Attending a Cocktail Attire Wedding? Here's What You Should Wear

Hint: It all comes down to standout accessories.
three cocktail attire wedding outfit ideas for men and women
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Aug 10, 2022
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If you're attending a cocktail attire wedding and you're not sure what to wear as a guest, you've come to the right place. Though it's one of the most popular wedding dress codes, it's often used interchangeably with semi-formal attire and can sometimes be challenging to decipher. So, if you find yourself asking, "What is appropriate cocktail attire?" after receiving a wedding invitation, you're not alone. With the help of experts, we're explaining exactly what cocktail wedding attire means and how to accessorize the dress code. Then, for your inspiration, we've handpicked our favorite cocktail attire wedding outfits that you can shop on the spot. Let's get started.

In this article:

    What Is Cocktail Attire for a Wedding?

    Cocktail wedding attire is a slightly more elevated dress code than semi-formal attire but is less formal than formal wedding attire (also known as black-tie optional). However, there are a few nuances that help differentiate a cocktail attire wedding from a semi-formal wedding. For both dress codes, a suit is preferable for men, while women should opt for a cocktail dress or formal jumpsuit. "Cocktail attire challenges you to be creative," says Greg Shugar, CEO and Creative Director of Beau Ties Ltd. "No color is off limits. No pattern is off-limits. And no specific mix or color or pattern is off limits."

    If you do find yourself confused by a wedding dress code, allow the invitation to give you clues for what to wear. "Start with the location, time of day and time of year," says Shugar. "All should give clues right away." An upscale location, like a five-star hotel, would require a more formal outfit, while lighter colors and fabrics would be perfectly suitable for a beach wedding, even for a cocktail attire dress code.

    How to Accessorize Cocktail Wedding Attire

    When it comes to accessorizing cocktail attire, guests should consider adding in a special accessory or two to make their outfit dress-code appropriate. Small details like a sleek tie, cufflinks, fine jewelry or elegant shoes can turn a semi-formal outfit into one that's cocktail attire-approved. Shugar reiterates that accessories are the best way to make any semi-formal outfit cocktail appropriate. "There should be no shortage of accessories. It's events like these for which accessories for guests work best," he says. For women, consider pieces like statement earrings or trendy shoes to give your outfit a formal upgrade. While for men, add a tie (or bow tie), pocket square, cufflinks and a pair of dress shoes (like oxfords or loafers) to take your outfit up a notch.

    Cocktail Wedding Attire for Women

    So, what is considered cocktail attire for a woman? It traditionally skews on the formal side—but that doesn't mean you need to wear a floor-length evening gown. While you might want to leave the mini skirt at home, it's perfectly appropriate to wear a midi cocktail dress or something that hits just above the knee. To modernize the dress code, consider wearing a sleek jumpsuit, a chic suit or a trendy skirt-and-top combo. Guests can opt for eye-catching prints, trendy necklines and vibrant hues depending on the venue, season and overall vibe of the wedding.

    From formal embellished jumpsuits to casual floral frocks, we've gathered the trendiest cocktail attire outfits for women. Best of all, you can rewear any of these picks after the wedding concludes, so it's a win-win.

    ASTR The Label Santorini Floral One-Shoulder Midi Dress in Lilac Multi Floral

    ASTR The Label floral one-shoulder mini dress for cocktail wedding attire

    Cocktail wedding attire doesn't mean you have to sacrifice fun prints—in fact, you should lean into them. From the statement one-shoulder puff sleeve to the draped detailing on the bodice, this midi dress from ASTR the Label is a total showstopper. The multicolored lilac floral print elevates the romantic silhouette even further.

    SuitShop Women's Suit in Dark Green

    SuitShop women's green suit, vest and pants set for cocktail wedding attire

    If you don't want to wear a dress or jumpsuit, you can't go wrong with a sleek suit for cocktail attire. We're simply obsessed with this dark green suit jacket and pants set from SuitShop. The jewel-toned number is crafted from the brand's luxe, stretch-fit fabric for ultimate comfort. Style your outfit with metallic loafers to add some shimmer to your ensemble.

    Adrianna Papell Crystal-Trimmed Crepe Jumpsuit in Midnight

    Adrianna Papell embellished navy jumpsuit for women's cocktail attire for weddings

    A formal wedding guest jumpsuit is an excellent choice for a cocktail attire wedding. The festive twist front and glittering crystal-embellished waistband make it effortlessly cocktail. Wear it with a pair of silver earrings and your favorite heels (bonus points if they're a bright color) to finish off the look.

    ASOS DESIGN Curve Satin Button Through Midi Tea Dress in Green Base Floral Print

    ASOS green floral satin midi dress for spring cocktail wedding attire

    You'll be dressed to impress in this green floral satin midi dress for spring cocktail wedding attire. With a plunging neckline, voluminous long sleeves and mesmerizing botanical print, all you need is silver or gold jewelry and a pair of nude heels to complete this stellar ensemble.

    Reformation Petites Jasen Dress in Forest

    Reformation green petite dress for women's wedding cocktail attire

    The details of this petite dress for cocktail attire are fashion-forward, from the delicate tie straps to the fitted trumpet skirt with ruffle detailing. Style your outfit with statement earrings, dress shoes and a sparkly clutch to add extra pizazz to your cocktail outfit. This style also comes in standard sizes, as well as an array of dreamy botanical prints.

    ELOQUII Sheer Midi Dress with Slip in Black

    ELOQUII black midi dress for cocktail attire with puffed sleeves and allover polka dot pattern

    There's no question that you'll look super stylish wearing this black midi dress for cocktail attire. The sheer puff sleeves are dramatic and fun, while the allover polka dot pattern makes it a fashionable pick. Throw in a vibrant pair of pumps to add color to your outfit.

    V. Chapman Lily Dress in Rose Dust

    V. Chapman soft pink midi dress with tiered ruffles for cocktail wedding dress code

    With whimsical tiered ruffles, soft ruching and delicate bow details, this soft pink midi dress is one of our favorite cocktail wedding styles. The sophisticated design is elevated by fun, playful details, making it a great pick for women's cocktail attire. For your accessories, sparkly jewelry, neutral pumps and a colorful clutch are all worthwhile options.

    Ivy City Co. Whimsical Dress in Slate Blue

    Ivy City Co. ruffled blue maxi dress for cocktail weddings

    Attention boho lovers, this ethereal blue maxi dress is a whimsical dream. It's available in sizes ranging from XXS to 3X, and features dreamy flutter sleeves, a cute ruffled waist and a romantic full-length skirt. Accessorize with an embellished headband, gold or silver jewelry and heeled sandals or pumps.

    NBD Kalindi Midi Dress in Black

    NBD black sequined cocktail wedding guest dress with feather-trimmed skirt

    Other wedding goers will be captivated by this statement-making cocktail wedding guest dress. The strapless silhouette is covered in black glittering sequins and is further elevated with an ostrich feather trim on the midi skirt hem. Pair your bedazzled cocktail outfit with gold or silver jewelry, chic block heels and a stylish clutch.

    Banana Republic One-Shoulder Mini Dress in Purple Planet

    Banana Republic one-shoulder mini cocktail dress for cocktail wedding attire for women

    You'll bring the party in this one-shoulder mini cocktail dress available in standard and tall sizes. The pleated mini skirt hits just above the knee, making it an acceptable pick for cocktail wedding attire. And how eye-catching is the vibrant purple-pink hue? You'll have a blast dancing in this flamboyant number.

    Cocktail Wedding Attire for Men

    Though cocktail attire for men typically includes a suit and tie, guests have the flexibility to experiment with colors, textures and prints. "Starting with the jacket, go for alternative fabrics and textures," Shugar advises. A linen suit would be ideal for summer weddings, while a heavier fabric like velvet, tweed or herringbone would be suitable for cooler months. Pair it with corresponding dress pants and a button-down shirt. For your accessories, you can also play with color and bold prints, especially if your suit is more neutral. "There is no color you can't build around," he says. "But the bolder the color, the less of it you should have." If you opt for a printed bow tie, your pocket square should be a solid color that matches the print—or vice versa. No matter your fashion taste, a pop of color will bring excitement to an otherwise formal outfit.

    Read on for our go-to men's cocktail attire wedding outfits for all year round, from fun colorful suits to versatile black and navy numbers.

    Boss Genius Trim Fit Solid Wool Suit in Blue

    Boss versatile blue suit for cocktail wedding attire for men

    This versatile blue suit can be worn throughout the seasons, making it a must for your wardrobe of formal clothing. Pair this jacket-and-trouser set with a white button-down shirt, cufflinks and a tie of your choice. Stick with solid colors if that fits your style, or go for a novelty print if you're not afraid to experiment.

    Michael Kors Solid Non-Iron Stretch Dress Shirt in White

    DXL big and tall white button-down shirt for men's cocktail wedding attire

    If you'd rather keep your look classic, stick with a no-fail option like a white button-down shirt paired with a solid tie. This dress shirt is specifically designed in big and tall sizes, plus it allows you to select your neck size and sleeve length. Throw in a black suit jacket and coordinating pants for a cocktail wedding attire outfit that's always appropriate, no matter the season.

    Noak 'Tower Hill' Skinny Suit Jacket and Slim Suit Pants in Ice Gray Gray

    Noak light gray skinny cocktail suit jacket and slim suit pants set from ASOS

    If the wedding falls during the warmer months, what about this light gray skinny suit jacket and slim suit pants set? The fabric is crafted from a Super-120s fine pure wool melange with a lightweight feel—perfect for spring or summer functions. Remember: If you do opt for a lighter color, keep it dress-code appropriate with a darker tie and dark dress shoes.

    Bonobos Jetsetter Stretch Wool Suit Jacket in Light Navy

    Bonobos sleek navy suit for wedding cocktail attire

    You'll look as stylish as can be in a sleek navy suit for wedding cocktail attire. The suit is equipped with modern notch labels, a double-button design and an interior pocket to store your essentials. Finish off this look with a white button-down shirt, a fun printed neck tie and brown or black dress shoes.

    Indochino Barnsley Windowpane Hunter Suit in Green

    Indochino hunter-green suit with windowpane design for stylish men's cocktail attire outfit

    Depending on the vibe of the wedding, you can also play around with different prints. The windowpane pattern looks fun and sophisticated on this hunter-green suit. Better yet, it's crafted from a breathable wool and linen blend that's suitable for every season.

    Twisted Tailor Plus Ellroy Skinny Fit Suit Set in Black

    Twisted Tailor plus-size black suit set for cocktail weddings

    You'll be dressed to impress in this plus-size black cocktail suit for weddings. The suit includes regular-rise black suit pants and a tailored suit jacket with shawl lapels, padded shoulders and a skinny fit. All you need to complete your outfit is a pocket square, neck tie and dress shoes.

    Indochino Hemsworth Suit in Burgundy

    Indochino rich burgundy suit jacket and trouser set for fall cocktail wedding attire

    If you're looking for fall cocktail wedding attire, then this rich Burgundy suit is a real winner. Crafted from pure premium wool, this made-to-measure suit is crafted to your unique measurements, so you'll receive your best fit. Plus, Burgundy is a great color alternative to traditional black and blue suits.

    Calvin Klein Men's Infinite Stretch Solid Slim-Fit Suit Jacket in Blue

    Calvin Klein bright blue suit for cocktail wedding attire for women

    You can't go wrong with a formal slim-fit suit for an upcoming cocktail party. This suave style is also suitable for formal and black-tie optional attire, so it's a worthwhile investment for future events. Choose from five versatile colorways, including Blue, Black, Light Grey, Navy and Charcoal.

    Ted Baker London Tampa Slim Fit Stretch Cotton Suit in Olive

    Ted Baker London lightweight cotton suit for outdoor cocktail wedding attire

    For outdoor cocktail weddings, finding a breathable suit is key. This slim-fit suit is made from a lightweight cotton fabric suitable for warmer climates. Plus, it's in a formal-yet-fun Olive Green shade that's perfect for outdoor parties. Style your outfit with a white or printed dress shirt to pop underneath.

    Bolongaro Trevor Skinny Suit Jacket in Khaki Jacquard

    Bolongaro floral jacquard cocktail suit jacket for weddings

    Incorporating a rich jacquard print is a fun way to spice things up, especially if the wedding falls in the fall or winter. The jacket has notch lapels, two-button fastening and boasts a skinny fit. Simply add a white or lightly colored button-down shirt, black dress pants and the dress shoes of your choice.

    Monica Mercuri contributed to the reporting of this article.

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