black tie optional.” What this means is that black tie dressing is encouraged, but if you don’t have clothing that fits into the “black tie” dress code, you can just wear something formal: think cocktail or semi-formal attire.

What “black tie optional” is really saying is: “you don’t have to buy a gown if you don’t already have one!” When you see that “black tie optional,” it’s important to note that most people will still be wearing black tie.

What do you do if a wedding invitation does not include a dress code?

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking then getting an invitation to a big event that doesn’t include a dress code! The easiest thing to do, of course, is to ask the event hosts – or their proxies (e.g. members of the bridal party or family) if they have a dress code in mind. If for some reason you can’t get in touch, or it slips your mind (it happens!), going with cocktail attire is a safe bet.

It’s also a good idea to take cues from the location. Is it on a beach? Then you can probably go less formal (don’t wear heels to the beach!). Is it at a five star hotel? Go for black tie or semi-formal attire. It’s good to keep in mind that the earlier in the day the event is held, the less formal it’s likely to be. So a wedding in the morning or daytime requires less formal dressing than an evening wedding.

What layers can I add on top of a dress?

Your typical coat or jacket might not work for a dress, particularly for white tie, black tie, or cocktail attire. Pashminas, opera coats, capes, blazers, and boleros are great options for fancier clothing.


Etsy Chiffon Capelet

Etro Cape

Eileen Fisher Silk Wrap

Rodebjer Viv Oversized Blazer




Is it ever okay to wear white to a wedding?

White is not important to weddings in every culture, so there are many weddings in which wearing white is not a faux pas. If you’re not sure, ask the event hosts!

That said, in Hindu culture, white is a color of mourning, and therefore not appropriate for weddings. For most Western cultures including European and American, white is considered a bridal color and therefore guests should not wear white, unless otherwise directed in the invitation (e.g. all guests are dressing in white, or the bridal party is in all white).


Is it okay to wear white with a print to a wedding?

If you’re going to a wedding where white would not be appropriate (see question above), then do not wear a white dress with a print. Wearing a printed dress that has some white in it, however, is okay. Not sure what the difference is? Ask yourself this: is the base of the dress white, or is the base of the dress the print pattern (or another color)? If the base of the dress is white, then sorry: it’s a white dress!

Is it okay to wear black to a wedding?

Yes! Wearing a black dress, black separates, or a black suit is totally fine for a wedding. The only exception is weddings in which the culture dictates that black is inanppropriate for a wedding, such as traditional Chinese or traditional Indian weddings. If you’re not sure how traditional a wedding may be, ask the hosts!

What to wear to the after-party


Stine Goya Isolde Dress

Sleeper Party Pajamas

Alohas Liberica Dress

Flattered Flats


Do I have to change outfits between the ceremony and the reception at a wedding?

Probably not! Unless the wedding invitation calls for an outfit change, or the change of location is a big one and there’s ample time in between, there’s no need to change outfits between the ceremony and reception.



Do I have to change outfits between the reception and the after-party at a wedding?

Probably not, but you might want to anyway! If you’re going to a wedding with a reception and then an after-party, you may want to change from your formal outfit into something more comfortable and/or fun. If an outfit change is not indicated on the invitation, feel free to keep wearing your reception wedding attire.

If you know you’ll be going all night but won’t have time for a change, having something on hand for warmth (a jacket, blazer, or pashmina for example) and comfortable shoes or socks will be useful.


What should I wear to a Scandinavian summer wedding?

Lucky for you, Scandinavian weddings are typically more casual than many other weddings. We’ve even seen sneakers paired with dresses during a church ceremony! Pay attention to the dress code on the invitation, of course, but if nothing is indicated, you’ll be fine with anything from semi-formal/cocktail attire to smart casual (think: floaty, loose dresses, flat shoes, and a laid-back approach to make-up and hair).


GANNI Smoked Satin Green Beaded Dress

GANNI Striped Cotton Bow Tie Dress

Bartels Since 1920 Il Cosimo Sandal

Stine Goya Ziggy Mini Tote Bag




Aren’t wedding dress codes out of date anyway?

We’d love to say yes! After all, people should wear what they like and what makes them feel comfortable. It’s true that what’s “acceptable” within specific dress codes (e.g. “black tie”) is expanding, and that’s all to the good. The overall purpose of a dress code today is to ensure that everyone knows what to expect.

Want more information on Scandinavian fashion? Find out about Danish sartorial style and Swedish wardrobe choices.

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Rebecca Thandi Norman

Rebecca Thandi Norman is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief at Scandinavia Standard.