Since our anniversary is in October, I’ve always had a bias for fall weddings. There’s something romantic about celebrating love amidst the change of seasons, and there’s no better time of year to dress up!
That being said, it rained on our day, and while they say it’s good luck, it’s also the perfect example of how fall weddings can be tricky to shop for. Between unpredictable weather, dress codes, and settings, what do you wear as a guest?
Dressing for a wedding in any season is all about remaining event-appropriate while having fun with your personal style. The sweet spot is looking classy and respectful but feeling like yourself! To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider, outfit ideas by dress code and setting, and fall wedding guest dresses to shop!
Fall Wedding Guest Outfits
What to Wear to a Fall Wedding as a Guest
What to Wear to a Casual Fall Wedding
Check whether the wedding is indoors or outdoors and the time of day it’s taking place as this will guide your outfit choice. Daytime weddings tend to be casual, offer flexibility and a chance to express your personal style. A few guidelines:
- Dress Style: Something you’d wear to a fancy restaurant (vs. a cocktail dress or gown).
- Dress Length: Short, midi, and maxi.
- Colors: Prints or solids.
- Accessories: Elevated but not glitzy.
Fall Beach Wedding
There may be some lingering heat at the beach, so a moody floral dress in a breathable fabric, like the linen-blend dress above, is a great option. Style it with a wrap to keep you warm as the sun sets, shoes you can slip on once you’re off the sand, and metallic accessories that nod to autumn (versus beachy materials, like raffia). Another option could be a dress with sheer sleeves. I’d try to avoid satin and silk as sweat can show through those materials.
It’s not unusual to see an invitation for a farm or barn wedding suggest “festive” dress, which means western-inflected styling that’s chic but not custumey. Try a boho-leaning dress with boots if you’re daring or, my preference, heels (grass-friendly if necessary) and a western accessory, like a double buckle belt, or fringe clutch. If the invitation doesn’t state festive, a dressy midi or maxi in a fall hue or print should work well!
Casual Backyard Wedding
No two backyards are alike, so use the venue as inspiration (a giant mansion vs. a quaint backyard). There’s a lot of variability, from a casual BBQ to a Cinderella black-tie setting. When in doubt, ask someone in the bridal party. For a casual setting, I styled this long-sleeve floral dress by ASTR (one of my favorite brands for occasion dresses under $300) with strappy gold heels
Dressy Backyard Wedding
Reformation is one of my go-to brands for casual and semi-formal wedding guest dresses in the $200-$400 price range. What I love about their styles is that, while not at the price point of something super spendy like Zimmermann, the designs are well-done, the colors are beautiful, and you’ll find yourself reaching for them year over year for different occasions. This floral dress could look super glam with crystal accessories for a fancy occasion, feel laid back with block heels and a simple clutch, or be worn later on a fall date night with a velvet blazer and mules.
Shop Casual Fall Wedding Guest Dresses
What to Wear to a Semi-Formal/Cocktail Fall Wedding
Semi-formal and cocktail are often used interchangeably, with semi-formal in the gray area between casual and formal and cocktail firmly on the dressy side. Things to consider:
- Dress Style: Flexibility with hemlines, colors, and patterns in nice fabrics, like silk-blend and chiffon, finished with embellished jewelry and nice shoes.
- Dress Length: Short, knee-length, and midi, or an elegant jumpsuit.
- Colors: Elevated prints, jewel tones (emerald, cobalt), seasonal colors (burgundy, navy, marigold), and neutrals.
- Accessories: For semi-formal, nice accessories. For cocktail, beaded and statement accessories.
Vineyard or Villa
Our wedding was at a vineyard with cocktail attire, but when in doubt, check the invitation. If the ceremony is on grass, a block heel could be key. In our case, the indoor reception was a few short steps away, so guests got away with stilettos. I’m always looking for an excuse to dress up, so I think this deep olive midi dress by AMUR is a beautiful semi-formal option. Paired with a pashmina and accessories in bronze (a perfect metallic shade for autumn), this look just feels like fall!
Garden weddings are typically semi-formal as opposed to cocktail, so the attire is open to interpretation. Try experimenting with seasonal colors and dark florals in flowy fabrics (chiffon, silk, cupro). This fall-ready Significant Other print above comes in sleeved, sleeveless, and cutout options for various temperatures, and I love these on-trend but practical block heel platforms from STAUD.
Hotel and restaurant rooftops tend to be ritzy and call for cocktail attire. It’s a great chance to lean into streamlined silhouettes and dark solids (seasonal colors or neutrals, like black and brown) or an elegant jumpsuit. Zimmermann’s silk dresses are some of the most enduring in my wardrobe even though they are pricey. They are extremely flattering and the quality is excellent. This is a similar option under $100.
The dress code for a social club is similar to a rooftop (cocktail) but maybe even more modern. I’d opt for a short cocktail dress and feel okay tipping the scales toward a “going out” look with a slightly more sultry feel overall. This Cult Gaia dress is flying off the shelves this season (I have it and can speak to how flattering it is in person). If you’re looking for a midi-length style, this Self-Portrait gold dress is my top choice and would go with all the accessories shown above. The Larroude Annie heels are hands down my favorite event heel at the moment (the placement of the straps is very elongating). I have these shoes in three colors (they run true to size).
Shop Cocktail and Semi-Formal Fall Wedding Guest Dresses
What to Wear to a Formal or Black Tie Fall Wedding
Formal and black tie is as dressy as it gets, offering an opportunity to play with your personal style! Push yourself toward varying textures and fabrications that will keep you comfortable in fluctuating temperatures, like silk, satin, velvet, lace, and sparkles. If the invite says black tie optional, there’s some leeway on dress length. A few guidelines:
- Dress Style: Formal gowns that touch the ground or top of the shoes.
- Dress Length: When in doubt, a floor-length gown.
- Colors: Solids (seasonal or neutral).
- Accessories: Dressy shoes, a formal handbag, and refined jewelry like pearls and diamonds. Consider a coordinating wrap, capelet, or dressy jacket.
Art galleries tend to have a modern feel with stunning architecture, so try echoing the style with a solid dress in a streamlined, fitted shape from a brand like Ramy Brook, KHAITE, Self Portrait, or A.L.C. There are so few opportunities to get this dressed up in life, so take advantage! I love how this Self Portrait dress balances the head turning embellishments with a more covered silhouette. It doesn’t need much other than simple heels, a textural clutch, crystal jewelry, and a vampy red lip to complete the look.
Ballrooms in hotels and country clubs tend to lean traditional. Any floor-length gown could work, and you could even try a ball gown with a fuller skirt, but I love side-slit peplum gown by Zac Posen. Velvet is a fabric I typically reserve for the winter months, but the neckline, slit, and overall cut of this dress should keep you cool enough for a mid to late fall ceremony. I would do a red lip, navy eye, and glam hair for a vintage hollywood feel.
Shop Formal Black Tie and Fall Wedding Guest Dresses
What to Wear to a Fall Wedding to Stay Warm
Choosing the best fall wedding guest is about two things: being mindful of dress code and being seasonally-appropriate. For the latter, fabrication and cut are key! Unless the wedding is outdoors in a warm climate (beach wedding), dresses that provide more coverage and have thicker fabrics (satin, silk, velvet) can be helpful for keeping warm.
Other ways to stay warm in fluctuating temperatures (an early evening outdoor wedding that extends into the evening as it gets cooler) are with a pashmina or wrap. A dressy blazer, crop jacket, or capelet is also a good option for semi-formal and formal ceremonies.
Choosing Accessories for Fall Weddings
I’m guilty of leaving my shoes and accessories to the last minute, and there’s nothing worse than realizing you don’t have a key component to your outfit the day of an event (especially for semi-formal and formal settings where the style of your accessories play a larger role).
Less is more when it comes to jewelry, especially if your dress is printed. For example, a chandelier earrings or a necklace, but not both together. For your bag, fall is a great season for metallics, so consider a silver or gold bag (or one with metallic hardware). As for shoes, it depends on the setting, but when in doubt, a dressy block heel for grassy settings is safe. And don’t be afraid to bring an extra pair in case you plan to dance the night away!
Last but not least, a layer may be necessary to stay warm if temperatures are set to plummet in the evening. A pashmina or wrap for casual, semi-formal, and cocktail settings is best while a beaded or lacy capelet, formal jacket, or blazer will pair nicely with a floor-length gown.
What Colors are Best for a Fall Wedding?
I know it goes without saying, but white, pale blush, cream, and ecru are nos unless it’s requested. There are few wedding etiquette rules that aren’t antiquated these days, but that’s one of them! I also try to stay away from anything too revealing that takes attention away from the bride.
Avoid pastels and summery prints and opt for seasonal colors, like classic autumn tones (navy, marigold, burgundy), jewel tones (emerald green, cobalt, fuchsia), and neutrals, or dressy fall prints (dark florals, sophisticated bohemian prints).