Guest list: Dress codes for summer occasions

Deciphering dress codes for summer events can be stressful, says Emma Akbareian. So wherever the wedding, make sure you attend in style

Summer brings with it a whole host of outfit issues – from navigating a tricky new colour palette to the dreaded search for a new bikini. Not least of these dilemmas is the world of occasion wear. Whether you’re having a flutter at the races or cheering on the oarsmen at a regatta, it’s undeniably a season of strict dress codes.

Royal Ascot, for example, has introduced stipulations that would make even the most formal of dressers quake in their well-polished boots. Hats must have a base diameter of at least 4in, meaning no fascinators are allowed. Strapless and off-the-shoulder dresses are also out.

But the most thorny of dressing dilemmas is wedding wear. Yes, you may all be gathered to celebrate the love of the happy couple, but a far more pressing concern is usually what to wear. No other occasion, bar perhaps a school reunion, features such a motley crew of distant relatives and long-lost friends. In other words: people you want to impress, as well as the occasional ex you’d rather forget. Couple this with a mandatory dress code, and even the thought of a free feed isn’t enough to stop you wishing that you could politely decline.


Alas, the days of a simple church ceremony, followed by a humble knees-up at the local pub, are long gone. Nowadays, guests are expected to attend five-star country spa hotels or far-flung exotic beach destinations with an outfit to match. Never mind the bride – the sartorial stakes for wedding guests have never been higher.


A wedding in the city is often a restrained affair. Whether it’s a swanky hotel or a converted loft, the dress code is usually a more urban one (partly because no one wants to be seen catching their local bus in a full-flowing gown and matching hat). This is the event to go for a more directional look. Trouser suits are a great choice for city affairs – they have the advantage of being both stylish and practical if the temperature drops.


This is the most traditional of all venues and can, therefore, be afforded the most formality. Floor-length dresses can be a nice touch. Similarly, lace always sits well in a wedding setting – as long as neither are white, which will no doubt earn you (well-deserved) evils from the bridal party. Hats come into their own in a country church, and high-street chains, such as Debenhams and Accessorize, should satisfy your headwear requirements without the need to part with too much cash.


Perhaps the trickiest of all invitations: not only do you have to navigate a new climate, but also airline baggage limits, too. Hats are not desperately practical to travel with, although they do come in handy in the glare of the sun – on your head is the best way for them to travel,  however silly you may feel in departures. Pay special attention to the venue. If sand is involved, flat footwear is a must or wedges at a stretch. Keep dresses light and airy to contend with the high temperatures and, with the chance of a good tanning session beforehand, bright colours are also a good bet.