While getting married with the sand under your toes is the dream of many, it can cause some confusion amongst guests concerning what to wear. As opposed to traditional dress codes such as cocktail, semi-formal, or formal, the “beach” element means you can think a little more comfy, cool, and casual when dressing for the event. Naturally, the time of the year, the weather, and the venue will all be deciding factors when choosing your look.
What Is Beach Wedding Attire?
Beach wedding attire can vary depending on the formality of the event, but it generally calls for more casual and comfortable fabrics and accessories.
To learn more about beach wedding attire and how to pick the perfect outfit for the occasion, we consulted wedding planners Megan Papageorge and Pamela Spence. “Beach wedding attire is the same as any other wedding where you dress according to the formality of the event, but unlike a normal celebration, there are some small changes to accessories and fabrics that will make you much more comfortable,” offers Papageorge.
Meet the Expert
First, do a quick search of the venue to check the level of formality. “If the location simply overlooks the beach on a rooftop or patio, then just plan your outfit as usual,” adds Papageorge. If, however, the ceremony and/or reception takes place in the sand, you can dress with confidence and adhere to the beachy vibes.
Beach Wedding Attire for Men and Women
“The two biggest differences between beach wedding attire and other wedding dress codes lies in the color palette and footwear,” says Pamela Spence. “You won't typically see a little black dress and heels at a beach wedding.” Utilize breathable fabrics, fun prints, and simple, high-end staples for an effortless-yet-refined beach wedding look. Avoid denim and cotton t-shirts at all costs, and only wear shorts or sandals if the venue/event is especially casual.
In addition to avoiding black, a traditional wedding guest color, consider small touches that lend toward the theme without going overboard. Carry a sweetgrass clutch or consider a fishtail braid for your hair to elegantly add a beachy vibe.
A dress, suit, or jumpsuit all work for a beach formal wedding. Opt for solid, lighter colors (avoiding black, cream, and white) and breathable fabrics. Tea-length dresses and jumpsuits are acceptable for beach formal attire. To up the elegance, wear a fabric such as metallic or lace. Since stilettos are a hazard on the sand, wear a chunky heel or formal sandals. Consider bringing a formal pair of heels for the reception if it’s not on the beach.
Wear either a suit or a long-sleeved shirt and tie with a jacket and slacks. Opt for solid colors, avoiding black, cream, and white—a summer suit is a perfect solution. Consider a breathable fabric such as linen, khaki, or seersucker. Dress shoes or a nice pair of shoes that compliment the slacks are required. Shorts and sandals are not permitted.
A dress, suit, formal romper, or jumpsuit all work for semi-formal. Feel free to include prints, avoiding anything too loud. If you choose to wear a beachy dress, consider it in either tea-length or maxi to avoid looking too casual. Dressy sandals, chunky heels, and wedges are acceptable footwear options.
While a jacket isn’t required, a breathable sport coat or unique blazer is a fun addition. Feel free to include prints, avoiding anything too loud. Shoes can be a little more casual, but still need to be closed-toe, such as a loafer or deck shoe. Shorts and sandals are not permitted.
Opt for a simple sundress, breezy maxi dress, or high-quality romper. While dressy sandals are acceptable, avoid standard, beachwear flip flops. Nice, short-sleeved shirts such as polos are permitted as well as nice shorts (think Chinos) with a belt. Lighter colors and/or bold prints will elevate your casual look. Avoid denim, cargo, and swim shorts. Cotton t-shirts are not permitted. This is the only instance when sandals may be acceptable, but ensure your feet as well-manicured before option for an open-toe look. If not, wear a deck shoe or loafer, never sneakers.
Beach Wedding Attire Etiquette
While the formality of the dress code is sometimes stated on the invitation, other times the couple will just request “beach wedding attire.” If that’s the case, “It's always better to be overdressed than under-dressed,” advises Papageorge. “In the event that the invitation doesn't indicate formality, dress for a semi-formal event.”
Think normal semi-formal attire but with summer suits, breathable fabric, and touches of tropical elements. If attending a beach casual wedding, remember: This isn’t a family outing at the beach —it’s still a wedding. Leave the bathing suits and swim shorts at home and if opting for sandals, make sure they’re dressier than your normal beachy flip flops. Sun hats are permitted, but remove them during the procession so as to not block the view of other guests.
Whether it’s a breezy maxi dress, a seersucker suit, or formal romper, or a palm print jumpsuit, beach attire is a fun way to showcase your personality and rock some warm-weather favorites — just be sure to lather on the sunscreen!