What to Wear to Every Kind of Wedding (Without Going Broke)

I'm not getting married but EVERYONE ELSE IS I GUESS so here's some pretty dresses and stuff.
Publish date:
July 17, 2014
weddings, bridesmaids, wedding style

I'm 24 and I live in the Deep South and I'm not married which means I'm an OLD MAID.

I'm not mad about it, though. Marriage is something I'm not ready for quite yet. I don't wanna make that step until I've established myself a bit more, financially and in other ways too, you know?

Sometimes I'm glad that almost everyone down here gets married young because it means I get to go to LOTS of weddings. I love weddings so much. Why wouldn't I? Dressing up, dancing, and getting drunk for free are a few of my favorite things. Weddings rule.

I know weddings can be stressful and expensive though-- particularly the getting dressed up part. If you're invited to lots of weddings or if you're in the wedding party, that can add up pretty quickly. My best friend, Robbie, got married in April and it was really one of the loveliest, most joyful weekends of my whole life, but as maid of honor, it definitely put me back a pretty penny. Between travel, accommodations, the dress, altering the dress, the shoes, the multiple frozen daiquiris I really had to buy from the drive-through liquor store (when in Louisiana...), not to mention the bachelorette weekend, it was easy to spend nearly an entire paycheck on someone ELSE's wedding. No regrets though. I had a great time, even though I missed the bouquet toss because I was shotgunning Miller High Life with the photographer.

If you're just a guest, though, there's no need to go broke over someone else's wedding. (Or your own wedding, IMO.) Lucky for you, I'm the Scrooge McDuck of fashion writing, which means I hate spending money and I appreciate a good frock coat. I've come up with plenty of options and ideas for every type of wedding you might get invited to this year. Y'all ready? Soundtrack time.

Casual Wedding

For a day like this, you'll want something lightweight, breathable and comfortable. Casual weddings are fun because you can really get creative -- a sundress, a skirt and top two piece, a jumpsuit, a maxi dress, anything goes! Here are some delightful digs for under $100.

Clockwise from top left: ASOS Bardot Midi Dress $53, H&M Maxi Dress $25, Front Row Shop Assymetrical Dress with Waist Knot $34, Pixie Market Mint Organza Matching Separates $92, LOFT Linen Short Sleeve Romper $70, Need Supply Co. Nairobi Dress $58

You'll also want a good pair of comfortable shoes. If the wedding is outdoors on a lawn or in some sort of grass, go with flats or a wedge. Heels will get stuck in the ground, trust me. I like flats with an ankle strap so I don't have to worry about slipping out of them on the dance floor. Here's some cute, inexpensive flats.

Clockwise from top left: ModCloth Just Feels Right Flat $17, Express Pointed Toe Slit D'Orsay Flat $40, Easy Spirit Gisselle T-Strap Sandals $50

If the wedding is outdoors, don't forget sunscreen and bugspray. I wrote about some bugsprays that don't smell terrible over on xoVain, and my favorite sunscreen of all time is Clinique Sun Broad Spectrum SPF 50, and the face formula in SPF 50 as well. And stay hydrated!

Semiformal Wedding

My boyfriend and I recently got invited to a "semiformal" wedding, and he said something about a tuxedo.

"C'mon, it's not black tie," I joked back.

With the most serious of faces, he replied, "Tuxedos are semiformal. The wedding is after 6PM." Am I dating Jack Donaghy?

ANYWAY, turns out he was technically correct but most people in 2014 don't mean tux levels of fancy when they say "semiformal," so don't get too hyped up. Semiformal basically means fancier than church clothes, but not as fancy as prom. Looking nice and sticking to a budget can be difficult, which is why I'm a huge fan of a basic, solid-colored cocktail dress that you can rewear with different accessories and styling each time. Here's some inexpensive dresses you can get a lot of wear out of, along with some ideas for accessorizing.

Click here for outfit details.

Here are a couple more inexpensive semiformal dresses for your viewing/shopping/procastinating pleasure because I live to look for dresses online, y'all. It's what I live for. That's literally it.

From left to right: Express Cut-In Cami Dress $42, ModCloth Vogue Wave Dress $50, ASOS Curve Exclusive Skater Dress in Fuschia Floral Print $67

Black Tie Wedding

One of my goals in life is to have a lot more rich friends. My friends right now are great but they're so... how do I say this? Entry level. It seems like the easiest way to make rich friends is by being rich yourself, so I'm working on that. New Money, here I come! (Black tie weddings are a rich people thing, right? I'm just assuming they must be because I've never been invited to one.)

Like ol' boyfriend said, black tie technically means it's a formal event being held after 6PM, but these days most people use the term to mean very fancy apparel required -- think tuxedos and gowns. It's more Met Ball than prom.

Black tie does NOT mean you have to wear black. Unless for some reason the invitation specifies a color palette for guests (which would be VERY Bridezilla/Super Sweet 16 of them), you can wear whatever color gown you want. I do, though, usually like to find out what color the bridesmaids are wearing because I don't want to wear that color. Also, jewel tones and darker colors tend to be more sophisticated, traditionally, but I think a pretty pastel can be just as bougie. When wondering how formal you should go, just remember that all the dudes will be in tuxes, so try to be on that level, or try to one-up it.

Like a good man, a good gown is hard to find, especially when you're on a budget. Lots of long dresses under $100 will be made of very tacky, shiny fabric that will make you stand out in the crowd in the worst way. Instead, opt for softer fabrics like chiffons, silks, or tulle and avoid anything too stretchy or skin-tight.

It was a challenge, but I've gathered a gaggle of inexpensive, pretty gowns for your next rich person shindig.

Clockwise from top left: ASOS One Shoulder Drape Maxi Dress $86, TFNC Maxi Dress with Plunge Bustier $86, Sangria Sleeveless Keyhole Gown $90, Eliza J Front Drape Chiffon Dress $100, JBS Illusion Lace Faux Wrap Gown $79, Nightway Sleeveless Illusion Embellished Neckline Gown $77

Buying a new dress for a wedding isn't always practical, and sometimes shopping online can be a wash. When I'm going to a wedding, I'll often borrow a dress from a friend. I'm sure one of your friends has a dress they only wore once (probably for a wedding) and they'd be glad to see someone get some wear out of it.

I'm also huge on scouring the racks at stores like Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and their ilk. It can be overwhelming/stressful but if you look hard enough you can find some real gems at great prices. Department stores like Kohl's, JC Penny's and Macy's also have great in-store sales all the time with stuff that isn't always available online.

If you've got a wedding coming up, but you're a bit strapped for cash, I hope these inexpensive dress ideas will work for you! Weddings are fun and great!! What's the best thing you've ever worn to a wedding? Also, feel free to show me photos of your own wedding because I'm a cheeseball and I live for that shit.

Got any fashiony questions? Unsure of what to wear to your next big event? Holler at me in the comments, or on Twitter and I'll do my best to sort you out!