With all the new trends in weddings—vow renewals, casual backyard affairs—it’s increasingly difficult to decipher what kind of attire is appropriate.

Wearing white like the bride is always taboo, and it’s best to forgo sequins at a daytime affair, yet you still may be questioning your outfit. Here’s our breakdown from black-tie celebration to beachside bash.

Black Tie / Black-Tie Optional

You no longer have to wear a long gown to a black-tie fête. Short can be formal too, especially with the many options available like beading, feathers and lace, all of which instantly dress up a shorter sheath. A fit-and-flare style is popular for fall and flattering on various body types. This dramatic look nips at the waist and flares out, usually falling just above the knee. You’ll look fabulous giving it a twirl on the dance floor. When a wedding calls for black tie, men should wear a tuxedo, but when the invite says black-tie optional, men can wear a tux or opt for a dark suit and tie.

Cap Sleeve Stretch Lace Short Dress, David's Bridal, $89


If the wedding is at a location like a hotel, country club or upscale restaurant but doesn’t note the dress code on the invitation, assume that it’s semi-formal. Men look best in a suit and tie, while women will look just right in a cocktail dress or elegant jumpsuit. Don’t think you need to wear basic black to a wedding, either. Embrace color, especially with all the gorgeous shades that are hot this season. Jennifer Stamper, co-owner of Juniper Boutique, explains, “Before you say no to red for a wedding, remember that red comes in a variety of shades: think watermelon, vermillion or bordeaux. If red is just too daring for you, cobalt, orchid, blush and cypress green are also on trend.”

M. Rena reversible black tank, $39; JOA embellished pencil skirt, $99; Juniper Boutique


With a daytime wedding, you have more options and can typically wear anything from a dress to a suit. A luncheon is an opportunity to have fun with fashion and try a new style, like the two-piece top and skirt trend that’s fresh and hip. You may be surprised that this combination can work for you and still be age appropriate. “One trend I never thought I would embrace, but I am loving, is the two-piece skirt and crop top,” Stamper says. “As a mother in my 40s, I never thought I would wear this style, but paired with a high-waisted skirt, it almost looks like a dress, but cooler. You really only notice it's a set when you raise your arms and a sliver of your midriff shows.”

At a daytime wedding, men look dapper in a dress shirt, dress pants, tie and blazer.

Short Mesh Print Sheath Dress, David's Bridal, $79

Beach or Coastal Wedding

A flowy maxi dress in a fabric like silk or chiffon is beautiful and appropriate. If long isn’t for you, try a shift in a mod-inspired ‘60s style, another big trend for fall. A shift cut will also stay put, a must on a breezy beach. Regarding shoe choice for outdoor weddings, David's Bridal Special Occasion BuyerMarissa Rubinetti says, “Wedges and flats are a good choice so one can easily walk in the sand or dirt.”

For the guys, a lightweight suit in linen or cotton looks great. Feel free to add a button-down in a lightweight shade and ditch the tie.

Strapless High Low Dress with Split Front, David's Bridal, $149

Picnic or Backyard Barbecue

If the wedding has a casual theme, you can be more relaxed with your attire. A sundress, or airy pants and top, is fitting. Men can get away with khakis and a nicer shirt. For both sexes, it’s best not to wear jeans, shorts or casual sandals, regardless of how informal the affair may sound.

Natalie Martin Flower-Print “Maggie” Maxi Dress, Barneys New York, $275

You can often tell a lot about the formality of a wedding by the invitation, time and location. Rubinetti explains: “The most important thing to keep in mind is where the ceremony will be taking place. Is it a backyard garden setting or a more formal hotel celebration? It’s also important to dress for your atmosphere as well—no one wants to be uncomfortable because they are too hot on the beach or too cold at the outdoor ceremony. And don’t forget the accessories! The right shoes and jewelry can really add to any outfit and complete the look.” It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the bride or groom about the attire. Remember, this is still a couple’s most important day and they likely want you to dress up for the occasion.

Top right photo: Sleeveless Printed Tea Length Dress with V Back, David's Bridal, $169