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What To Wear To A Destination Wedding

January 20, 2020

Knowing exactly what to wear to a destination wedding may sound intimidating at first, but whether you’re a bride or bridesmaid, a groom, or a guest, these tips will have you looking great on the beach. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when dressing for this important event, including the weather and how formal the event will be. Once you have all the necessary information; however, choosing the right beach wedding attire will be a breeze.

How Formal Is the Wedding?

If the invitation for the wedding specifies that the event is casual or informal, you have a lot of freedom when it comes to wardrobe. Casual beach weddings are usually laid-back, toes-in-the-sand celebrations that cater to comfort. This type of destination wedding is extremely popular for this reason, and you will not be expected to put a lot of effort into dressing up.

A semi-formal beach ceremony smoothly combines the beauty and comfort of an oceanside event with the slightly more upscale atmosphere you would expect from a wedding. In other words, your wardrobe can be somewhere in the middle, but leaning toward fancy.

Formal style beach weddings are less common, but are a lot of fun, especially if you know what to wear to a beach wedding so you can look stunning while remaining comfortable.

Beach Wedding Attire for the Bride

When choosing the perfect wedding dress for your destination wedding, the most important thing is that you feel beautiful and confident. However, comfort is a close second, especially when you factor in heat and humidity.

You will most likely want to choose a dress made from lighter, more breathable material. Some brides even wear two dresses, with a slightly more casual and airy option for the beach ceremony, and a more elaborate design for an indoor dinner or reception afterward.

You will also want to consider the types of photos you want taken. For example, you can have pictures of a long train or skirt in the sand, a veil blowing softly behind you in the breeze, or a hemline high enough to see your bare feet. Choose a dress that fits the images you hope to capture.

Beach Wedding Attire for Women

If you are a bridesmaid, dress according to the theme of the wedding and follow any instructions given to you by the bride. Do not add variations without approval.

Casual Wedding – Guests will most likely be welcome to show up in sandals, or even barefoot, but you’ll want to get permission just in case. Assuming the weather is clear and sunny, women can get away with a light sundress or casual skirt. 

Semi-Formal Wedding – Choose a cocktail-style dress or slightly longer option made from nicer fabrics like lace, organza, or chiffon. 

Formal Wedding – Clothing for women should consist of elegant floor-length dresses suitable for dancing. You may be spending some time on the beach, in a resort, or in a restaurant. If the itinerary is not specified on the invite, try to prepare for various scenarios. It’s important to note that formal wedding attire is not very common for a beach wedding because the weather can be hot.

Beach Wedding Style for Men

As a groom, your beach wedding style will depend on how formal you want the event to be. Usually, a groom wears a tuxedo or nice suit, but on the beach it is acceptable to dress down a bit. Discuss with the bride beforehand to make sure you don’t wear something too casual, but you may be able to ditch the Cummerbund and even your shoes.

Groomsmen should follow the dress code given to them by the bride or groom.

Casual Wedding – Male guests and groomsmen can wear linen or khaki pants with a simple polo shirt. For many destination weddings, it’s also common for male guests, groomsmen, and even grooms to wear tailored shorts and nice flip flops or sandals because the weather is hot.

Semi-Formal Wedding – Men should wear long pants, but can roll them up at the hem to avoid dragging in the sand. Choose khaki, linen, or other material that will keep you cool and comfortable while looking classy. Add a button-down shirt and sport coat to complete the look.

Formal Wedding – Although a formal beach wedding is not very common it is an option. As with other formal events, men are expected to wear suits and ties.


For both men and women, choose shoes that slip off easily to remove sand if needed, or to transition smoothly between the beach and a restaurant or other venue. Women should avoid wearing heels and opt instead for flats or wedges for better balance and comfort in the sand. Some women even prefer barefoot beach sandals that feature a sandal-type look on the foot but don’t have a sole—making it easy to walk in the sand.

Whether you’re a man or woman, if you decide to wear sandals, make sure they are nice enough to still look dressy and that you get, or give yourself, a pedicure beforehand.

Other Tips

In addition to the category-specific items mentioned above, there are a few other simple tips to keep in mind when choosing what to wear to a destination wedding.

  • The most important thing you can wear to a beach wedding is sunscreen! Don’t forget to lather on generous amounts of SPF 30 or higher before you get there, especially if shade is scarce.
  • Light and bright colors are the best options. Dark colors, especially black, will attract the sun, causing you to overheat. Use the tropical surroundings as inspiration for your color palette, unless you are part of the wedding party. Try turquoise, green, yellow, coral, or tan.
  • Swimsuits of any kind, even when worn under a cover-up that resembles a dress, are not appropriate wedding attire.
  • It’s important to stay cool during a beach wedding as well. Bringing a nice hat to cover your head or a fancy hand fan can help you stay cool during the ceremony.

Destination Wedding Photography

Once your guests and wedding party are properly dressed, you’ll want to be sure to get pictures of every moment. Hire a professional photographer who has experience shooting destination weddings. Check out Adventure Photos and contact us to learn more about booking one of our incredible photographers and videographers for your special day!

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