What to Wear to an Engagement Party as a Guest

Style experts weigh in on sartorial dos and don'ts.
Engagement party champagne toast
Photo: Vasyl Zabuga / Shutterstock
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
The Knot Fashion Contributor
  • Elle writes for The Knot online with a focus on fashion, covering gown design trends and shoppable accessories.
  • Elle is a contributor to wedding publications across the country, including Brides, The New York Times Vows and Modern Luxury Weddings.
  • Prior to shifting to weddings, Elle covered lifestyle, culture and celebrity across Chicago as the editor of the Chicago Tribune’s SPLASH magazine, where she interviewed cele...
Updated Dec 15, 2023
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It can be challenging to determine what to wear to an engagement party—it's typically the very first celebration for a couple, and they may not have had time to figure out or dictate an aesthetic for their wedding journey (and guests) just yet. But, there are some clear dos and don'ts for engagement party attire, according to the experts. We tapped two: Julie Sabatino is the founder of New York City-based The Stylish Bride (her book, Dressed, Styled, and Down the Aisle, releases in March 2024). Selina Howard is the stylist and creative director behind Vainglorious Brides in Atlanta. For engagement party dressing, they both say that the most important thing is that you put in the effort to look nice.

"My philosophy is that it's an honor to be invited to a party like this to celebrate someone, and the most respectful and courteous thing you can do for your hosts is to dress up and dress appropriately," Sabatino says. Howard agrees. "Regardless of the dress code, always ensure that your overall appearance is neat and well-put-together. This shows respect for the occasion and the couple. Remember, an engagement party is a celebration of the couple's love and commitment. By dressing appropriately, you show your support while ensuring the focus remains on the soon-to-be-wed duo."

So, looking nice is a do. The first big don't? Don't ask the couple what to wear; they have enough on their plates. "You can chat in conversation with the couple if it comes up, but don't start texting them about your outfit," Sabatino says. Instead, chat with other friends who might be attending, consult a stylist, or, better yet, start by reading this guide.

In this article:

What to Wear to an Engagement Party as a Guest

In selecting what to wear, start with the dress code, Sabatino says. Next, consider the venue and seasonality. Engagement party attire can run the gamut—many couples today are even hosting themed engagement parties—but "cocktail attire is what we mostly see," Sabatino says. "If it calls for cocktail attire, guys should wear a jacket and tie, and women should wear a dress or a fancy pantsuit." Time of day can also dictate engagement party fashion. "If it's outdoors or during the daytime, you can opt for lighter fabrics and more casual outfits," Howard says. "If the event is held in a formal setting [at night], choose a more sophisticated outfit."

As always with fashion, "Don't be afraid to add a personal touch to your outfit," Howard says. "Accessorize wisely with statement jewelry, a fashionable belt, or a stylish tie. For women, footwear can make all the difference, so choose something that complements your attire and ensures comfort for a long evening. Men can experiment with pocket squares or cufflinks to add a touch of personality to their outfits."

Engagement Party Attire Etiquette You Should Know

You want to be yourself, of course, but etiquette plays a huge role when dressing for events intended to celebrate someone else. Here are some factors to consider.

Following the Engagement Party Dress Code

You should be able to find the engagement party dress code clearly outlined on the invitation. (Here Sabatino adds a note for couples: "Don't make it difficult. You want to be fun and clever and different as the host, but you either need to be explicit [about the attire] or stick to a dress code that guests can Google.") The most common engagement party attire is cocktail. This calls for a knee-length or longer dress for ladies, and a jacket and tie for guys. Avoid anything super short, Sabatino notes. "My advice is that, for women, you don't want to be overly sexy."

"Casual" is another common party dress code, but be careful here—you still want to look nice. "If the party is listed as casual, you could probably wear jeans," Sabatino says (with a bit of a wince.) "Even if it says casual, you want to come in something a little nice. There's a lot of dressy denim these days, but no ripped jeans."

Wearing White to an Engagement Party

White is way off-limits for the wedding, but can you wear white to an engagement party? Still no, say the experts (unless it is explicitly stated that guests should wear white). "As a guest, don't wear white; this [applies] to all wedding events," Sabatino says. "The bride may or may not choose to wear it, but it doesn't matter. If she does, you don't want to be wearing it."

Sabatino often gets asked about the rule for dresses that have a white base with a pattern on top—and the answer depends on the percentage of white, she says. "If it's got a cream background but is mostly floral, it's probably fine. But, I think that doubt means don't; if you're wondering if it's appropriate, then it's a no."

Choosing a Dress for an Engagement Party

No matter the dress code, the goal is that the focus be on the couple. So, when selecting an engagement party guest outfit, "you need to choose something that doesn't make you the center of attention," Sabatino says. "With women, I think of super sexy, short, low-cut, revealing things—not appropriate for this moment."

Consult the invite again to see what you might be doing at the party. Will you be sitting and eating, playing games, dancing? In this case and just in general, "always prioritize comfort when choosing your outfit," Howard advises. "You want to feel confident and at ease throughout the event. For women, opt for a dress or jumpsuit that is not too restrictive and complements your body type. For men, a well-tailored suit or blazer with a dress shirt and trousers will exude both style and comfort."

If this is all starting to sound a bit expensive, don't worry, you've got options. Try a rental service like Rent the Runway, Sabatino suggests. "Or perhaps use something you already have that's neutral and dress it up or down with accessories. Girls have 8 or 10 weddings a year sometimes, and it's expensive to buy outfits for all of this stuff—so if you buy a great-fitting, versatile dress that you can wear and accessorize in different ways, it's a good investment."

Engagement Party Outfits for Guests

We applied Sabatino and Howard's advice in rounding up a selection of appropriate engagement party attire options for both women and men.

Reformation Elora Knit Two Piece

Reformation Elora Silver Knit Two Piece Engagement Party Guest Outfit
Photo: Reformation

Now this is a celebration outfit if there ever was one. The metallic two-piece set comes with so many comfort bonuses: a loose fit for dancing, dining, and taking top prize in engagement party games; a pant length perfect for flats; and an airy fabric. Plus, there's an eco-friendly twist: The set is made from deadstock pleated knit fabric.

Woná Concept Bridesmaids Collection Look No. 2426

Pink pantsuit with feather detail engagement party outfit
Photo: Woná

Bridal atelier Woná recently released its first-ever collection for bridesmaids, mothers of the bride, and wedding guests, which included this stellar suit. At $1,900, this is a major investment piece—but one you'll be able to wear again and again for special occasions, fancy work functions, date nights, and more. We especially love it for engagement parties; with its feathery sleeve detail, wide palazzo pants, and bold fuchsia hue, it's the total party package.

Anthropologie The Maya Ruched Cowl Neck Dress: Faux Leather Edition

Brow Faux Leather Ruched Cowl Neck Dress engagement party guest outfit idea
Photo: Anthropologie

With its classic silhouette, neutral hue, and on-trend fabric, this might be the perfect dress to wear to an engagement party. Pair it with knee-high leather heeled boots for a monochromatic fall look, or strappy sandals for late summer. Psst, this piece also comes in a red sequined mini version—snap it up for your next bachelorette event (or holiday party!), but keep the understated brown for an engagement affair.

Club L Galaxy Shimmer Dress

Burgundy Galaxy Shimmer Engagement Party Guest Dress
Photo: Club L

Stylist Selina Howard's pick for a formal or black-tie engagement party is this bias-cut cowl-front maxi. Its shimmery metallic black fabric is celebratory (it also comes in a range of other shimmery hues if you're more into color), while the length and fit give off an utterly sophisticated air.

STAUD Calluna Dress in Nectarine

Orange maxi tulle engagement party guest dress
Photo: Staud

One of the bolder pieces to make our list, this dress for an engagement party has summer written all over it. It's ideal for a garden party engagement and available in a slew of colors to fit any springtime theme (we especially love the vibrant Nectarine). Accessorize simply and allow the dress to shine.

X Revolve Davina Jumpsuit

Black flutter sleeve jumpsuit engagement party guest outfit
Photo: Revolve

Everyone loves a jumpsuit, and they're great picks for engagement party attire, especially when the dress code leans casual. You can never go wrong with black; belt this jumpsuit and accessorize it with pops of color or simple metallics.

Karen Millen Premium Drape Knit Gathered Trim Detail Midi Dress

Tan Drape Knit Gathered Trim Detail engagement party guest Midi Dress
Photo: Karen Millen

Sabatino recommends investing in a few neutral pieces that can be accessorized up or down and worn again and again. This camel Karen Millen piece is exactly that: Try it with big bold earrings for a fancy affair or small gold hoops to dress it down; go monochromatic with light beige boots or add contrast with a pop-of-color sandal. The options are endless.

Nicholas Snake Print Halter Dress

Snake Print Halter engagement party guest Dress
Photo: Rent The Runway

Budget plays a huge role in selecting engagement party outfits, especially considering this is the first of many wedding events you'll be shopping for. With this in mind, Sabatino loves a rental option. This snake print dress from Rent the Runway is bold and understated at the same time—and at $65 for a four-day rental, it will only look like it's breaking the bank.

Lulus Distinctive Charm Olive Green Satin Asymmetrical Midi Dress

Olive Green Satin Asymmetrical engagement party guest Midi Dress
Photo: Lulus

Satin midi dresses are ultra on-trend, and that's lucky: The length and fabric make them a great option for an engagement party guest outfit. This deep olive green version is great for fall or winter; dress it up with gold hoop earrings or colorful cocktail rings.

WeWoreWhat Black Scoop Sweater Midi Dress

Black Scoop Sweater Midi Dress
Photo: Tuckernuck

A basic black dress becomes not so basic with the right accessories. This one's our pick for fall and winter engagement parties; pair it with a colorful silk scarf around your neck or in your hair, chic booties, or dazzling jewelry.

ASOS Design Low Back Satin Jumpsuit in Red

Red Low Back Satin Jumpsuit
Photo: ASOS

Sabatino highly recommends modesty for engagement parties—but if you feel like you're holding too much back, a low back is a great option to toe the line. This engagement party outfit for guests is sophisticated and chic in front while the low open back is revealing in the classiest way. And, it's the perfect party combo: It looks like a long satin gown, but is actually a jumpsuit. Baggy pant legs make getting down on the dance floor easy.

Suitsupply Mid Blue Havana Suit

Mid Blue Havana Engagement Party Suit
Photo: Suitsupply

For engagement parties (and in life), it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. So, when in doubt, wear a suit. Suitsupply has a great selection of updated, contemporary options, like this cotton cashmere corduroy version in Havana blue that you'll get endless use out of.

Abercrombie & Fitch Easy Pant in Cream Floral & Retro Button-Through Sweater Polo

Sweater polo and cream floral pants outfit for engagement party guest
Photo: Abercrombie & Fitch

For more laid-back summertime engagement parties, we love a retro ensemble like this one. The floral pants are understated in color but still fashion-forward, and the shirt is breathable and fresh. It's a chic—and unique—combination.

Banana Republic Tailored-Fit Tweed Herringbone Blazer & Signature Italian Hopsack Suit Pant

Tailored-Fit Tweed Herringbone Blazer & Signature Italian Hopsack Suit Pant engagement party outfit
Photo: Banana Republic

This cream-colored suit can be worn a dozen ways. Pair it with a dress shirt and tie for fancier affairs; wear it open for a more casual look; layer it with a cream cashmere sweater for a winter-whites ensemble; or wear the pieces individually (i.e., the jacket with dark jeans). The list goes on, which means it's a no-brainer for almost any type of engagement party—simply look to the dress code, venue, and time of year for how to style.

Bonobos Portuguesa Stretch Chambray Suit Jacket

Chambray Suit Jacket engagement party outfit
Photo: Bonobos

This casual suit jacket can work for countless occasions, paired either with its matching suit pants, colored slacks, or even dark denim. It comes in two summery blue hues—light blue or navy chambray. Go sockless to dress it down; add a tie to dress it up.

Indochino Dilham Melange Burgundy Casual Shirt

Burgundy Casual Button Up Shirt for engagement party outfit
Photo: Indochino

It toes the line, but we're OKing an untucked shirt when the dress code says casual. Pair a perfectly fitting one in a cool color like this burgundy with gray or navy chinos and an artfully buffed cognac brown dress shoe.

Bonobos Riviera Short Sleeve Shirt in Navy Shore Floral and Bloomingdale's The Men's Store Classic Fit Chino Pants in Khaki

Navy floral shirt and khaki pants engagement party outfit
Shirt: Bonobos,Pants: Bloomingdale's

If you're typically a bold dresser, it can be hard to choose an engagement party guest outfit that won't upstage the honorees. This floral short-sleeve button-down rides the line; pair it with classic khakis to neutralize the bold print and wear it for an outdoor affair.

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