What to wear to a summer wedding: dos and don’ts

We love ourselves a wedding. The romance, the food, the dancing, the cake and the excuse to dress up. But with so many dress options available, where does a girl even start? When considering what to wear to a summer wedding, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

We figured we’d start with what not to wear to a summer wedding.

Do NOT wear white. Don’t do it. This is not just an old and dated rule to follow. There are literally thousands upon thousands of other dress options available to choose from. The wedding is not about you and what you are wearing. There is no excuse to wear white on a bride’s big day.

While we are at it, if you know or have an idea what color the wedding party is wearing, avoid that as well. Again, it’s not about you.

Sure, weddings are a great time to dress up and flaunt you best asset, but we recommend just choosing one asset and being respectful about it. This is not the time to wear your best going-out dress so keep your cut outs, short hemlines and deep V-necks at home, friends!

Summer wedding dos

So now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on finding the perfect dress for a summer wedding. Unless a dress code is mentioned on the wedding invite, you can probably safely assume that most weddings are middle ground on the formality scale. Of course, you always will want to dress up, but long gowns most likely won’t be necessary.

Wedding guests should consider the time of day the wedding is when deciding what to wear to a summer wedding. If the wedding is in the morning or early afternoon, you can assume it is more on the casual side. If it is around dinner or later, it’s going to be more formal. You also will want to consider the location when deciding what to wear to a summer wedding. Is the wedding at a barn, country club, garden, beach, church or backyard? The location will certainly steer you toward different looks.

When you step back and consider all the different factors that play into what to wear to a summer wedding, it can be a little overwhelming. We’ve pulled a few of our favorite dresses to give you some ideas of what type of summer wedding they would work well for.


This dress from Liz Claiborne would be a great option for a morning ceremony or a ceremony at a park or garden. We like the lighter, more feminine colors and subtle print, which are perfect for summer. For a garden wedding, add a little more dressiness to your look with a light-colored clutch, strappy heels and dainty, understated jewelry.

If you are on the beach, try something that is flowy and made of a lighter fabric, such as this Gap dress. Pair it with flat sandals (no one wants heels in the sand!) and natural hair. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen!

Middle ground

Most weddings fall into this category. If you have any doubts on what to wear, choose something with these guidelines in mind. This royal blue dress from Mitto has great detailing in the scalloped hemline. We’d pair it with a statement necklace and a fun handbag in a bold print.

Another option is this gorgeous dress from Banana Republic. The lavender color is perfect for summer, and the perforated fabric adds a touch of trendy. Neutral-colored peep-toe heels and pendant earrings would complete this look.

Wear heels (open toed or strappy are more appropriate for summer weather), a clutch (leave the mom bag at home) and dressier, bolder jewelry. You may even consider pulling your hair into a pretty, low bun or curling it.

Semi-formal and above

If you know you must step up your fanciness, find yourself a black dress and you’ll be set. This black cocktail dress from Jessica Howard hits roughly around the knee and is the perfect option for any wedding dress code asking for cocktail or semi-formal attire. It’s commonly advised that, when in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

If a floor-length gown is required because the invite asked for a black or white tie dress code, find a sweeping chiffon gown like this red beauty from Bill Levkoff. The sweetheart neckline is flattering on anyone, and the wide but trendy straps help you avoid the dreaded constant strapless adjustments. Remember to complete your formal looks with sparkling accessories and hair and makeup.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a not-for-profit human services organization that believes in Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. Goodwill NCW is one of four companies in the nation to be honored with a Platinum Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America, which recognizes our commitment to wellness in the workplace. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, 24 human services programs, a unique shopping experience at its Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at, a women’s apparel website, and It offers four Donation Express sites and 10 convenient donation bins throughout the Fox Cities. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit



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