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12 dresses to wear to this summer's weddings

Great finds for every dress code.

Great finds for every dress code

Black tie. Formal. Semi-formal. Casual. These are the most common dress codes — there's also white tie, "festive", beach attire and more — that might be indicated on the wedding invitations you've received for summer, which is by far the most popular season for nuptials.

Have a few weddings on the calendar and not sure what to wear? You could always rent an outfit for each occasion; but, if you're strategic about your selections, a stylish wedding-guest dress could also be a worthy permanent addition to your wardrobe, making it a smart buy in the long run. And wearing the same dress to multiple weddings, with new accessories or outerwear as required, is always an option as long as there isn't a significant overlap of the guest lists.

To get you started, here are a dozen worthy gowns, organized by wedding type.

Black Tie

Normally, black tie nuptials are formal evening events where men are expected to wear tuxedos and women would opt for floor-length gowns or fancy cocktail dresses. If you're in doubt, err on the side of dressier rather than too casual, especially if the venue is somewhere quite elegant. Look for luxe materials such as silk, lace, and satin, and feel free to embrace fantastic, embellished accessories.

Limited Edition Halter Top Dress, $129, Zara

Jubileeza Dress, $329, Club Monaco

Crêpe & Chiffon Halter Neck Gown, $198, Le Chateau

Formal or Black Tie-Optional

Formal or black tie-optional nuptials are more relaxed than black tie weddings. Men can choose to wear a tailored suit and tie instead of a tux; for women, the attire is similar to black tie: a longer gown, a dressy cocktail dress and smart suiting are all appropriate options. Of course, you'll want to take into account the location and timing of the ceremony and party, too... an evening invite may suggest a more formal gown is required.

Holly Cowl Neck Midi Dress, $199.99, Ever New

Hhariet Fortune Lace Trim Maxi Dress, $559 (on sale for $391), Ted Baker

Icône Floral Lace Mermaid Dress, $119 (on sale for $89.95), Simons

Semi-Formal, Cocktail or Dressy Casual

For a semi-formal wedding, you may want to opt for dresses in brighter colours and shorter, knee-length hemlines (trust us, these dresses will be convenient for a host of other real-life occasions post-wedding). Simple, flattering frocks can be elevated with bold accessories, and you can't go wrong with dressier fabrics and a tailored, fitted design. The only thing to avoid? Anything in bridal white.

Marcia Waist Detail Dress, $335, Reiss

Dress With Sheen, $79.99, H&M

Self Portrait Spiral Midnight Dress, $545 (on sale for $399.95), Simons

Casual or Daytime

A casual or daytime invitation might indicate a city hall ceremony, a waterfront reception or an outdoor party, for example. A great dress, two-piece outfit or jumpsuit can all work, it's simply a matter of preference. Just keep the location and weather top of mind — for example, you may want to forgo delicate silks or satins in favour of breathable, natural fabrics if it will be very hot or humid outdoors, and stiletto heels are a no-go for fêtes on sandy or natural-grass surfaces.

Sky Blue Slip Dress, $110, Hilary MacMillan

Collection Striped Cutout Dress in Stretch Cotton Poplin, $253.50, J. Crew

Floral Print Maxi Dress, $79.90 (on sale for $55.93), Reitmans


Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.

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