20 Stunning Cocktail Dresses for Wedding Guests

Gorgeous silhouettes and pretty prints for any season.

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.

Best Cocktail Dresses for Wedding Guests

Brides / Chloe Jeong

If you’ve had a wedding save-the-date (or several) prominently placed on your refrigerator, the chances are good that said nuptials have been postponed or rescheduled. As a wedding guest, that can be a good thing: It means you have a lot more time to search for the perfect outfit.

What Is Cocktail Attire?

Cocktail attire is usually worn to semi-formal and formal weddings. Typically, if a wedding dress code calls for cocktail attire, women will wear a knee-length party dress and men will a suit and tie.

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. 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.

Then, what type of venue is it? For an outdoor wedding, you can easily get away with lighter and floatier 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 can totally work for a cocktail look, too, in a shorter length.

Another consideration is the time of day. If the ceremony is in the morning or early afternoon, a dress that skews more casual is entirely appropriate, while late afternoon and evening weddings call for more formal elegant styles.

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 is striking for an early fall wedding, complete with a tiered hemline and frilled detailing along the neckline and sleeves. Tonal accessories in red and tan help maintain an autumnal feel.  

Best Floral Pattern: Reformation Marguerite Silk Dress

floral dress

Courtesy of Reformation

We love the romantic feel of this floral print. To wit, the thin straps and show of leg make this dress feel sweet yet statement-making as a wedding guest. 

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 makes it ideal for a seaside wedding or spring ceremony. 

Best Two-Tone: Hutch Bow-Tie Maxi 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. 

For a Fall Wedding: BHLDN Cali Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of BHLDN

Rust is an utterly chic color choice for a fall or winter wedding. Dress up this minimalist slip with a fun pair of shoes or a statement clutch.

Most Colorful: FARM Rio Pop Leopards Midi Dress



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.  

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 for almost every body type.

For a Summer Wedding: Self-Portrait Guipure Lace Mini Dress



For a summer wedding, opt for a lace dress with cutouts. Not only will cutouts give your look some sexy edge, but you'll also appreciate the ventilation on a hot summer night.

For a Winter Wedding: Fame and Partners The Shay

green dress

Courtesy of Fame and Partners

The great thing about the Fame and Partners brand is that you can customize the dresses—from the color down to the length. We love this sophisticated look for the draping detail, tulip skirt, and blouson sleeves.

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. You’re guaranteed to make an impression in this on the dance floor. 

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. 

Best All-Over Sparkle: Retrofete 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. 

Most Statement-Making: NBD Kalindi Midi Dress

sequin dress

Courtesy of Revolve

Black may not seem festive for a wedding, that is until you’ve laid eyes on this sequin number. We recommend this look for an evening wedding with minimal accessories.

Best Budget: Boohoo Boutique Floral Split Sleeve Wrap Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Bohoo

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 in the day and 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. Accessorize with bright colors, like neons or pastels, for added oomph.

For a Formal Wedding: Monique Lhuillier Polka-Dot Flocked Tulle Midi Dress

polka dot dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

This romantic polka-dot number is the epitome of elegance. If you're looking for the perfect cocktail dress for a formal wedding that feels both playful and feminine, your search stops here.

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. We like it with strappy metallic sandals and minimal jewels. 

Best for Petites: For Love & Lemons Bronx & Banco Megan Mini Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Revolve

The perfect dress for a spring or summer wedding, this mini style is complete with a pretty floral print, flounced hemline, and tunic silhouette. It's an excellent option for petites, too.

For a Retro Wedding: Ganni Jacquard Organza Minidress


Courtesy of Shopbop

Not all LBDs are created equal. This crinkled organza style makes a glamorous statement with just enough influence from the ‘80s to feel party perfect.  

Best Wrap Silhouette: Tanya Taylor Blaire Dress

wrap dress

Courtesy of 11 Honoré

This ceramic dot print dress is sweet and fun for a daytime wedding. We can picture it with pastel heels, lady-like mules, or a woven raffia wedge.

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.

  • What Is a Cocktail Dress?

    Cocktail attire is a delicate balance between formal and casual and elegant and comfortable. For ladies, that typically equates to a 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.

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

    A black-tie dress code tends to be more formal than cocktail and the attire usually consists of 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