Q: Hi, Cosmo! I got invited to a wedding next month, and the invite says "garden formal." What does that even mean?
A: Wedding outfits are a tricky, tricky thing, because brides can be very particular about how they want their guests to dress up. Read the invite again. Normally, brides would specify the kind of outfits you’re allowed to wear. I once got an invite that said that ladies weren’t allowed to wear anything printed. So ask the bride if there's particular look she wants.)
Garden weddings—even ones that are ~*formal*~—are obviously a lot less casual than ones done in churches or hotels. So you can show up in an A-line cocktail dress that falls right above (or below) the knee and you’ll be fine. A dress in emerald green, lilac, orange, or royal blue, will look great in photos during the event, but you can opt for printed floral frocks, too.
Maxi dresses and skirts are perfect and flowy—plus, you can wear sandals or flats and no one will notice! Long gowns are okay, too, but stick to column dresses with minimal embellishments. Stay away from gowns with a lot of tulle. You'll be at a GARDEN. There is nothing more inconvenient than wearing a poofy skirt outdoors. Disney princesses make it look easy—IT'S NOT.
As for footwear, opt for shoes that have thick heels, like wedges. Ankle-strap heels are great, because they give your feet some security, so when you do sink to the ground (and you will), your shoe won't come off.
Most guests would opt to wear sandals or flats to a garden wedding to avoid footwear disasters (it's very tricky to walk on grass!)—and that's okay. Metallic flats or sandals would be perfect.
Okay, the rule for footwear is:
Cocktail Dress = Wear heels
Maxi skirt/dress/ = Wear flats (No one's going to know you're actually wearing flats, but if you really want to wear heels, go ahead!)