26 Formal Wedding Guest Dresses for Every Season

They're all black-tie optional approved.

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Reformation velvet yellow slip dress

Courtesy of Reformation

If you were invited to a wedding with a formal or black-tie optional dress code, you might be wondering what you're supposed to wear. The formal dress code can certainly feel confusing: it's not as casual or playful as your typical go-to cocktail dress, but it's also not as fancy as black-tie or white-tie attire.

For women, formal attire falls closer to a black-tie, meaning floor-length gowns, sophisticated jumpsuits, or elegant pantsuits. However, there is a bit of leeway with the rules, as you could get away with showing your ankles in a midi or tea-length ensemble. If the wedding also seems to veer more casual, a very nice cocktail dress may be appropriate.

Below is a collection of the best formal wedding guest dresses you can purchase now, whether you're attending a celebration in the fall, summer, spring, or winter season.

Most Comfortable: Astr The Label Marin Midi Dress

brown midi dress

Courtesy of Astr The Label

Size: XS-XL | Length: Tea length | Care: Dry clean only

If you're going to opt for a midi dress that hits just below the knee, go for something in a neutral shade that is easy to dress up. This satin-finish dress is so pretty and versatile, and can truly look formal with the right accessories. It also comes in a variety of different colors and it's easy to move around in.

Best Metallic: Aqua One Shoulder Crinkled Metallic Gown

metallic gown

Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

Size: 0-18 | Length: Floor length | Care: Spot clean

While black is a quintessential formalwear hue, you can certainly branch out and wear other colors. This metallic emerald green dress is a beautiful option, with a shimmering finish and a glamorous one-shoulder neckline.

Best Belted: Sachi & Babi Zoe Gown

belted formal gown

Courtesy of Sachi & Babi

Size: 0-22W | Length: Floor length | Care: Dry clean

A formal gown that has a belt? It exists! This unique Sachi & Babi gown features a full-length skirt and is definitely on the fancier side. We love the mix of slate and navy, a perfect color combination for a guest attending a winter wedding.

Best Tiered: Lulus Molinetto Tiered Maxi Dress

tiered maxi dress

Courtesy of Lulus

Size: XXS-3X | Length: Ankle length | Care: Hand wash cold, line dry

This ruffled maxi dress features a feminine tiered skirt that makes it feel more dressed up. The pretty lace design and ruffled sleeves are also flirty touches, and it comes in a few different colors for a variety of options.

Most Classic: Roland Mouret Istana Gown

red gown

Courtesy of Dia & Co

Size: UK 18-14 to 24-20 | Length: Floor length | Care: Dry clean

The trumpet silhouette of this poppy red gown makes it feel extra glamorous and a dream pick for a formal dress code. Made of red double wool crepe, it features an internal corset for extra support, and split front and back hems that make dancing a breeze.

Best for Fall Weddings: ASTR the Label Anora Maxi Dress

Size: XS-XL | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean only

Stay comfortable on chilly autumn wedding days with this long-sleeve maxi dress. The tiered skirt elevates the overall look, while the shimmering cooper hue adds to the fall aesthetic.

Best Bold Color: Alice + Olivia Steph Scoop Neck Fringe Dress

bold yellow dress

Courtesy of Alice and Olivia

Size: 0-14 | Length: Tea length | Care: Dry clean only

If you're not afraid to make a splash, opt for this bold, highlighter yellow dress. Between the color and the fringe, this look would be perfect for a formal wedding in a tropical locale. For those who love the style but want a more subtle color, opt for the black version.

Most Sophisticated: Amsale Pryce Off-the-Shoulder Column Dress

Size: 0-16 | Length: Floor length | Care: Professionally clean

This silky, off-the-shoulder column gown is effortlessly elegant with beautiful draping throughout the bodice and a straight skirt. It comes in a few different colors if you'd like additional options, to boot.

Best for a Spring Wedding: Reformation Frankie Silk Dress

Size: 14-24 | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean

This silk dress has a tight fit with a trendy straight neckline and thin straps. The green hue and delicate floral pattern make it a lovely pick for a spring wedding, but it also comes in brown if that better suits your style.

Best One-Shoulder: Dress The Population Georgina One-Shoulder Crepe Gown

one shoulder formal gown

Courtesy of Nordstrom

Size: XXS-S | Length: Floor length | Care: Machine wash, line dry

Sophisticated and classic, this one-shoulder gown exudes Old Hollywood vibes. It has a side slit and a slight train for a dramatic touch, and the thick crepe fabric makes it feel comfortable.

Best Strapless: V. Chapman June Satin Dress

strapless formal gown

Courtesy of BHLDN

Size: 0-18 | Length: Floor length | Care: Dry clean

The corset top and wrap style skirt of this dress give it an almost Grecian, but trendy, feel. We love the bow detail at the waist and the contrast between the structured bodice and draped skirt.

Best Halter: Astr The Label Marissa Satin Halter Midi Dress

formal halter gown

Courtesy of Astr the Label

Size: XS-XL | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean

The halter neck and keyhole cutout make this dress feel perfect for a summer wedding. It comes in a variety of colors, but this burnt orange hue is unique and our personal favorite.

Most Simple: Lulus Hollywood Woman Satin Midi Dress

formal black dress

Courtesy of Lulus

Size: XS-XL | Length: Tea length | Care: Dry clean

If you think it's appropriate to wear a shorter hemline, then this sleek midi dress is a great choice. It's a versatile option that can be dressed up or down, depending on the overall vibe of the wedding you're attending. Pro tip: black will likely feel the most formal.

Best Midi: Lulus How Much I Care Off-the-Shoulder Midi Dress

formal midi dress

Courtesy of Lulus

Size: XS-XL | Length: Tea length | Care: Hand wash cold, line dry

As far as midi dresses go, this one is pretty formal. It's also sold at a great price point, making it an affordable option for anyone shopping on a budget.

Most Romantic: Geisha Designs Off-the-Shoulder Floral Appliqué Dress

floral gown formal attire

Courtesy of Anthropologie

Size: XXS-XL | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean

Made of delicate, flowy material, this maxi dress feels feminine and romantic. The soft floral print and the watercolor shades only add to the effect.

Best for Risk-Takers: Lulus Rare Beauty Backless Maxi Dress

green maxi dress

Courtesy of Lulus

Size: XXS-3X | Length: Floor length | Care: Hand wash cold, line dry

If you want something on the sexier side, this maxi dress is perfect: double slits, a plunging neckline, and a nearly backless design. It's risky without being too much.

Most Chic: Mare Mare Tiered Strapless Dress

strapless balck dress

Courtesy of Anthropologie

Size: XXS-XL | Length: Tea length | Care: Dry clean

This strapless midi gown is effortlessly chic and so much fun thanks to the full-tiered skirt that adds some drama. It comes in a range of petite, standard, and plus sizes as well.

Best Velvet Option: Lulus Buy You Flowers Midi Dress

strapless midi dress

Courtesy of Lulus

Size: XS-XL | Length: Tea length | Care: Hand wash cold, line dry

The purple floral print on this dress is utterly unique due to the velvet fabric, and it's a good choice for fall or winter weddings. Though it slightly gives off a casual vibe, it could work at certain formal affairs.

Most Versatile: Eloquii Satin Wrap Maxi Dress

green wrap dress formal

Courtesy of Eloquii

Size: 14-28 | Length: Tea length | Care: Machine wash cold, tumble dry low

This satin wrap dress, like any other wrap dress, is a versatile piece that can easily be dressed up or down. The green color is different than your typical neutral, and we love the bow detail with the sash.

Best Vintage Look: Alice + Olivia Reese Tie Neck Gown

red gown formal

Courtesy of Alice + Olivia

Size: 0-14 | Length: Floor length | Care: Dry clean

If you want to go for a more vintage look, this is a '70s-style gown that is simply stunning. With a very deep V-neckline and a low back, it shows a lot of skin but still feels classy.

Most Unique: Kavita Bhartia Rosette Tiered Tulle Gown

tiered ruffled gown

Courtesy of Anthropologie

Size: 00-16 | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean

With a tiered tulle skirt and oversized floral embellishments on the bodice, Kavita Bhartia's rosette tiered tulle gown is both romantic and unique. It stands out in the best way without being over the top.

Best Slip Dress: Reformation Remini Velvet Dress

velvet maxi dress

Courtesy of Reformation

Size: XS-XL | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean

This slim-fitted maxi dress is a luxurious velvet version of a long slip dress. It's elegant and chic, and we love the color options: this shimmery gold color or deep green, both perfect for fall.

Most Glamorous: Zelie For She So Fine Velvet Gown

Zelie For She So Fine Velvet Gown

Nordstrom

Size: 1X-3X | Length: Floor length | Care: Dry clean

There's something so glamorous about a black velvet maxi dress. This one has a beautiful silhouette and textured bodice, with a slight train that makes it feel red carpet ready.

Best Jumpsuit: Sabina Musayev x REVOLVE Donni Jumpsuit

Size: XS-XL | Length: Floor length | Care: Dry clean

Not a dress person? Sabina Musayev x Revolve's shimmering metallic jumpsuit is dressy enough for a formal wedding. With a plunging neckline and pretty sleeves, it's a great choice for someone on the hunt for a dress alternative.

Best Sequins: RIXO Coco Maxi Dress

sequin dress

Courtesy of Rixo

Size: XXS-5XL | Length: Ankle length | Care: Dry clean

Perfect for a winter or fall wedding, this dress features lots of glittering sequins and longer sleeves. The belt nips in the waist for a form-fitting silhouette, and we absolutely love the vintage-like blouson sleeves, shallow boatneck, and A-line silhouette.

Best for a Summer Wedding: BHLDN Cali Satin Charmeuse Midi Dress

bridal party dress

Courtesy of BHLDN

Size: 0-16 | Length: Tea length | Care: Dry clean

BHLDN's Cali is one of the most highly-rated wedding guest dresses because it comes in so many different colors. This "storm cloud" hue is perfect for a summer wedding, but can be layered with a silk scarf for chillier days too.

What to Look for in a Formal Wedding Guest Dress

If you were invited to a wedding with formal attire, you really want to pull out all the stops and wear something fabulous. There's a time and a place for easy breezy cocktail dresses, but this isn't one of them. Longer hemlines are better for formal celebrations, so it's best to opt for a floor-length gown. While you can get away with a midi or tea-length number, be sure it's glamorous enough to fit the dress code. Additionally, a fancy jumpsuit would be lovely for those who are searching for something other than a dress.

FAQ
  • What does formal wedding guest attire mean?

    Formal wedding guest attire is slightly more casual than black-tie, meaning a full-length gown or tuxedo is preferred but not entirely required. Women can get away with midi-length gowns, while men have the option to wear a suit. However, if you're feeling unsure of what to wear, always ask the couple or wedding party if you're outfit is appropriate for the occasion.

  • Can you wear a cocktail dress for a formal dress code?

    Cocktail dresses are not completely off-limits, depending on the season and type of wedding. Instead of picking something casual, though, it should be on the fancier side. Look for elevated cocktail pieces that are made of high-quality materials and fabrics. Neutrals or dark shades are always great too, but patterns and prints aren't out of the question.

  • Does formal attire always mean a long gown?

    Gowns are typically expected at a formal wedding. That said, you don't have to wear one to every formal event. Elegant maxi dresses can work with this dress code, and midi ensembles are an acceptable option too. Remember, though, the dress code ultimately depends on the overall vibe the couple has established for their wedding.

Why Trust Us

Contributing writer Jessica Booth is a freelance writer and formerly served as an editor for seven years. Her work has been featured in Bustle, Romper, Insider, Forbes, Redbook, and Refinery29.

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