Summer’s warm, carefree months are an idyllic time of year to have a wedding during. Outdoor venues, rays of sunlight, gorgeous florals, and color palettes — what’s not to love? If you’ve been invited to attend a summer ceremony there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. There are the usual suspects like venue, destination, and—of course—dress code. And then the more nuanced factors such as the terrain you’ll be walking on and the climate wherever you’ll be heading to.
Ahead, brush up on some universally helpful etiquette tips for attending a summer wedding as a guest. Plus, discover a handful of outfit ideas for men and women depending on the dress code for the event.
Basic Tips and Etiquette
A good rule of thumb when choosing your outfit for a summer wedding (or any wedding, for that matter) is that being overdressed is always better than being underdressed. “It could appear as an insult to the bride,” etiquette expert Lisa Grotts explains. “When in doubt and if it’s not clear on the wedding invitation or website, ask the bride.” Though you’ll want to stand out for your top-notch look, you also want to avoid coming across that you’re competing with the bride. “Your safest choice is to dress light and bright but not white.” One exception, Grotts mentions, would be if the bride requests guests to dress in white (an experience she recently had at a wedding in Mexico).
Meet the Expert
Lisa Grotts (also known as The Golden Rules Gal) is an etiquette expert with over 20 years of industry experience. She’s an author, former columnist for The Huffington Post, and has appeared on media segments for NBC, The Today Show, and BBC News.
Another major consideration is location. “It all depends on the location of the summer wedding,” Grotts explains. “For a beach wedding, think sand, sandals and a maxi dress. For an outdoor country wedding, you may have to walk on grass, which means wedges and a dress that won’t drag to the floor. For a traditional summer wedding, go for a polished and chic look.” She also suggests avoiding heavy fabrics and dark colors as well as anything too blingy (e.g., over-the-top embellishments).
It’s also vital to keep the temperature at top of mind when it comes to planning a summer wedding outfit since it’s the hottest time of year. “One should always be prepared to cover up in case your host has not planned for the worst, such as a covered or air-conditioned venue,” Grotts says. “Always check the weather and come with a shoulder wrap if your dress is strapless or sleeveless. Stick with light fabrics that won’t stick to your skin such as linen or a cotton blend.” In other words, slab on the sunscreen and remember that “you can still look appropriate in hot and humid temperatures without overheating.” Phew!
Summer Wedding Outfits for Men and Women
Grotts insists that formal doesn’t need to be complicated for a summer wedding. “Long shimmery fabrics or silk is an elegant choice with loose or slit sleeves,” she says. “A wide-legged pantsuit is also very chic with evening heels. Black tie/formal means a tuxedo; midnight blue is a welcomed alternative to black with patent leather or velvet loafers.”
If the invitation indicates a semi-formal dress code, Grotts suggests a maxi dress. “Easy and breezy! It’s always a safe bet,” she says. “From v-necks to one shoulder or a high-low hemline. Wedges or a metallic heel would complete the look.” A dark suit in navy or gray with a bow or necktie is a smart choice for semi-formal, Grotts says.
“Floral and flowy” is Grotts’s motto for a casual summer wedding. “Strapless, halter or sleeveless but with a wrap,” she says. For footwear, go for sandals or wedges. “To be extra chic, dresses with solid tassels around the sleeves or hemline act as a built-in accessory,” she adds. “Khakis or chinos (or shorts) with a blazer and open-collared shirt or polo without a tie would work,” Grotts suggests. However, she insists: “certainly no flip-flops!”