The Best Wedding Guest Dresses for Women Over 50
This post was updated on December 3, 2023
Have you received a wedding invitation to a wedding this year? I have been thinking of weddings a lot lately and thought it would be fun to put together a few wedding guest outfits and talk a little about what you might expect if you get an invite.
As older women, we often look forward to upcoming weddings and formal events with a mixture of excitement and trepidations–especially when we are not sure what constitutes a chic outfit in today’s world of more casual dressing. We may also be unsure if we have experienced changes in body shape. Fear not, we have many ideas for you.
If you are going to get married yourself, I wrote a whole post on planning a wedding for couples over 50 and added a few beautiful dresses you are sure to love here.
When I wrote about spring weddings a few years ago, I was surprised at how much had changed in the way of wedding etiquette, as well as how lavish receptions had become- in just a few years. Back then, huge weddings were the rage, along with numerous pre-wedding gatherings leading up to the big day. Destination weddings and weddings held in interesting and unexpected locations were common. You can read the post here.
While all the stops were pulled for the reception, the ceremony was often small, intimate, and fast. Guests often skipped the ceremony in favor of the big bash which some feel is the best part (I love the whole thing, for the record.)
Receptions were packed with activities, with classics like dancing to video game playing stations, lounges, live bands a dance floor, photo booths, and lots of clothing changes for the bride. Entertainment was not limited to live bands, many weddings had entertainers ranging from magicians to fireblowers.
For wedding guests, of a certain age—like me– I always wonder about the dress code, and what to expect at the ceremony and reception. Some weddings are so informal—guests in jeans, the bride in a sundress as in the quintessential beach wedding or barn style wedding—to the complete opposite—formal black-tie affair. Even the most lavish weddings of my youth didn’t hold a candle to modern weddings. And then is the outdoor wedding—so beautiful, yet so unpredictable. One is never certain of the perfect dress.
Well, friends, things have changed again!
Most couples still create a wedding website with a registry allowing you to purchase and send the wedding gift, a calendar of events, dress codes (if you are lucky), and directions to venues. I love those customized wedding websites!
Weddings are considerably smaller than before, with more emphasis on the ceremony. Small weddings don’t necessarily mean less lavish, today’s weddings are often held at bed and breakfasts and small boutique hotels where family and friends are put up for what is often a long weekend’s worth of activities and theoretically kept together in a “pod” to prevent the spread of illness.
Gone are buffets, and carving stations. More frequently, and hygienically, you will find table service along with beautiful individual wedding cakes. You may even find “pod” seating—tables set apart from one another so groups of people who know each other can stay together—you will also find place cards used more frequently to help keep family and friends in small groups. We will be seeing more outdoor weddings in backyards, woodlands, beaches, and lakeside.
Don’t be surprised if you are invited to a wedding held during the week. Wedding venues are booked—thus it is not uncommon for a bride to choose a weekday to have the location she wants.
Live streaming weddings have become popular, allowing friends and family uncomfortable gatherings in person, an opportunity to be a part of the event. We attended a live-stream wedding last year. It was nice to be included and reminded that love endures even pandemics. Also, because no one saw us, we were able to dress as we pleased.
A few tips
Notes on today’s etiquette…
- RSVP quickly
- Don’t assume a “plus one” unless the invitation specifically says “plus one”
- Don’t be surprised if children aren’t invited is becoming more common.
- Arrive early to the ceremony
- Send a gift or card if you can’t attend.
Whether the formal dress is requested or you’ve been invited to a casual do, weddings are one special occasion we all get excited about—and it’s a great time to get something new. Crisp temperatures can be challenging when dressing for an outdoor fall wedding, but there is a wonderful range of fabrics and colors to consider when shopping for a dress to wear to autumnal nuptials.
Meanwhile, spring and summer weddings may inspire bright colors, or a bold print—spring and summer weddings are the season for wedding guest attire. You may want to try a top trend or choose something
Women over 50 can enjoy a large number of flattering and stylish options to wear to weddings. Thanks to the “modesty” trend, which has been making its way into the mainstream for the past couple of years, you will find lots of midi dresses and maxi dresses, long sleeves, and high necklines.
Depending on your body type, you can try a dress with modern cutouts, bold colors, a floral print, or a cinched waist. A faux-wrap dress looks great on all figure types and is a favorite wedding guest dress. Make sure you have a wrap, shrug, or pretty sweater if you have been invited to an outdoor wedding, as one never knows how cool or warm it may be.
Consider jacket dresses or elegant trouser suits. when selecting a skirt length, choose knee to midi length for informal weddings, and floor length for more formal events.
A few beautiful looks:
Deep rich jewel tones, warm neutrals, and moody floral prints take center stage in terms of color and pattern trends right now. The best fabrics for cool evenings are thick and lush, such as a heavy crepe, taffeta, boucle, or plush velvets, whichare a great choice in the cooler months. Cooler temperatures in the evening can be remedied with an elegant shawl, or for a casual outdoor fall wedding, a cute denim jacket or a leather jacket over a satin slip dress can be a great look and perfect for cool chilly temperatures.
Look for dresses with long sleeves or puffed sleeves, but avoid flutter sleeves or sleeveless numbers unless the wedding is held indoors. An A-line dress is great if you are looking to style an apple body shape, while fit and flare dresses and wrap dresses are great for most all body types–and make for a perfect wedding guest outfit.
Many of the trending dresses have a single dramatic feature, an open back, one shoulder, or a deep v-neck. Black and other dark colors are no longer forbidden though don’t wear colors too close to the bride’s dress. The wedding website or invitation will often give more detail on the bride’s color palette—some are quite specific so be sure to check.
I saw one invite requesting guests wear vintage golf attire—it’s important to read the invitation and website carefully!
Naturally, the type of wedding —its level of formality plays a role in what to wear. Backyard nuptials, beach weddings, and woodland venues can be very casual. You can even consider cocktail attire, a black dress, or a lovely halter gown.
If you are going to a very informal wedding but still want to look chic—I’ve got you. Mainly though, I will share the best dresses for a wedding guest—a mature—but not frumpy wedding guest, so you will look amazing for the wedding season.
While finding a bag to match perfectly is serendipity, a good bag that goes with many occasions outfits is a great way to go if you don’t want to have too many evening bags..
For the shoe lover, any chance to get dressed up and wear an amazing pair of shoes is good. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right shoe. Consider skin tone or clear “Cinderella slippers”–they go with everything.
In the US, wedding guests rarely wear hats to weddings. However, in Europe, hats are commonly worn. In the UK a fascinator is a common addition to one’s ensemble.
Where to shop:
I have found beautiful wedding guest-worthy dresses in a variety of places—we were just at Nordstrom Rack where I saw several stunning cocktail dresses marked down significantly. Consignment shops—especially those specializing in special occasion clothing are another great option.
Rent the Runway is also a possibility if you don’t want to add a new dress to your collection. If you end up falling in love with the dress, you can buy it. To have the full experience, try Neiman Marcus or Saks—and to shop online, Net-a-porter or My Theresa are good spots to try. The light pink dress I am wearing came from Ted Baker, and the blue and white dress came from Boston Proper, Unfortunately, they are not still available, but we have many similar dresses below.
Black Tie Wedding
Black-tie weddings typically take place in the afternoon, followed by cocktails, a sit-down dinner, and dancing. The invitation will call for a black tie, requiring men to wear a tuxedo and women a full-length gown. The black-tie wedding is the opportunity to be a little extra, so look for dresses with drama, off-shoulder looks, lace, and a little sparkle.
Consider this beautiful off- shoulder metalic dress by Rickie Freeman for Teri Jon.
If you would like a little more coverage without compromising the glam factor, this gorgeous Crepe Asymmetric gown is perfection. It will flatter many body types as well.
Casual weddings can run the gambit. The wedding invitation, location, and maybe a word from the bride will help you put together just the right dress. A beautiful jumpsuit, a sundress, or a chic
This beautiful dress is perfect for a casual wedding and is super easy on the pocketbook! The Label Santorini Floral One-Shoulder Dress The other great thing about this dress is that it can go anywhere–including vacations, date night, and brunch with friends.
This chic and comfortable jumpsuit is easy on and off–that’s a thing as we all know, and it’s so chic. It can be worn to a variety of weddings and date nights too. Black Halo Halter Jumpsuit. I bought a jumpsuit like this a few years ago and still wear it to special events. I did a whole post on how I styled a black jumpsuit here.
Chic Cocktail Party Wedding
A formal but not black-tie wedding calls for what I call the chic cocktail party look. Many wedding receptions are taking place in chic cocktail lounges and dinner clubs. This is where you want an evening dress, but not necessarily a long dress. After the wedding, you could wear a dress like this to a holiday party or a special date night. MacDugal Embellished Halterneck Midi
Spring and Summer Wedding Guest Dresses
Super casual weddings are often hosted in warm weather–barns and vineyards are popular with brides these days. Finding a dress that is appropriate–not too formal, not too casual is the delicate balance we try to hit with spring and summer weddings. As always the bride’s theme is important to keep in mind.
This beautiful dress is perfect for an informal spring or summer wedding. I would also wear it to brunch and out to lunch. Dress by Rebecca Tayler Wild Penny Tiered midi dress.
This flirty dress is just the right length–not too short, but still shows a little leg. Black Halo Aubrey Bow Neck Mini Dress.
Fall and Winter Wedding Guest Dresses
I wrote a sister post to this one all about fall and winter dresses. You can check it out here, but to whet your appetite, here is a lovely dress perfect for fall and winter weddings as well as holiday parties. I don’t know about you, but I like my formal wear to do double duty. I love a good evening dress and can’t bear to see a beautiful dress worn just once. While this dress is quite pricey dresses I feature in my fall and winter wedding guest posts are a mix so are dresses at several price points. This one is so gorgeous, I just couldn’t resist showing it. Lela Rose Metalic Floral gown
Wraps and Shrugs
A simple cardigan looks great over strappy sundresses, while not taking away from their vibe.
Whenever I come across a neutral-colored shrug I pick it up. They are so handy!
Neutral-colored scarves or bold silks are great to have in your collection for cool nights or a little arm covering.
I did a post dedicated to fall and winter weddings, you can find it here. It’s packed with beautiful dresses at a variety of price points.
If you have been invited to an upcoming wedding, let me know in the comments below–I’d love to hear what you chose to wear.