Are 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. Is that o.k. and what kind should I choose for a wedding? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Melissa

inappropraite maxis for a wedding

Hi Melissa,

A maxi dress is a beautiful 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.

Like this white striped maxi (right), Maxi dresses are more suited to lounging by the pool and would look totally out of sync at a wedding. The tank top style, the casual cotton fabric, and the sporty stripes make this maxi far too relaxed for such an important celebration. The celebration calls for more elegant maxi dresses for weddings, made from flowy fabric silk, jersey, or chiffon.

Choose a Classy Maxi Dress

Maxi dresses that are too sexy or edgy don’t work either. Steer clear of maxis with plunging necklines, thigh-high slits, or peek-a-boo cutouts. These look like you are desperate for attention and make it look like you are trying to upstage the bride.

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 this dress is fine, but too much shine or sequins are overkill, especially for an afternoon wedding.

Best floral maxi dress for wedding

If you are wearing a sleeveless or bare or one-shoulder detail, think about bringing a wrap to the church. More formal places of worship expect you to cover your shoulders/arms during the service out of respect.

Best Women’s Maxi Dresses for Weddings in the Afternoon?

  • Floral Maxi Dresses for weddings are always an excellent and appropriate choice this time of year. They are feminine and fitting for a wedding.
  • Modern Prints – a Modern graphic print can look lovely, especially in bright colors.
  • Caftans can also work if you are a bigger gal who wants to cover up—just no Hawaiian muumuus.
  • Dresses that Flow and Move – You will be walking and swishing around on the dance floor. Get something feminine.
  • Black and White– When in doubt Black and White is always a classy choice. Keep the White to a Minimum.

Petite? Keep this in Mind when Choosing a Maxi Dress

Since you are only 5’3″, Melissa suggests you avoid maxis with little or no shape because they will drown you. Petite women need to choose Petite maxi dresses for more proportionate weddings. Look for styles that sit close to the body and have a defined waist. The defined waist can even be higher, such as an empire waist.

Petite long maxi dresses for weddings


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 slightly more casual with your maxi and more colorful. Try corals, turquoise, sky blues, and soft shell pinks. You may want to wear pretty sandals and not heels by the beach.

Are you looking for long sleeve maxi dresses for weddings? Check these out!


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21 thoughts on “Are Maxi Dresses Appropriate For An Afternoon Wedding?

  1. Hi Deborah, Would this dress be appropriate to wear to a wedding I’m attending in a couple of weeks in Florida? It’s a 3 pm wedding. Don’t let the designer name fool you – It’s not too formal, and there are no embellishments. My heels/sandals are a very pale gray (almost off-white).
    I’d so appreciate your advice – many thanks, Victoria.

  2. Hi Deb:

    I just discovered your site and loved it! I particularly like your sense of style and the varied options you offer for women – they are so tastefully put together!

    I have a question. I am 58, have a pretty decent figure, and am considering wearing a navy blue evening dress (jersey material) to an evening wedding in the middle of August in New York City. I have the option to alter the sashing, which forms the ‘straps’ and therefore can keep it tastefully revealing. It has a partially open back with no leg slits. I have some simple silver/gold blue stone earrings, a necklace, and a cuff bracelet to wear with silver/goldish heels. I am up in the air about a clutch and wrap.

    First of all, will the dress work for the evening event?
    Second, what would you recommend for a clutch and color for the wrap? I don’t want to look too flashy and know how difficult blues are to match. Would a wrap in the blue color of the earrings work, or would that clash too much with the silver/gold?

    Thank you most kindly!!
    I look forward to hearing from you soon!

    1. Hi Nancy, It sounds like you have made an excellent choice for an evening event. As you can imagine, it is tough to advise without seeing the dress, etc. I like the idea of silver/goldish shoes (by that description, I’m assuming you mean a soft, dulled-down silver). As for the clutch, you could go with a bag in a similar color to the shoes or navy with some silver hardware/embellishment. The wrap might be nice in ivory. That’s always an exquisite choice with navy.
      Since it is a jersey dress, here is an idea for a nice sheer wrap with satin trim. It comes in three colors:
      If you wore a dress in a more formal material, I might suggest this satin wrap:
      Let me know what you go with, and ladies, if you have a question, please send in a photo if you need some help. I can’t always promise I can answer every question, but an image makes it more likely. Thanks! Cheers, Deborah

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

  4. Thank you for your articles. I like the styles you have shown in dresses for plus sizes; I much appreciate them. Although I am not into dresses at the moment, I need help with plus size and a long torso. Thank you.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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!

  8. 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

  9. 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:)

  10. 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

  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.

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

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