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wedding attire etiquette
28 days ago  |  Get Dressed

Summer Weddings: What to Wear

By Gretta Monahan

You know wedding season is in full swing when you find yourself looking into your closet every other week and asking, “Now what am I going to wear?”

And sometimes the actual invitations aren’t much of a help, either. Vague phrases like “beach formal” and “garden chic” don’t provide much of a guide, attire-wise. Adding to the confusion is the fact that summer dress trends come and go like a coastal breeze (the frock you rocked at a wedding last fall may still fit but may also scream “last season.”) Talk about guest distress.

So here’s a decoder of attire etiquette, with a few specific (and affordable) dresses that are on racks right now to boot. May you wear them happily ever after.

On the invitation: “White Tie”

The dressiest of dressy situations. Only formal, full-length evening gowns need apply. (Likewise, men will be wearing a full, formal tux.) The exquisite Posy Embroidered Gown ($698 at intermixonline.com) will be a perfect choice for any such occasion.

On the invitation: “Black Tie”

Still formal, but with a bit more flexibility. Floor-length is still appropriate (whether that means a true “gown” or just a beautiful maxi dress is your call), or a shorter yet still celebratory cocktail or knee-length dress. For something in a flirty summer print that still nods to classic elegance, check out The Claudie gown ($339 at fameandpartners.com), in all its strapless, pink gingham taffeta glory.

On the invitation: “Black Tie Optional”

The same rules for “Black Tie” apply here, but you’ve got more wiggle room to go for dressed-up separates or just a pretty cocktail dress. For this kind of wedding, I love the colorful but soft statement made by the Floral Print Flowing Dress ($99.99 at zara.com).

On the invitation: “Dressy Casual”

For this one, basically just think of what you’d wear to a cocktail party (while remembering that all weddings require a degree of decorum — i.e., too much plunging cleavage and overly tight or shorter-than-short skirt lengths probably won’t be appreciated), and then roll with that. Something pretty and romantic like the delicate light blue Surplice Midi Dress ($75 at nordstrom.com) by Leith will be perfect.

On the invitation: “Festive Attire”

Here’s your chance to take your fun factor up a notch. Go ahead and play with big colors and patterns, mix and match if you want, go a little more cutting edge. One great example: The Sunrise to Sunset Coral Pink Print Maxi Dress ($56 at lulus.com) hits just the right note.

On the invitation: “Casual”

This doesn’t mean weekend-wear (as in, no shorts or denim, obviously) — but what you’d wear to dinner at a nice resort. Think easy sundresses, pretty separates or a well-cut linen pant with a simple blouse. The Cashel Geo Dress ($138 at anthropologie.com) by Tracy Reese would do nicely here. And remember, no matter how casual you go, one rule still applies: You still don’t wear white. Today, that’s the bride’s job!

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