Wedding dress codes suck, so here are a bunch of stylish wedding guest dresses to help you navigate it all

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How many times have you gotten a wedding invite and found yourself staring blankly at the wedding guest dress code for five to seven agonizing minutes?

Between a black tie optional, semiformal or no dress code at all, the vague language and etiquette surrounding it all is honestly rude! While there’s no universal guidebook to wedding guest dress codes, there are a ton of fashion cheat sheets out there — just like the one you’re reading right now.

To help you find the best wedding guest outfit, we’ve broken down the mystery behind each wedding dress code. You can also find a couple of our favorite picks for the best wedding guest dresses and outfits to shop in 2023. Ready to kill the wedding guest fashion game?

White tie wedding guest dresses

Let’s get the big one out of the way first. White tie attire is the most formal dress code. Think of events like state dinners and royal banquets. Whether it’s a ball gown, sheath or A-line silhouette, a floor-length evening gown is not a suggestion.

While this sounds super intimidating, consider it an opportunity to pretend you’re a royal or a lady’s maid who snuck into the party and happened to find true love with a Duke. Have some fun and bring your A-game with accessories. How often do you have the chance to wear opulent jewelry and elbow-length silk gloves?

Reformation Jamen Knit Dress, $148

Credit: Reformation

Bronx and Banco Florence Gown, $115 rental (Orig. $750)

Credit: Rent the Runway

Sabina Musayev Astrid Dress, $490


Black tie wedding guest dresses

The second more formal dress code is most likely what you envision at a very formal, very fancy wedding: Formal dresses that graze the floor or the tops of your shoes. However, you can still opt for a dressier midi dress. One way to zhuzh up the midi dress is to add some simple and elegant jewelry and accessories.

Reformation Westerly Velvet Dress, $398

Credit: Reformation

Lulus Perfectly Classy Yellow Satin Strappy Maxi Dress, $89

Credit: Lulus

ASOS LUXE Curve wire bardot lace midi dress in pink, $91 (Orig. $140)

Credit: ASOS

Black tie optional or formal wedding guest dresses

As far as black tie optional and formal wedding guest dresses, opt for midi or maxi dresses, like a trendy and easy satin slip dress. You can even get a little more adventurous with a more formal jumpsuit or colorful tailored pantsuit.

There’s really not much of a difference here between this dress code and black tie. When in doubt, remember that you’re not only allowed to dress up more; it’s encouraged. Since you have explicit permission to do so, why not fancify it up?

Hill House Home The Collector’s Edition Ellie Nap Dress, $275

Credit: Hill House Home

Anthropologie Elyse Bias Slip Dress, $120

Credit: Anthropologie

Cocktail wedding guest dresses

Everyone loves a good Cocktail dress code. As the more fun younger sister of black tie optional, you’re allowed to go for things like a short dress or a two-piece set. You can even break out your favorite little black dress or formal romper. If you don’t have any formal minidresses, consider looking for midi, tea-length or knee-length styles.

The delicate mix of elegant, comfortable and party-ready leaves you with a huge number of options. Just remember to lean more dressy than not because cocktail attire is certainly not the same as casual or semiformal.

WAYF Strapless Matte Satin Bias Cut Gown, $70.40 (Orig. $128)

Credit: Nordstrom

Eloquii Twist Detail Jumpsuit With Waist Ties, $119.95

Credit: Eloquii

Selkie The Cali Rosebud Dress, $30 one-time rental or $209 (Orig. $220)

Credit: Rent the Runway

Semiformal wedding guest dresses

Seeing “semi” pop up on a wedding invite is less than helpful. Like, is it dressy? Is it casual? Are you supposed to wear sneakers with a formal gown? (No.) What about strappy stilettos with a T-shirt dress? (Double no.)

For guidance, you should definitely look at cocktail dresses. If you’re thinking on going for a sundress or a jumpsuit, err on the side of more formal. Essentially, you need to be more polished than not. At the very least, you have a little wiggle room — use your best judgment!

City Chic Inamorato Polka Dot Strapless Dress, $139

Credit: Nordstrom

Selkie Puff Dress, $295


ASOS Design Tiered Chiffon Midi Dress, $42.25 (Orig. $65)

Credit: Nordstrom

Tropical or destination wedding guest dresses

Yes, tropical or destination weddings are so much fun — but the key is to always consider the heat. The last thing you want to be doing is sweating through your long-sleeved crepe maxi dress. Luckily, destination weddings tend to be more casual, unless they specify another dress code on the invite.

Think linens, lightweight and breezy sundresses, florals and vacation vibes.

Hill House Home The Matilda Dress, $175

Credit: Hill House Home

Omoone Women’s Floral Dress, $34.99

Credit: Amazon

kate spade new york Summer Flowers Tiered Dress, $299.60 (Orig. $428)

Credit: kate spade new york

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