Achieve the Model Off-Duty Look With Our Editor Pant

Wedding Guest Dresses by the Venue

The surest signs that winter is behind us? Birds singing. Sun shining. And your mailbox filling up with save-the-dates and invitations to the wedding season ahead. It used to be that everyone got married the same way. (In a church, followed by a reception in a tent or ballroom.) Not so today, where no two weddings are even remotely alike. There are barn weddings and beach bashes, garden galas and museum meet-ups, city hall soirees and everything in between.


It’s fun to be a guest at a range of wedding venues, especially if you know just what to wear. Our guide to all the wedding venues you might encounter—and exactly what to wear to each—lies ahead.

Barn Wedding Dresses


A barn wedding doesn’t mean you’ll be mucking stalls, so no need to dress down too much. 


The dress: You’ll want to avoid synthetic fabrics with shine or sheen which can look out of place in a natural setting. Another vibe that could look out of place? Your favorite little black dress. Instead opt for natural materials like cotton or linen. Botanical patterns or prints are also welcome, and the length of course is up to you. A maxi dress will catch a breeze in a lovely way for photos, but may drag a bit as your tromping through grass or on dirt paths. As for color? Pastels and primaries will pop against blue skies and green grass; tropical tones may look a skosh too saturated. 


The shoes: A wedge is great choice for a barn wedding, since a stiletto will just punch through soft lawns. You also might like a block heel or even a flat sandal. Depending on the formality of the event—you could ask, or trust your instincts—a great pair of white sneakers could also be sweet with the right dress.


Express Barn Wedding Dresses
Express Womens Beach Wedding Dresses

Beach Wedding Dresses


Beach weddings are a blast. Prepare for changing weather, though.


The dress: The flowier, the better. No one plans a beach wedding if they want their guests to feel stuffy and overly formal. And beach weddings can be hot—sometimes, uncomfortably so—meaning sweaty, synthetic fabrics and long sleeves should be worn with caution. Skip anything constrictive or embellished, and instead opt for loose and lovely. Prints and patterns are welcome, as are solid tones that coordinate with the local flora and fauna. For instance, salmon and robin’s egg blue would sing for a Nantucket wedding; lime green and zingy pink would be more at home in Jamaica. And be sure you’ve got something for your shoulders, especially if the ceremony is later in the day. An oversized jean jacket or a gauzy pashmina could keep you warm when the wind picks up or a sun shower rolls in. 


The shoes: Sandals reign supreme. Some weddings might be sand-in-the-toes, so best to come outfitted with something you won’t mind kicking off.

Garden Wedding Dresses



There’s something quietly fancy about a garden wedding; as such, your wardrobe should meet the occasion. 


The dress: A garden, by nature, is a place of purposeful beauty. Which means this is a time to opt for a dress with frills, ruffles, embroidery or anything extra. Maybe you’ve got a dress with a great oversized bow. Go for it! Maybe you’ve been dying to try a taffeta skirt, or a bejeweled neckline. Now’s the time. Flowers never hang back, and neither should you. Counterintuitively, wearing a floral to a garden party can be overly busy. Instead, stick with solid tones and let the extra details and accessories do the talking. The only extra that you might want to skip? Sequins tend to feel nightclub-ready—which might feel funny midday amidst the roses.

The shoes: Much like a barn wedding, a wedge is a great choice for a garden gathering since a stiletto will just punch through soft lawns. Some gardens, though, are outfitted with bluestone paths or gravel walkways. (Take a look online beforehand if you’re curious.) In those cases, you may be able to get away with a more formal—slightly more finicky—heel. 




Express Womens Garden Wedding Dress
Express Womens Vineyard Wedding Dress

Vineyard Wedding Dresses


Vineyard weddings have a subdued elegance that makes dressing a breeze. 


The dress: Unlike a barn or garden wedding, most vineyard weddings aren’t out in the elements, and instead are situated on patios, terraces or under tents. The point here is to enjoy a vineyard vista, not to be traipsing amongst the grapevines. As such, your dress can be more formal. A long black gown or a rich jewel tone would look magnificent against a vineyard's rolling hills. Dress and shoes in a single color could create a sleek and polished look. Even if the event isn’t specified as black tie, a vineyard wedding is luxe and sophisticated. 


The shoes: Sky-high stilettos. Your strappiest sandals. A vineyard wedding is a time to step out in the shoes you’re most excited about. Booties, flat sandals and sneakers might be out of place, depending on the formality of the affair.