What to Wear to a Summer Wedding -10 Common Questions

Is the summer wedding you thought was canceled, now going forward? If you held off on buying your wedding guest dress until now, and you’re wondering what to wear, no worries! Here’s what to wear to any summer wedding, even when it’s been scaled-down, and you’re celebrating with social distancing guidelines in place!

1.  What to Wear to a Daytime Wedding in Summer

Cocktail Dresses - Floral

The mood of a daytime wedding is light, fresh, and cheery, so wear a pretty dress in a bright color of the season. A Floral print dress is ideal and should be very easy to find. Accessorize your dress with some cute heels, a great clutch, and if you are daring enough, a hat. How often do you get to go to a wedding? Have fun and dress up.

2.  Can You Wear White to a Wedding?

Sorry, that old rule of no white at weddings still stands because you never want to upstage the bride. The only time it is acceptable is to wear a tiny bit of white as a detail on a dress or within a pattern of a dress- but we’re talking small. Cream or beige is o.k. Unless you know, the bride is wearing cream.

3.  Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?

Cocktail Dresses - Black

A black cocktail dress is too heavy for a daytime wedding but is very appropriate for an evening wedding.  If you want to wear black by day,  then you could try a black floral dress, which is mainly bright colored flowers on a dark background ( i.e., black or navy). This gives black a much more daytime feel. Just make sure it’s more floral than black.

4.  What To Wear to a Garden Wedding?

There are a lot of garden weddings this summer, which is a lovely thing. Some are more formal, and some are very casual, but what they all have in common is light and a cheery natural vibe. Florals and feminine prints are perfect, along with soft shapes and flowy fabrics. Choose cheerful light colors like the colors of the garden, and you will blend right in.

5.  What To Wear to a Beach Wedding?

yellow floral high low maxi dress to wear to a wedding reception over 40 styled by Fabulous After 40

Beach weddings are fun and exciting and the perfect time to wear anything from a pretty sundress to a chic summery cocktail dress. A chiffon maxi is light and breezy and fits right in with the sun and sand setting. The high low hemline is playful and summery too!

6.  What to Wear to a Winery Wedding?

Cocktail Dresses - Blue

Winery weddings can range from boho to glam, but they always have an air of sophistication.  Why not toast the bride and groom with a glass of champagne in this gorgeous blue sheath with the twist tie neckline that is both modern and chic.  Add sexy heels and a glamorous clutch and party on.

7.  Can You Wear a Jumpsuit to a Wedding?

Yes, absolutely! If your legs are not your best asset or dresses are just not your thing, then pants are an excellent choice. However, I’m not talking about any old pair of slacks and a top. To look more elegant, wear a solid color pantsuit or a beautiful blouse and Palazzo pants, which are flowy and feminine, almost like a dress.

A dressy jumpsuit can also work for daytime weddings. Be sure to choose fabrics that are relaxed and a little more luxurious than what you’d wear every day.

8. Maxi Dresses are Summery. – Can I wear a Maxi Dress to a Summer Wedding?

Yes, a breezy maxi dress is perfect for a spring or summer wedding, but make sure it is not too casual or too revealing. Check out my post on appropriate maxi dresses for weddings.

9.  What to Wear To an Evening Wedding?

Cocktail Dresses Sequin Short-Sleeve

Easy Answer – Unless the evening wedding is very formal and calls for a long gown, a cocktail dress is perfect! Just make sure it is not too flashy, short, or revealing.  You don’t want to look like you should be out clubbing. For example, a tight-fitting red satin dress with sequins and a plunging neckline is too showy.

Another option for an evening wedding is to wear a dressy suit or a cocktail suit. Remember, it’s night. You shouldn’t look the slightest bit corporate. No pinstripes, shirts, tweeds, serious suit styles, and heavy materials. You need to wear a fitted suit, not a boxy suit, one that is softer, a little sexy, feminine and luxurious – the type of thing you’d wear if you were going out to a special dinner. Think sophisticated. (A very dressy pantsuit with this same feel would work too.)

10.  What to Wear to a Black Tie Wedding?

A black-tie wedding is most formal and calls for something very glamorous like you are going to a formal ball. Here’s where a full-length black dress would be your very best choice. However, a black cocktail dress would be acceptable too. If you don’t like black, then a single color dress in rich color is elegant too. Also, a dress that is simple with clean lines is what’s right for this elegant affair—no fussy details.

Always respect the fact that it will be one of the most special days in the bride’s life. Honor her by putting some effort into what you wear and dressing up for the occasion, but never try to outshine her. It’s her moment to be in the spotlight. Make sure she feels like the star.

More ideas for what to wear to a wedding reception over 40 are here, or you can read about bridal shower outfits.


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28 thoughts on “What to Wear to a Summer Wedding -10 Common Questions

  1. The summer wedding season is coming and many of the dresses are fabulous, they are also sleeveless. It is hard to find a cute dress that isn’t cut too low, has some sleeves, isn’t too short, etc. Shopping is a nightmare but I will be attending a wedding this summer where the temperature is likely to be over 100 so no cute jackets. Do you have recommendations for lace coverups or a lightweight shawl? Thanks for your work.

  2. I am going to a wedding where the reception is being held at a posh winery. The dress is semi-formal. My question is it permissible to wear a sheath dress embellished with large and small beads outlining the bodice? The dress is knee-length and is a turquoise green that shimmers is it alright to wear shiny black dangling earrings? The dress is sleeveless with a v-neck that is not too revealing. Also is it too much to wear a netted shawl with sporadic beadwork on it. The mother of the bride is wearing a floor-length dress. I do not want6 to be either overdressed or underdressed. Thank you for your reply.

    1. Hi Judy,
      What does the invitation look like? I say that because the invitation often holds clues as to the mood of the wedding and therefore how you should dress. A serious, dressy wedding invite such as a gold and black embossed invitation means dressy for example, while a less fancy invitation means a less fancy wedding. The time of day also comes into play. You would wear something dressier for a later afternoon/eve wedding than an early afternoon wedding. Your dress sounds pretty dressy because it is shimmery but it’s hard to know without seeing it. I understand you not wanting to outshine the MOB which is very considerate. Since hers is a floor-length gown that is already more formal than a short one. Taking these things into mind, have another look at what you are planning to wear, ask a friend, then go with your gut. I think you should be fine as long as the dress is not flashy. Black earrings are fine with turquoise. Hope you have a good time and let me know what you decide and how it goes.

  3. What if the wedding is for 2 Grooms. Can the dress possibly have more white/cream with a floral print? It’s a casual wedding at their home. Granted their home is a historic home with a nice garden, so “casual” for them, but late afternoon later this month.

    1. All the looks are great! The blue/green is my favorite.
      I am getting married next August and do not have a clue about what to wear.
      You have many awesome tips for the mother of the bride/groom and for guests but I cannot find anything for a bride after her 40s.
      Please, help me!

      1. Hi Cinita, You make a great point. I will have to do a post on that. Wow, midlife brides I’ve known are all over the map. Some like a white long dress wedding but most prefer a pretty ivory or pastel long or short cocktail dress. I even had one friend who had an evening wedding and wore a strapless black gown. Whatever you choose I’d suggest you stay away from flounce, frills, and fussiness and go for a more pared-down, elegant, dress. As a mature bride, you don’t want to look like a Disney princess. You want to look grown up, sophisticated, and confident. Hope that helps.

  4. Very good ideas and dresses for all kinds of wedding and mother of the bride but, how about the bride?
    What to wear when you are a “after 40 bride”?

    1. Hi Cintia,
      You make a good point! There are no rules for midlife brides. Some like to go long, white and traditional, others prefer a simple suit or daydress in a neutral color, and I even know one gal who went long, formal and all black.( A girlfriend of mine did this for a formal second wedding and it looked quie elegant). Whatever you choose, I would keep it simple and elegant. Too much frill, and flounce is junior and I think at midlife the goal should be to look sophisticated.

  5. I like #1 so much – I wish I had a wedding to go to. My 27-year old niece has been dating her boyfriend for 5 years and still no ring. I guess they are trying to pay off the student loans first or something practical like that.

  6. I will be the stepmother in two weddings this year – one fall, one winter.

    The mother of the bride is wearing a purple lace sheath to the fall wedding, so I feel I should not wear lace, or the same color. It is an afternoon wedding at a winery, and the ceremony may be outdoors. Here, I am the stepmom of the groom.

    The winter wedding is an evening affair, a bit more formal. Do I wait for the mother of the groom to pick her dress first? The mother of the bride is deceased, but I feel since I am the stepmom, I should defer to her in this case.

    Any help will be GREATLY appreciated. I don’t want to look overly matronly, but at 65…I am a matron! :o)

    1. Hi Gail, you are going to be busy this year! Glad to hear you are already thinking about this. It’s good to plan early. First wedding-I agree if she is wearing lace, stay away from lace. What about chiffon or something with draping. Since you will be in wedding photographs you need to find out what the bridesmaids are wearing too so you can co-ordinate. Other fall colors that go nice with purple are burgundy, teal, rust, or you could go with a metallic neutral. Since it is at a winery, it is probably in the countryside? If so a fall print might be nice too.
      Here is a post I did about winery weddings:

      As for the winter wedding- yes, I’d let the mother of the groom pick first. That is nice of you. If you don’t want to look matronly, then pick a simple, clean, elegant cut, nothing with too much detail – like flounce or ruffles. You say it is more formal so you could wear black, but only if the bride approves. Nordstrom has a nice selection of MOB and MOG dresses:
      I hope that helps a bit. There are a lot of elements that come in to play and I suggest you visit a bridal store or Nordstroms and speak with someone in person so it all co-ordinates Enjoy, Deborah

  7. Be careful about wearing a solid colour dress to a wedding. Last year I wore a cobalt blue dress that was the exact shade of the bridesmaids’ dresses! I kept my black wrap on the entire time regardless of how hot I was.

    1. Hi Kathysue, It looked lovely on you, and what I really enjoyed seeing were your wedding photos. YOu had the “That Girl” flip hairstyle which was so cute! I remember those days! Thanks for stopping in. Cheers, Deborah

  8. I know you say no wedding guest should ever wear white. Here is my question however: what about elegant white chiffon palazzo pants with a floral or solid color top? This will be an outdoor summer wedding at a rustic mountain resort. Bride&groom have specified outdoor festivities but also request “semi formal attire”. Wedding is at 4 pm, reception to follow. I am 58 years old, average size and a good friend of the groom’s family. I’d rather not show my legs in a cocktail dress and think maxi dress is just too much glamour for me. I also have black chiffon palazzo pants if you think that is more suitable.

    1. Hi Mary, According to modern etiquette white can be worn at a wedding so long as it white in combination with others colors and the outfit doesn’t look too bridal. Still, not everyone agrees with this. Personally, I would err on the side of caution and stay away from white, especially white chiffon which has a bridal quality. Cheers, Deborah

  9. Deborah, my son’s wedding is taking place in South Africa just before our Spring starts. I am a subscriber to your newsletter and with all your tips and advice, I cannot wait to send you a picture of the outfit I have put together. I am a real short gal at 1.55, and turning 60 early 2015, so I have a fabulous designer/friend, who is making my outfit. Sorry that you will have to wait until after the wedding for the photograph!! kindest regards. Gawa

  10. I love the green cocktail silk charmeuse dress pictured above but cannot locate it anywhere. Can you tell me who makes it or where I can find it? Thanks!

  11. I have been invited to my boyfriend’s mom’s wedding this Saturday coming up the 14th and I really don’t know what to wear I’m not really the dress type of girl, I wear skirts and I’m not really a fan of heels, I wear me please quick cause I want to make in good impression on his family because this is someone I want to be with for life….so you have my email now can you help me find something to wear?

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