20 Stunning Cocktail Dresses for Wedding Guests

Gorgeous silhouettes and pretty prints for any season.

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wedding guests

 Photo by Rachel Havel 

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. 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. 

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

01
of 20

Best Floral Pattern: Reformation Kourtney Dress

yellow dress

Courtesy of Reformation

We love the light 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. 

02
of 20

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

dress

Courtesy of Net-A-Porter

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.

03
of 20

For a Late Summer Wedding: Self-Portrait Off-The-Shoulder Gown

cocktail dress

Courtesy of MyTheresa 

You’ll light up the dance floor in this off-the-shoulder fuchsia dress, complete with a flattering built-in bustier and a retro mood. This look is perfect for an evening wedding in late summer or early fall. 

04
of 20

Most Show-Stopping: Sachin & Babi Allie Gown

green dress

Courtesy of 11 Honore

With flutter sleeves and an asymmetrical hemline, this silk dress is nothing short of showstopping. The light green hue makes it ideal for a seaside wedding or spring ceremony. 

05
of 20

For a Formal Wedding: Marchesa Notte Off-the-Shoulder Duchesse-Satin Midi Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

This romantic off-the-shoulder number is the epitome of elegance. If you're looking for the perfect cocktail dress for a formal wedding that isn't black, your search stops here.

06
of 20

For a Fall Wedding: BHLDN Cali Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Anthropologie

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.

07
of 20

For a Retro Wedding: Aidan by Aidan Mattox One-Shoulder Puff-Sleeve Dress

cocktail dress

 Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

Not all LBD’s are created equal. This one-shoulder style makes a glamorous statement with just enough influence from the ‘80s to feel party perfect.  

08
of 20

Best for Petites: Anthropologie Antonella Flounced Tunic Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Anthropologie

The perfect dress for a summer wedding, this mini style is complete with a pretty floral print, flounced hemline, and tunic silhouette. An excellent option for petites, too.

09
of 20

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. 

10
of 20

For a Garden Wedding: Needle & Thread Sunset Sequin-Embellished Floral-Print Tulle Gown

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

We can’t think of a more idyllic garden wedding-guest dress than this peach sunset number by Needle & Thread. Keep accessories neutral so the whimsical floral print can shine. 

11
of 20

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. 

12
of 20

For a Spring Wedding: Brock Collection Quadrella Floral Midi Dress

cocktail dress

 Courtesy of MyTheresa

Springtime florals don’t have to be pastels and bright hues—case in point, this ultra-chic sheath with a bustier-style bodice. 

13
of 20

Best for Dancing: Borgo De Nor Zelda Sequinned Midi Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Matches Fashion

For a fall or winter wedding, we love this burgundy colored maxi with a flowing hemline. You’re guaranteed to make an impression in this on the dance floor. 

14
of 20

Best Color: Solace London Mirabelle Ombré Plissé-Chiffon Maxi Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Net-A-Porter

Make a splash at a summer wedding in this vibrant, ombré colored dress. The oversized sleeves and nip waist are playful and fresh, and we recommended sticking to colorful accessories that match one of the hues.  

15
of 20

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 flattering fit for almost every body type.

16
of 20

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. 

17
of 20

Most Fashion-Forward: Aidan by Aidan Mattox Cowl-Back Halter Slip Dress

blue dress

Courtesy of Neiman Marcus

For the fashion-forward wedding guest, this bright blue 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. 

18
of 20

Most Flirtatious: Lulu's Winning Spot White Polka Dot Ruched Bodycon Mini Dress

cocktail dress

Courtesy of Lulu's

We love the retro pin-up glamour that comes with this polka dot dress. The ruching, flirty hem, and ruffles are incredibly flattering—all you need it simple sandals and jewels to complete the look. 

19
of 20

For an Evening Wedding: Bardot Jenny Open Back Sequin Mini Dress

black dress

Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

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

20
of 20

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.

Shopping FAQs

Attending a wedding soon? We've answered three common questions guests have when shopping for cocktail dresses.

  • 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's 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 for floor-length gowns.

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