Maxi Dresses – Appropriate For An Afternoon Wedding?

Dear Deborah,

I’m going to a summer afternoon wedding, and I’d like to wear a maxi dress, but I have no idea what kind to choose. Also, I’m 5’3″ and wonder if this style would even work for me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Melissa

Hi Melissa,

Yes, A maxi dress is a wonderful choice for an afternoon wedding, but here’s the catch. You have to be careful you don’t pick a maxi that is 1) too casual or 2) too sexy for the affair.

inappropraite maxis for a wedding

Casual Maxis Belong at the Beach

Maxi dresses like this white striped one (right) are so casual they look like they should be worn lounging by the pool or at the beach. For a wedding, you need something dressier so go for a maxi dress made of a fluid fabric like silk, jersey or chiffon. Cotton or linen is too relaxed.

Solid colors are more formal than prints- not to say you can’t wear prints, but do be mindful the pattern you choose is not too sporty-casual, too funky-boho, or too beachy. Casual cuts like tank top style maxis are too relaxed for such an important celebration.

Your Maxi Dress Needs to be Classy, Not Trashy

Maxi dresses that are too sexy or edgy don’t work either. Steer clear of maxi’s with plunging necklines, thigh-high slits or peek-a-boo cutouts. These look like you are desperate and will get people thinking you are trying to upstage the bride.  This doesn’t mean you can’t wear a maxi that shows some skin at the neckline or shoulders but do bring pashmina as you will need to dress respectfully in the church.

Animal prints like leopard or python look tacky at a romantic wedding ceremony. Save an edgy maxi for your next cocktail party. A bit of beading on a maxi dress is fine, but too much shine or sequins are overkill, especially for an afternoon wedding.

Best Maxi dresses for an Afternoon Wedding?

Floral maxi dresses are always an excellent and appropriate choice this time of year. They are feminine and fitting for a wedding.

Caftans can also work if you are a bigger gal who wants to cover up. Just no Hawaiian mums prints, please.

Dresses that flow and move- You are going to be walking around and dancing. Get something feminine.

Black and white– When in doubt black and white is always a classy choice.

Petite? Keep this in Mind when Choosing a Maxi Dress

Also Melissa, since you are only 5’3″  I suggest you avoid maxis that have little or no shape because they will drown you. Petite women need to choose Maxis that sit closer to the body and have a defined waist. The defined waist can even be a higher one, such as an empire waist.

What Type of Maxi Dress to Wear to a Beach Wedding?

If you are attending a beach wedding or an outdoor wedding you have a little more leeway, and you can go a bit more casual with your maxi. Check out this post to see what I mean.

More From Fabulous After 40

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  1. Joyce Richardson says:

    I will be attending a wedding in the future. I would like to wear a long dress perhaps, I am a plus size with a long torso, and a young 60+.

  2. Joyce Richardson says:

    Thank you for your articles. I really like the styles you have shown in dresses for plus sizes, much appreciating. Although at the moment, I am not into dresses, I do need help with plus size along with a long torso. Thank you.

  3. Lucy:

    I was just remarried and wore a chiffon ivory tea length dress with a gentle ruffle at the neckline (V- neck) and a black grosgrain ribbon sash, with satin ivory peep toe pumps

  4. I wish we had a Nordstrom’s in Canada. Frequently you have recommendations of clothing from this store! What Canadian equivalent do you suggest? Melanie Lyne?

  5. Hi Deb, I love your site. I’m living in london and age 57. I find it a problem what to wear to different occasions. I stumbled on you site by mistake. I still feel young and not 57 and I don’t want to be mutton dressed as lamb. Hah hah. Keep it up your great site!

  6. Speaking of wedding, my brother having an engagement party. So which kind of dress should i wear? I prefer the short type. Any suggestion?Thanks

  7. Deb, that Rachel Pally caftan in slate is an absolute winner. I’m absolutely drawn to it and think that the model looks amazing! What a versatile number too. So easy to dress up or down, wedding then weekend away! Well done girls. I do love your practical approach to gently guiding women on their missions. A:)

  8. Speaking of weddings… any tips for what a 40-something bride could/should wear to her third wedding? Probably more particularly I would be interested to know what she should NOT wear. Would never have thought that I would get married three times but life throws us some curve balls at times. Any pics or tips would be greatly appreciated … thanks ladies. XX

  9. Great designs. I would like to have one for my partner.She will surely like it.

  10. Great tips for women over 40 to stay sexy! Great article!

  11. Deb, great post – and great dresses and tips, even for someone who doesn’t really go for maxis, it made me kind of want one.

    • HI Kelly,
      Yes, at least go and try some on! You will feel so feminine and festive! They are casual and so comfortable but really take it up a notch from wearing jeans!

  12. Hi Deborah,

    This is a great style of article because it so clearly shows the do’s and dont’s. And I love that you use petite, missy and woman models to show the ideas! So often I see your posts and think they look so good, but really I am not at all that shape or have the skin condition to show off those short dresses, high heels etc etc… So just loving this one!!!!
    Again, The Glam Gal rules!

    • Hi Jen,
      Glad you enjoyed the post. Now if we could only find pics of models our age wearing these clothes. It takes work to visualize what these will actually look like on a 40+ gal.