There seems to be a consensus among researchers that outdoor environments are safer than indoor venues when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19. So long as your groups are small, you observe social distancing, and you wear masks when close to one another, outdoor gatherings can be quite safe. Although outdoor weddings and garden parties have been around for centuries, they take on a new meaning in an era where love coexists with the danger of spreading infection. As the northeast cautiously ventures back toward small, outdoor group gatherings, you may start to receive summer wedding invitations again. This invites the question of what to wear to a summer wedding.

Beach or Backyard

While the venue still has much to do with choosing an outfit to wear to a summer wedding, it doesn’t necessarily dictate the formality of the event. The bride and groom may be barefoot on the beach, but they may expect guests to show up in something more than cargo shorts and crinkle dresses. Likewise, a backyard wedding can be an elegant affair— a tent, dance floor, flowers, dinner, and all. Check the invitation for the time of the event and the dress code, and plan accordingly. If the dress code is indecipherable (“tiki formal” or “garden casual”) and you’re not sure what it means, just ask the hosts.

Friend or Family

Your role as a guest or participant in the celebration also speaks to what to wear. Guests have a bit more leeway than mothers-of-the-bride, who have to look stylish, elegant, and understated. The time of day will help choose the right length of dress or formality of jacket and tie. Casual summer weddings can do with more color and prints, or even shorts and jackets. More formal backyard affairs with a sit-down dinner essentially recreate an indoor venue, with the corresponding level of formality expected.

Heat and Humidity

It simply isn’t possible to predict what the weather will be on the day of the event. However, it is reasonable to expect an outdoor, coastal wedding to involve heat and moisture (even if it is in the form of fresh salt air.) It could be windy, too, so clothing that might require constant vigilance to maintain modesty isn’t worth the trouble for an outdoor, summer wedding.

When and if summer weddings go back inside, you may discover the wind and waves have turned into bone-chilling air conditioning. If you’re just going from the car to the venue and back again, you could add more glamour in the form of beads, sequins, or heavier lace.

The choices for what to wear to a summer wedding are expanding with the more relaxed and inclusive styles of modern couples—it’s not unusual to find mixed wedding parties with a man of honor or best maid. Go with the flow, and when in doubt, consult the hosts so you’ll choose something that looks great and feels appropriate for the event.