Beach weddings are romantic, elegant, and they make for incredible wedding day photos, but they can also pose an unnecessary puzzle when it comes to guest attire. Whether the couple is requesting more of a formal beach wedding look or a relaxed casual beach wedding vibe, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of outfit ensembles that can be worn to a beachside wedding day celebration.
If you’re attending a beach wedding in the near future, below are some key tips to consider as you decide what you’re going to wear to the summer wedding.
Though you might be familiar with casual, cocktail, and black tie dress codes, beach weddings have their own set of dress codes, usually ranging from daytime (or dressy casual) to beach formal. Reading the invitations and breaking down the specific dress code is a good place to start. If the couple requested daytime—or something more on the casual wedding attire side—then almost anything goes. Think day dresses, semi-casual separates, chinos, loafers, and casual makeup. Like with dressy casual, it’s always better to err on the side of business casual or smart casual attire, just in case.
For beach formal and other semi-formal attire, dress as elegantly as possible, while still considering the elements (such as sand and sun). A more formal maxi dress or sundresses worn with a flat, beaded sandals, or a linen shirt with a suits jacket with tasteful sandals or slides are perfectly appropriate. Sophistication is key, but don’t go for anything that would feel too out-of-place on a beach.
In California and North Carolina, “beach” generally means flat terrain and sandy shoreline. However, in places such as Maine and Washington state, a beachside ceremony might include rocky cliffs and fairly changeable weather. It’s important to do your due diligence on the geography and weather patterns of the area where the couple is getting married if you want to be comfortable and dress appropriately for their big day.
Though few people are likely to have a wedding ceremony on the Oregon coast in the winter, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the weather during that specific time of year. While Seaside, Oregon may be cold and dreary in November, a location such as San Diego, California may average 65 to 70 degrees on the same fall day. Knowing what the weather is like that specific time of year can help you decide on fashion details such as jackets, layers, and even fabrics, because no one wants to be stuck outside in a wool suit during a Miami summer ceremony.
Another easy way to gauge the overall formality and ambience of the event, is to do some research on the venue before you decide what to wear. If it’s at a resort, for example, you might opt for something more glamorous, while a B&B or state park would generally call for something more relaxed or bohemian. By looking up where the celebration takes place, you may also get a better idea of the walking surface—specifically as it applies to the reception. Though heels are generally frowned upon at beach events, you might opt for wedges or low, block heels if the dress code is fairly formal and the venue seems manageable.
With the variability of beach wedding dress codes, accessories play a more important role than they might otherwise play at a wedding or reception. This point is especially true for wedding shoes and outerwear, which are important to prioritize for any beach event. With footwear, consider having a pair of backups in case you misjudged the formality of the event (or would just prefer a pair of sandals to dance in). As for outerwear, a light sweater or blazer is always wise, even in warm places, as beaches are almost always a bit windy. Taking the elements into account is important, as you don’t want your favorite pair of feather earrings taking flight mid-ceremony (or ever). Hats are also worth considering if there’s going to be a lot of sun exposure. Beachy wedding guest hairstyles are typically flowy and simple.
There is no better place to find outfit inspiration than in the billions of wedding photos circulating the internet. Whether your cousin attended a beach wedding last fall or you prefer to get lost on Pinterest, feel free to dig through photos taken at beach events and see what outfits seem to make the most sense. If you follow any wedding photographers on Instagram, this is another good place to start. Pay special attention to details such as shoes, accessories, and outerwear, as well as how the guests’ outfits play into the overall cohesiveness of the event.