17 Stunning Cocktail Dresses for Wedding Guests

Our top picks from Reformation, Lulus, BHLDN, and more

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Brides / Chloe Jeong

If cocktail attire was the requested dress code for an upcoming wedding, that could leave a lot of room for interpretation as a wedding guest. Cocktail attire is usually worn to semi-formal and formal weddings, so you’ll want to consider a few things. First, what season is the wedding? If it’s in the spring or summer, bright colors, playful prints, and pastel shades are idyllic, while deep jewel tones and metallic fabrics are gorgeous in the fall and winter.

Next, consider what type of venue it is. For an outdoor wedding, you can easily get away with light, floaty fabrics like cotton, eyelet lace, jersey, or chiffon. If the wedding is in a banquet hall or a historic building, elegant fabrics like satin, velvet, and taffeta are perfectly polished. Beading and sequins in a shorter length can also work well for a classy cocktail look. Lastly, think about the time of day the ceremony will be held. In the morning or early afternoon, a slightly more casual dress is entirely appropriate, while late afternoon and evening weddings call for more formal styles.

To help you find the perfect dress for your next nuptial event, we researched and rounded up the best cocktail dresses for wedding guests, taking style, size range, material, and overall quality into consideration. Our warm-weather favorites are the FARM Rio Pop Leopards Mixed Midi Dress and the Bronx and Banco Megan Mini Dress. For an effortlessly elegant look, the Fame and Partners The Shay is a winner.

A midi dress that hits at the knee is a popular choice for cocktail wedding guest attire.

Read on for the best cocktail dresses for wedding guests for every style, season, and budget.

Most Unique Neckline: Lulus Floral Print Off-the-Shoulder Maxi Dress

floral dress

Courtesy of Lulus

This floor-sweeping dress in a rich berry hue is striking for an early fall, evening wedding, complete with a tiered hemline and frilled detailing along the neckline and sleeves. Tonal accessories in red and tan will help maintain an autumnal feel.  

Best for Dancing: Zimmermann Silk-Charmeuse Wrap Mini Dress

mini dress

Courtesy of Revolve

For a late spring or early fall wedding, we love this copper-colored mini dress with a flouncy hemline. The color of the dress is practically made for transition seasons, and you’re guaranteed to make an impression in this on the dance floor. The shorter length and draping details make it a perfect cocktail dress.

Most Colorful: Farm Rio Pink Pop Leopards Mixed Midi Dress

Farm Rio Pink Pop Leopards Mixed Midi Dress

Nordstrom

Make a splash at a summer wedding in this vibrant midi dress by Brazilian brand FARM Rio. The print is playful and fresh on its own and made even better with colorful accessories. It also has a casual feel that's perfect day or night. As a bonus, 100 percent cotton helps keep you cool during a sweltering evening spent on the dance floor.

Most Flattering: Michael Costello x REVOLVE Midi Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Revolve

Not only is periwinkle a universally flattering color, but the expertly placed ruching on this strapless gown makes for a pleasing fit on various body types. It is also designed to hit right at the knee, making it an appropriate length for all kinds of ceremonies.

Best Floral Pattern: Reformation Marguerite Silk Dress

floral dress

Courtesy of Reformation

We love the romantic feel of this floral print. The thin straps and leg-baring slit make this dress feel sweet yet bold for any wedding guest. Plus, its cornflower blue hue is equally appropriate for spring, summer, and fall weddings.

Best for Petites: Bronx & Banco Megan Mini Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Revolve

The perfect dress for a spring or summer wedding, this ultra-feminine mini style is complete with a pretty floral print, flounced hemline, and tunic silhouette. It's an excellent option for petite sizes, too. Overall, you can't go wrong with such a whimsical style that hits above the knee for any cocktail event.

For a Winter Wedding: Fame and Partners The Shay

green dress

Courtesy of Fame and Partners

The great thing about Fame and Partners is that you can customize their dresses, from the color to the length. We love this sophisticated look for the draping detail, tulip skirt, and blouson sleeves. The rich jewel tone makes it ideal for a late fall or winter wedding.

Most Daring: Camila Coelho Deep-V Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Revolve

For the daring minimalist, this sleek and sexy dress is a lovely choice for an evening summer wedding. Style the skin-baring design and pastel hue with strappy metallic sandals and minimal jewels to make it an especially great look for a beach or destination wedding.

Best Two-Tone: Hutch Bow Tie Dress

two tone dress

Courtesy of Anthropologie

For the fashion-forward wedding guest, this two-tone dress is gorgeous for a city wedding. With unique design details, we suggest clean and simple accessories so the dress can remain the focal point. Although it's a maxi, the cotton and spandex blend makes it casual enough for a daytime or evening ceremony.

Best Maxi: Sachin & Babi Ivy Dress

maxi dress

Courtesy of BHLDN

With delicate ruffle accent sleeves and a flowing silhouette, this maxi dress is nothing short of showstopping. The light blue floral and ruffle details make it ideal for a seaside wedding or spring daytime ceremony.

For a Fall Wedding: BHLDN Cali Satin Charmeuse Midi Dress

Cali Dress

BHLDN

Emerald is an utterly chic color choice for a fall or winter wedding. Not to mention, the dreamy satin fabric and body-skimming fit are ultra-flattering. Dress up this minimalist slip with a fun pair of shoes or a statement clutch.

Best All-Over Sparkle: Retrofête Gabrielle Sequin Mini Dress

sequin dress

Courtesy of Revolve

This sequin dress is how you do sequins for a cocktail dress code. We recommend this look for an evening wedding with minimal accessories. We love how the blouson sleeves and tie-waist balance the shorter hem.

Best Budget: Boohoo Boutique Floral Split Sleeve Wrap Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Boohoo

If you’re looking for a romantic and affordable floral-print midi dress, look no further than this flowing number from Boohoo. It’s incredibly versatile for spring and summer weddings both during the day and at night. 

Most Comfortable: Staud Dolce Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Staud

If comfort is key, look no further than this black and white cutout dress. We love it for an afternoon wedding in the summer as it's casual enough for a daytime affair and has cutouts to help keep you cool. It looks beautiful on any body type, making it a universal winner. Accessorize with bright colors like neons or pastels for added oomph.

Most Statement-Making: NBD Kalindi Midi Dress

sequin dress

Courtesy of Revolve

Take your classic little black dress to the next level with this head-turning sequin number. We recommend this look for an evening wedding with minimal accessories to let the dress do all the talking!

For a Retro Wedding: Ganni Jacquard Organza Minidress

ganni-jacquard-organza-mini-dress

Courtesy of Shopbop

Not all little black dresses are created equal. This crinkled organza style makes a glamorous statement with just enough influence from the ‘80s to feel party perfect. The oversized puff sleeves and structured collar make it both a daring and classic look.

For a Garden Wedding: Needle & Thread Floral Dress

floral dress

Courtesy of Shopbop

We can’t think of a more idyllic garden wedding-guest dress than this nature-inspired number by Needle & Thread. Keep accessories neutral so the pretty floral print can shine. Plus, the shorter length makes it an appropriately casual look.

What to Look for in Cocktail Attire

Cocktail attire is all about party-ready silhouettes, fun details, and shorter hemlines. To help you nail down the perfect cocktail attire for any upcoming wedding, it's always helpful to take the season and wedding venue into consideration. For summer weddings, we love breezy lace dresses in soft pastels and bright hues, while jewel tones and sequined fabrics feel especially appropriate for fall and winter nuptials. Finally, while cocktail dresses are generally a midi length or higher, you can still wear a maxi, but in this case, it’s best to opt for a more casual fabric.

FAQ
  • What Is a Cocktail Dress?

    Cocktail attire is a delicate balance between formal and casual, as well as elegant and comfortable. For ladies, that typically equates to a midi or mini-length dress and heels.

  • What Is an Appropriate Dress Length?

    Knee-length is great, though it can vary. As a general rule, try to avoid wearing anything that's too short, tight, or low cut. While cocktail attire offers more freedom to play with colors, prints, materials, and length, it's still nice to find something classy and elegant for a formal wedding.

  • Can I Wear a Cocktail Dress to a Black-Tie Wedding?

    A black-tie dress code tends to be more formal than cocktail attire, and therefore black-tie weddings typically call for floor-length gowns.

Why Trust Brides

Contributing writer Laura Lajiness covers fashion, accessories, and fine jewelry. Her work can be seen across various outlets, including ELLE, InStyle, Glamour, Refinery 29, The Zoe Report, Popsugar, Well+Good, and Barneys New York, among other titles and brands. She was the senior fashion editor at The Zoe Report and Popsugar with additional experience as a copywriter and fashion publicist.

more in

The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Guest Attire

Related Stories