What To Wear To A Wedding Reception Over 40, 50

The wedding invitation has arrived, and now the big question is, What should you wear?

Naturally, it’s all about the bride on her wedding day, but that doesn’t mean that you, as a guest, shouldn’t look fabulous, too.  There aren’t very many occasions anymore to dress up, so if you’re going to a wedding, seize the chance to slip into something gorgeous and shine.

Here are a few guidelines for what to wear to a wedding reception when you are over 40, 50+.

pink wedding guest dress


1. Wear Something Dressy and Party-Like

Putting together a beautiful outfit to wear to a wedding takes a bit of work. It’s tempting to skip all that and instead wear a nice work outfit or that little black cocktail dress you’ve had for years, but don’t.  

A lot of time and effort goes into planning a wedding to make sure everything is perfect,  so out of respect for the bride and groom, it’s important you put some effort into what you wear and look your best.

Plus, when you look good, you feel good and everything is much more fun! Aim for something dressy and party-like, heck even a little glamorous. 

The easiest way know how formal you should dress to check the dress code on the wedding invitation. If there isn’t one, don’t be afraid to ask. And always remember, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed at a wedding or any other special event.


2. Consider the Venue and Time of Day

What to wear to a wedding reception depends on many other things too. For example, where the wedding is being held and when.

A beach wedding at 1 pm will be far more casual than a church wedding at 4 pm, followed by a country club reception at 6 pm. Regardless of the time or place, all wedding receptions require a certain degree of decorum.

Women have more flexibility when dressing for a wedding reception than men. At some weddings, even a skirt and blouse or dressy evening pants worn with a dressy top are acceptable options.

A dressy jumpsuit can be appropriate too. However, for most weddings, a dress is a perfect choice.

shop the look


3. Don’t Wear White

While there are no formal rules anymore, it’s common sense that you avoid wearing a white dress. You don’t want to take any attention away from the bride’s special moment.

Even if the bride is not wearing white, white makes one think of a bride, so stay clear out of respect. I would not even wear a floral dress with a lot of white background showing!

If you want to wear a light color, choose a pretty pastel dress, like one in blush pink, pale blue, yellow, green or peach.


Silver Illusion Neckline Dress


4. Don’t Flash a Lot of Skin

A wedding is a sacred event not a night out in Vegas.  Your goal is to look elegant and that means details like the length of your dress matters.

A ladylike length would be no shorter than about an inch or two above the knee.

 Also, avoid low-cut dresses that reveal a lot of cleavage,  or dresses with loud, busy patterns or too many bright colors. You want to stand out, but not in a negative way. 

One way for any  over-40 gal to show a little skin without looking trashy, is to wear an off-the-shoulder dress or a dress with some sheer fabric detail. A touch of skin can be subtley sexy, and still look classy.


blue wedding guest dresses for spring

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5. Slip-On some Dressy Shoes

Chunky, heavy shoes that look more like something  you’d wear to work aren’t dressy enough for a wedding.

Instead, wear more delicate evening shoes made for special occasions. Strappy heels are lovely, so long as they are comfy.  Metallic pumps or sandals always work and add a touch of glam.

Remember, the chunkier the heel the more the support.  If you plan to hit the the dance floor once the dinner is over, be sure you can walk and dance comfortably in whatever shoes you choose.


dress | sandals | clutch | earrings


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6. Wear Elegant Jewelry

A wedding is a perfect time to bring out your best jewelry. You can wear fine jewlery or costume, big or small, whatever works with your dress and personality.  These stunning, beaded dangle earrings are the perfect complement to this sophisticated sheath gown.


7. Carry an Evening Bag

Leave your heavy, everyday bag at home and opt for something more evening-like. A sparkly box or envelope clutch,  or a small silk, velvet chain handbag are formal and sophisticated.


coral wedding guest dresses for spring with a wrap


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8. Don’t Forget a Wrap

You may want  something to cover your arms because many cocktail dresses are sleeveless. A wrap comes in handy at the church, or in an air-conditioned reception hall, or on a patio if the celebrations are held outside. Keep your wrap light, semi sheer, unless it’s winter when a cozy faux fur wrap is lovely.

Did you look fabulous at a wedding or special event lately? Post a photo in my private Facebook group and you could be my new Style Star!

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46 thoughts on “What To Wear To A Wedding Reception Over 40, 50

  1. Hi,
    I am a curved size 14-16 56-year-old woman looking for an outfit for my 44-year-old brother’s wedding. I am usually comfortable with my upper arms covered, but I have an arm lift in December, so I might be fine. The wedding is in June 2024

  2. Help, please!

    Who: 55-year-old, size 22 with all the curves, must wear flats with orthotics
    Wedding: October 27, northern Ohio, ceremony and reception in the same location with BOWLING

    I am helping the bride and mother of the bride on the day. What I wear needs to handle set up, event, and cleanup after. The venue has very limited time for decorating and tearing down, so I will not have time to change.

    I also want to look fabulous! I would love your suggestions – thank you!

    1. Hi Lisa, A pair of lovely black dress pants and a cocktail top sounds good to me. You can move around in pants, and you don’t have to worry about spilling anything on black. Black bottoms are also very slimming. Then on top, wear something more glam like a sparkly top or top with some pretty detail. Check out – their separates section for a wide range of pants in plus sizes and beautiful tops to go with them. Best wishes!

  3. My niece is getting married in March; it’s an evening wedding in Missouri. I am 45 yrs old and don’t like to show my legs. I don’t dress up at all, so a little lost on what to wear for this formal event.

  4. Hi Deborah,

    This is Jin. I have a wedding at the end of August. I want to ask you’re advice for my outfit. I am size 12, and I am a Chinese woman.

    Many thanks.


  5. Hi, I have a wedding in July but nothing to wear. I’m a size 16, But I would require a size or two larger. Please could you help?

  6. Hi, can anyone help? I Am 55, and my best friend is getting married in November. I know it’s a bit away, but I don’t know what to buy. I am a large-framed lady, and I need help.

  7. Thank you for this post! I’m 73, and a great-niece is marrying on May 7 in the Dallas area. I started looking a couple of weeks ago and ordered some items from Nordstrom to try.

  8. How timely! Before receiving your post today, I‘d ordered the Kay Unger dress for an end-of-May wedding in Atlanta. Thank you for all you do!

  9. Thanks for the tip about considering the venue and time of day when deciding what to wear. I want to find a cute chiffon dress for my friend’s wedding. Your tips should simplify the process of shopping for the proper clothing.

  10. Nice post. It is a very informative post. Thanks for sharing this information with us. Keep posting and keep sharing like this.

    1. Hi Hira, the shopping links are at the bottom of the post under shop the center. Do you see all the tiny photos? Click on those to go directly to the store and buy.

  11. I love your advice and styling tips! I have a wedding coming up in the Fall, and I am already looking for my outfit. On this freezing day in New York, I want you to know how much I love this blog! Thank you!!!

  12. Can you do an article on wraps to go with these dresses? That’s another hard thing to come up with, I think!

    1. Hi Sony, You can wear a full-length dress to any wedding. It depends on the formality of the wedding and the dress. For example, a beachy maxi would look lovely at a destination wedding:
      You could wear a floral chiffon dress to a garden wedding:
      and even a full formal gown for an evening wedding. There’s a maxi for every wedding.

  13. Just have to say . . . If I spent this much money on an outfit, the happy couple would be very disappointed in their wedding gift. I’d have no money left over to spend on it.

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