Best Dressed Looks For An Outdoor Wedding

Attending an outdoor wedding is an experience on its own. It can be particularly thrilling if all the weddings you were invited to before were inside elaborate halls at high-end hotels. The novelty of going to the beach, a forest, or a backyard to celebrate someone's nuptials can make your head swim with ideas. Can you attend in casual attire? How casual can it get? Do you really have to wear a long and elegant gown and pull out your stilettos? 

While what you choose to wear for an outdoor celebration could be different from what you'd pick for an indoor affair, there are still considerations like climate and venue, according to author and fashion designer Lauren Conrad. You want to look great, feel comfortable, and respect the tone of the wedding as well. Even if the entire wedding setup doesn't call for classically formal clothing, you wouldn't want to turn up in yoga pants and flip-flops (via Soxy); there are things you should wear to a wedding, and there are things you shouldn't.  

According to Brides, you'd have to pay attention to footwear with outdoor weddings. In most cases, the bride and groom would give you an indication of a dress code, but in situations when a dress code isn't specified, sticking to semi-formal clothing would be the safest thing to do (via Lauren Conrad). If the dress code is set, here are some looks to choose from.

White-tie wedding

When it comes to pondering what you can wear when the dress code is white-tie, you're going to want to think as formally as you can. Although this dress code isn't the most popular with outdoor weddings, it doesn't mean the couple won't decide to take this route (via Brides). The good thing about the dress code is that it is quite direct regarding what's appropriate and what's not. Floor-length, elegant dresses, intricately styled hair, and beautiful jewelry would best describe this dress code, per The Knot. Heels and gloves could complete the look, but you don't have to wear either if you're worried about being uncomfortable, reports Brides.

Black-tie nuptials

This is another dress code that brings ballrooms to mind (via Style Me Pretty); what you can dress in when the invitation says black-tie closely resembles white-tie events, but it's not quite as fancy, per Brides. Stylist Grace Thomas, speaking to Brides, shares that floor-length dresses would work here as well, or "a gown made of a luxe material such as lace, silk, chiffon, or velvet." Complementing your look with tasteful jewelry is recommended, and so is classy footwear, according to Who What Wear. If you're not a fan of really long dresses, anything below the knee could work too, says fashion stylist Sarah Nearis to Who What Wear.

Black-tie optional

For a black-tie optional outdoor wedding, it's best to stick close to the black-tie vibe (via Brides) with the longest dress you can find, but this doesn't mean you can't get a little more creative and attend the nuptials sporting stylish separates or even an elegant cocktail dress, according to Emily Post. A smart pair of pants are perfect for anyone who doesn't enjoy wearing gowns, per Brides. You definitely have a little more freedom with this dress code. Understanding what the black-tie optional dress code means might make things clearer. 

Cocktail dress code

Choose a gown that's between mini and midi-length and something that is elegantly modest, per Who What Wear. You don't always have to think of dresses when the dress code is cocktail attire; a sophisticated-looking pair of pants will work just fine. Pair the look with a clutch and minimal jewelry. "Women should still opt for a style that is on the dressier side, but a wider range of options are available," shares stylist Grace Thomas, speaking to Brides.

Semi-formal dress code

We're moving towards the more casual end of things with this dress code, and anything from knee-length dresses and casual maxi dresses to even jumpsuits would be appropriate here, according to stylist and founder of Builtgracefully Grace Thomas. "Think of styles that are more daytime rather than evening attire," she shares with Brides. If you have any doubts about which end of the casual to formal spectrum the dress code falls into, you can always ask the bride or the groom, per The Spruce. When it comes to fabric choice, think silk or satin and pair the look with tastefully worn jewelry. 

Casual attire

This is probably closest to the dress code you envisioned when you first received your invite to an outdoor wedding, and while there is a lot of freedom with the attire, try to keep the weight of the occasion in mind here as well, per Brides. Casual dress code on an invite is a great time to embrace floral and earthy prints on flowy gowns (via Dress for the Wedding), and if you're opposed to dresses, you can choose a jumpsuit or a pantsuit. 

Festive dress code

When you arrive at festive, you can finally think fun and go for the bolder clothing options that really speak to your personality, per Brides. "Within this dress code, you'll want to think 'party' when dressing," shares the founder of Builtgracefully Grace Thomas. A festive dress code is usually one that follows a theme wedding, according to Green Envelope. Even if a theme isn't mentioned, don't be afraid to reach for color and prints to complete your look, whether it's with accessories or your footwear. 

Tropical attire

If you're thinking vacation vibes with the dress code, you might just be right. The tropical attire is all about celebrating the couple's big day in a casual and carefree way. You're going to want to ditch the silks and satins and reach for cotton or linen (via Brides) and also leave the darker colors at home and choose lighter and brighter shades, per Leaf TV. The weather at the venue of choice will also become a factor to consider, according to Brides. Understanding the hottest trends in a tropical destination wedding fashion can help. 

How you should be dressed for an outdoor wedding will depend on the venue

It goes without saying that what makes outdoor weddings unique is the venue. You could be transported to a starlit location that gives you goosebumps, or you could find yourself staring into the vast blue ocean as your beloved friends say "I do." Or you might just be attending a garden wedding, a trend that picked up in 2022, per Hello! Magazine. Much like the dress code, the venue is going to dictate some elements of your look as a guest. 

The best look for a beach wedding

Sand in your toes, breeze in your hair, and humidity depending on the time of day are all realities of a beach wedding. As a guest, you're going to want to prioritize comfort, and while you can certainly do that, you don't have to compromise on style. Think lightweight when it comes to materials and floral prints or shades of the ocean with colors, per Destination Wedding Details. The dress code can dictate the length of your gown. While you might be tempted to slip off your shoes so you don't get any sand in them, you can keep a pair of sandals, flats, or even heels in the car if you change your mind (via The Brighton Savoy).

What to wear to a backyard wedding

A backyard wedding, which brings to mind something intimate and personal, offers quite a lot of variety in terms of clothing choices. You can select between pastel colors and floral or earthy prints when it comes to shades and designs, and anything from short to floor-length gowns when it comes to weather concerns or personal preference (via Wardrobe Shop). Again, don't be afraid to ask the couple if they're going for a very laid-back vibe or prefer something a little more formal, reports Backyard I Do.  

The best garden wedding look

While you might be tempted to pull out the floral prints and pastel shades for a garden wedding (and these would be more than appropriate), you don't have to stop there. You can choose figure-flattering attire and even opt for lacework in your gown, according to Outfit Trends. If the thought of dresses makes you cringe, choose an elegant jumpsuit instead, per Fabulous After 40. With blossoms and greenery as your companions at the wedding, you're sure to feel whimsical no matter which you choose.

How to dress for a forest wedding

The forest's magic has added the spot to a list of increasingly popular venues for outdoor weddings, per The Kit. In fact, floral design artist Rosalie Villanueva loves the challenge these venues represent. "I love to create 'growing' and organic installations that look like they sprung from the earth and you just happened to stumble across in a magical landscape," she shares. As a guest, you can either take a hint from the venue and incorporate the essence (and shades) of the forest into your clothing choice, or you could stick to a classic and opulent deep velvet (via Popsugar). 

The best look for a farm wedding

The first thing that would likely pop into your head if you were to be invited to a farm wedding is the word "rustic," and you might do well to draw from this for inspiration. While you might be able to get away with a dark-hued pair of jeans (if the dress code isn't on the more formal side of things), you may want to check with the hosts just to make sure, according to Krostrade. You can, however, pay attention to comfort and safety (think flowing bits of clothing getting caught to farm infrastructure). Stripes and florals are perfect choices to fit the farm setting (via Yeah Weddings). 

The seasons might dictate how you should dress for an outdoor wedding

What you don't want to be feeling as a guest at a wedding is extremely cold, intensely hot and sweaty, or dangerously close to having your skirt blown away by the wind. The changing seasons play a big part in how you should be dressed for an outdoor wedding. While you may not have to worry about getting invited to an alfresco affair with snowflakes for company (via Brides), dressing for the right time of the year can let you have a good time without worrying about the weather and what it may bring once the proceedings start. 

A winter wedding outdoors

Your first thought before attending a winter wedding outside might be to stay warm. And, while you're absolutely right in thinking that way, you don't have to compromise on style in order to have warmth, per Martha Stewart. Event planner and founder of A Day in May Alicia Fritz shares with Martha Stewart, "A long tweed skirt with a cashmere sweater and a great pump make a wonderful winter wedding outfit." While wool clothing can offer layering and warmth, opt for darker tones to fit the mood (via Brides).  

What to wear to a fall wedding

Even though not as cold as the winter months, fall does come with its particular challenges of chilly climate and rain, according to Bustle. If you don't want to lug a lumpy jacket along with you, you can choose from an array of options — long dress with full sleeves, flared trousers, a gown with a cape that is sure to keep you warm, or even a classy blazer worn over your choice of dress. As for appropriate colors, all you have to do is mimic the changing colors of the trees around you, per Brides. "A palette of gold, orange, rust, or sapphire are beautiful colors to wear during this season," highlights stylist Grace Thomas.

A spring wedding is perfect for the outdoors

It is not only the bride who'll have wedding dresses that are on-trend for spring. You will be spoilt for choice if you are ever invited for a spring wedding outdoors as well, per Adrianna Papell. The season offers the best choices. While pastels and lighter hues become the naturally fitting choices, when it comes to materials, opt for "breathable" ones, according to Brides. A casual jumpsuit works just as well, too. 

A summer wedding outside

Your clothing can be strappier, your colors can be brighter, and the materials should be as airy as possible (via Brides). You don't want to sweat through layers, heavy fabric, or darker tones at an outdoor wedding. Even though it might be respectable to be as modest as you can, style expert Blaire Walsh, speaking to Wedding Wire, recommends "cutout details, open backs, or skin-baring necklines." Once again, a quick call to the bride or groom to double-check the dress code won't hurt.