What To Wear To A Beach Wedding – A Style Guide

Ok, so you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a wedding on a remote tropical island or a beach resort. But what should you wear? Sure, you know how to wear a scarf to complement your suit and when it comes to ‘regular’ weddings, you are more than prepared. You’ve got your suit and tie, your dress shoes and shirts in an array of colors to cover any possible color arrangement that a wedding planner can come up with. However, traditional wedding outfits just won’t do in a warm and humid climate, as anyone who has attended or organized a beach wedding will surely tell you.

But don’t get discouraged. In fact, you should use this opportunity to dress to impress other guests and the happy couple. Perhaps you are the lucky man that will have the opportunity to commit to everlasting love under the shade of palm trees and say his vows underscored by the soothing sound of ocean waves. 

In that case, we have to say you are indeed a lucky man. Whoever you may be, just remember – it is close to impossible to not enjoy yourself when you are surrounded by this beautiful scenery. 

Therefore, you should approach your dressing up for this beach wedding in the same lighthearted and fun manner. Whereas traditional, ‘dry’ weddings can be, well, dry and predictable, beach weddings are usually an opportunity to pull out more casual and colorful clothing that is stuck somewhere in the back of your closet. So, without further ado, here are our suggestions.

Types of beach weddings and looks you should aim for

You may be at a loss as to which garments make up the perfect beach wedding ensemble – is it appropriate to wear your Hawaiian shirt from the 80’s? Should you take your tuxedo to dry cleaning? What kind of shoes do you need? Should you wear themed or crazy men’s socks? Should you go barefoot? 

So many questions!

Of course, there is no simple answer to these questions, as with any other wedding, or, for that matter, life. Although beach weddings are, indeed, less stiff and conservative than traditional church weddings, there are several rules to keep in mind in relation to what kind of wedding the bride and the groom opted for. Yours is to respect their wishes and keep in line with the desired style of the wedding. It all depends on the following factors, all of which we will devote due attention to:

  • The degree of formality
  • Whether it is an indoor or outdoor wedding i.e. weather
  • The theme of the wedding

What to wear to a beach wedding that has a set dress code

Lucky for you, in the case of beach weddings, the dress codes that may come into consideration are miles away from traditional menswear dress codes. So, the pesky task of coordinating colors, the appropriateness of wearing garments that adhere to the rules of any given dress code and all other dress code guidelines that are set in stone remain faraway on the mainland. If you want to wear, say, white pants and black shoes, you can – as long as you keep in line with the established dress code or the underlying idea and theme of this particular wedding.

Take for example the aforementioned Hawaiian shirt. There is scarcely an event to which you can show up wearing this… idiosyncratic motif. But if the dress code or the theme of the wedding allows it, then sail away! 

Now that we’ve cleared off this contentious matter, let’s take a look at which dress codes you may encounter at a wedding that takes place on a paradise resort.

  1. Beach formal
  2. Beach casual

We will first focus on beach formal dress code since it is a peculiar melange of formal and informal features.

What not to wear to a formal beach wedding

Since serious, corporate events are rarely held in beach resorts, this dress code is mostly reserved for, you’ve guessed it – beach weddings. Usually, couples that want to take the best of both worlds and organize a wedding that will simultaneously be suave and beach-ready opt for this dress code. 

But this is not a dress code in the strict sense since it allows great leeway in terms of which garments to wear. Because of this, it is advantageous to embark on your journey towards creating the perfect beach formal look by starting from what you should avoid wearing to a beach formal wedding:

  1. Sandals 
  2. Tuxedos and suits
  3. Wool
  4. Shorts
  5. Short-sleeved shirts
  6. Ties 

Forget about sandals

If you are German or unusually fond of sandals, we have bad news for you. Sandals, as comfortable and practical as they may be, are not admitted to beach formal weddings. Take a look at the wedding invitation to determine the degree of formality and pick your shoes accordingly. 

Swap them for boat shoes, driving loafers or moccasins to keep your feet safe from the scorching sand. For example, these handmade Bold Society driving loafers are on the crossroads of the Boulevard of Comfort and St. Style since they are made of premium Italian suede leather. Also, a rubber sole allows you to tread confidently and still save your feet from the sand and water. Pick out a pair that matches the theme of the wedding or the rest of your outfit. 

Avoid tuxedos and suits

If you are the type of person who can’t wait for an opportunity to don a tuxedo or a suit since they are the ultimate conveyor of elegance, be wary. Any suaveness that you might exude wearing your sharpest suit may diminish if you start sweating profusely and start exuding, well… You get the picture. 

If you are a suit aficionado, wear a suit made of light, thin fabrics like seersucker. Alternatively, you could swap your suit jacket for an equally dashing blazer, vest or suspenders, as these garments are less stuck up than suits and tuxedos, but still sufficiently elegant. For those who are unfamiliar with how to incorporate these elements into their outfit, take a look at tips on how to wear a vest or how to wear suspenders effortlessly.

Stay away from wool

Although this may seem like a no-brainer, we are pointing this out because suits are usually made of wool. Wool is not the material to wear not only at a beach formal wedding but any type of beach wedding for reasons already discussed. Even if it is an indoor wedding that takes place in an airconditioned reception hall, you can’t be sure that the rest of the ceremony won’t take place outside or on the beach. 

If you still want to sport a suit, be sure to purchase a suit that is made of linen, cotton, seersucker or cotton blends. Follow up with loafers, moccasins or even elegant low-top white sneakers.

Skip the shorts

Shorts, flip-flops, bermudas, the infamous Hawaiian shirts, the whole bunch. Don’t be swayed by the word beach. Especially if the wedding is beach formal, these items of clothing should remain safely in your hotel room and left for the days following the wedding reception. Instead, if you want to be one step ahead of the merciless heat and humidity on the beach, then you may ditch the shoes, go barefoot and roll up your trouser leg to below your knees to stylishly serve those chill beach vibes. 

Avoid short-sleeved shirts

Unless you are a retired or a waiter, you may want to leave your comfy short-sleeved shirts behind. A better option would be a linen shirt or cotton shirt. Nevermind the fact that they crease easily – in fact, you may want to wear clothing that appears slightly disheveled because, although you want to look formal, you also may want to aim for that slightly messy, wind-blown beach look. 

You can ditch the tie 

Yes, your eyes are not fooling you. You can freely do away with this old choker as it is completely appropriate to go tieless to a beach formal wedding, unless the wedding invitation states otherwise, of course. Of course, to be on the safe side, we advise you to check with the couple or the best man to see if you are expected to wear a tie to their beach formal wedding. If so, check out this guide on how to wear a tie in relation to the color scheme of your items of clothing, shoes, dress socks and everything else.

What to wear to a formal beach wedding as a guest

Now that we have covered the main ‘no-nos’ of a beach formal look, there are a few things that are gladly admitted to a beach formal wedding. Since beach formal dress code is an interesting mixture of formal and informal, it may be tricky to pinpoint just what the perfect balance between these two extremities is. So, let’s take a look.

  1. Wear bright or light colors
  2. Play around with the details
  3. Wear light, breathable fabrics
  4. Accessorize like a pro
  5. Pay attention to the theme

Be sure to wear bright or light colors

To sport a perfect beach formal look, the beach part of beach formal can be expressed by wearing bright or light colors, especially by opting for details that are in these colors. The formal part will be conveyed by garments that are on the preppy side of the formality spectrum. The base of your outfit can be light – think white, tan, khaki. Beside these colors, pastels work great – pastel pink, pastel blue, etc. Furthermore, you can play around with details and introduce colored garments to the look. Here are our color and garment suggestions. Any of these colors works for any of these garments or accessories.

Beach Formal – the dissection

Beach = ColorsFormal = Garments and Details
Pink – salmon, coral, fuschiaBlazers, vests, sport jackets
Blue – sky blue, teal, azureSuspenders, watches, sunglasses
Orange and red – peach, corn; rose, burgundyBrogues, loafers, shoelaces, socks

Play around with the details of your outfit

The lining of your clothing and the thread of your shoes may be in these beach wedding colors (the table above). You can follow up with shoelaces, dress socks, and other details in the same color. A bold, luxurious look can consist of, for instance, a coral waistcoat or a burgundy blazer, which will be balanced out by wearing clothing made of light, breezy materials to create a perfect beach formal look.

Wear light, breathable fabrics

Although we have already touched on this briefly, we have to point out that there are other advantages to wearing light, comfortable fabrics like cotton, linen, seersucker or chambray. First of all, they are inherently not so structured, which will make your skin ‘breathe’. In addition to that, the wrinkled, slightly messy look is what you should most definitely aim for in order to achieve that effortlessly cool ‘beach-chic, piña colada-drinking, yacht-owner’ look. 

When it comes to accessories…

Consult this guide for both the latest and time-tested advice on how to wear watches stylishly. For obvious reasons, you should most definitely consider wearing sunglasses – it’s a wedding on a beach! Just be sure to take them off during the ceremony. 

Pro tip – follow the theme

Some wedding stylists advise guests against wearing clothes that match the color scheme of the wedding. Of course, the bride and the groom are the exception, as well as the bridesmaids and the groomsmen. Also, beach weddings in general could be the one exception to the rule that states only the bride can wear white, but just to be on the safe side, be sure to introduce some color – black pants, cream pants, a tan vest or the like. Or, if you have a preference for creative and fun items of clothing, a tropical flowered blazer should do the trick.

What shoes to wear to a beach wedding?

Sometimes, it can be quite a hassle to tread on sandy or rocky beaches. Sand is hot and can burn your feet, or otherwise, it sticks to your feet if it is wet. Other than that, your feet and toes have to look presentable, so add a pedicure to the list and you’ve got yourself a real pain in the… sole.

Were not saying that you can’t go barefoot, but you may want to consider having ‘emergency’ shoes somewhere in the vicinity. The following footwear comes into consideration:

Type of shoeMore details
Penny loafers, tassel loafersYou can go with chocolate brown, brown, tan, cream, or any such color in the brown color spectrum. When it comes to materials, they can be suede or leather, and you can wear socks or go sockless.
Driving loafers, MoccasinsThese The Bold Society driving loafers are perfect for breaking up the monotony of tan and cream items of clothing with a bold splash of color. If you are reluctant to make such a statement, then choose one of the more colors mentioned above.
Boat shoeImage Source: cavendishsquareAlthough they are called boat shoes, they are generally known as comfortable summer footwear not only limited to boats and yachts. Opt for this shoe if the wedding takes place on a boat or a yacht or if it is a sea-themed wedding. You can even sport a marine club inspired fashion ensemble since boat shoes are the epitome of marine club elegance.
Monk strapsOne type of shoe for when the wedding takes place indoors, say, a reception hall of a beach resort. Of course, you can wear your usual dress shoes, but, in our opinion, monk straps have that additional chic, foreign and exotic feel to them.
White low-top sneaker Image Source: cdeanwilliamsIn terms of color, consider white, off-white, cream, ivory, beige… You could wear these with black or charcoal pants and a linen white shirt for a classic crisp white beach look.In terms of material, canvas is perfect as it gives of a lightweight, breezy vibe, but all-white leather sneakers (Adidas Stan Smith) are also an option. Also, white low-top sneakers are a perfect alternative to other types of shoes for boys who dislike wearing shoes or sandals.

Additional tips to help you choose which shoe type to wear to a beach wedding:

  • Wear shades like brown or tan to contrast the white clothing. 
  • Avoid black shoes, especially if it is a daytime wedding.
  • Black shoes and tan items of clothing are anathema.
  • Consider buying shoes made of perforated leather to give your feet the very much needed breathability and comfort. 

Which men’s socks you should wear to achieve the perfect beach wedding look

If you choose to wear shoes to a beach wedding, regardless of whether it is a beach formal or beach casual wedding, you may also want to think about your socks. Unique socks are the perfect item of clothing to display your personality, creativity, and personal style. They also serve to break up the monotony of single colors such as tan or white, especially when it comes to beach formal ensembles. In addition to this, you can also play around and wear fun socks that are in concord with the theme of the wedding, like these men’s doctor socks.

For instance, these lime-yellow ice-cream Soxy socks are perfect because they have a warm color base with ice-cream cones pattern, all of which makes them perfect for beach weddings as they contribute to your overall look with a perfect amount of informal, fun vibes. 

If these are too crazy for your taste, you could introduce an interesting geometrical pattern that is in line with one of your items of clothing or other details that are in color. These could be paired marvelously with a similarly patterned, colorful blazer or shirt.

What to wear to a casual beach wedding if you are the groom

When it comes to casual beach weddings, the list of rules to follow is so much shorter than with beach formal weddings. All of the items of clothing that we have categorized as formal in a beach formal look are not necessary, and perhaps redundant and stiff at a beach casual wedding.. In fact, the reason why beach casual weddings exist is because the happy couple probably wants to have a chill, spontaneous wedding void of usual wedding rules and formalities.

The possibly most famous casual beach wedding must be Cindy Crawford’s beautiful beach wedding in the Bahamas, when she and her spouse Rande Gerber set the standard for casual beach weddings. As you can see, their simple outfits are all the more stylish and suave due to the clothing being so simple, light and clear-cut. As they say, sometimes less is more. 

So, if you decide to have a casual beach wedding, then you do not need to wear a vest, blazer or sports jacket. In fact, you may even go barefoot!

Finally, it is all up to you and your preferences and expectations. Just make sure to brief your wedding party about what you expect them to wear. If coming to a wedding underdressed is everyone’s worst nightmare, then coming overdressed takes second place. 

What to wear to a casual beach wedding as a guest

As we have explained in the previous section, casual beach weddings are the simpler, more custom versions of beach formal weddings. However, be careful – don’t show up to a beach casual wedding wearing the following garments or footwear:

  • Your old rubber flip-flops
  • Sandals
  • Jeans
  • Hawaiian shirt (Even if the wedding takes place in Hawaii. Unless it’s a Hawaii-themed wedding)
  • Plaid button-up shirts (Stick with regular button-down shirts or, alternatively, a polo shirt)

A better approach is to keep it simple, as we noted above, with quality linen or cotton garments. So, the same thing a groom might wear works for the guests as well. Other than that, you could introduce a sports jacket in various different colors, however, you can, but you do not have to stick to any particular color scheme like pastel colors and muted colors, which is, of course, a characteristic of beach formal dress code. 

In terms of shoes, the shoes that work for beach formal also work for beach casual. Basically, the only thing you have to pay attention to is to not go overboard and come to the wedding wearing clothing that is too casual. Just use common sense and you’re good to go to one of the most enjoyable and magical locations where two people can get married. 

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