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What You Should Wear to a Beach Formal Wedding

A woman wearing a mint green beach dress, and man wearing a linen sport coat, and a woman wearing a coral wide-leg jumpsuit.

As the weather heats up, so does the wedding season. Summer, and June, in particular, have long been prime wedding time, and nothing says summer like a beach wedding! If you’ve received an invitation to an event that calls for beach formal attire, we’ll explain exactly what that means.

Beach formal is actually a pretty uncommon dress code. After all, not all of us are fortunate enough to live near the sea. However, it’s quite popular for beach weddings, and many other types of parties or ceremonies that take place on the sand.

If you have a fancy beach event coming up this spring or summer, we’ll help you choose something appropriate to wear.

What Does Beach Formal Mean?

Happy bride and groom just married at a beach formal wedding.

Beach formal essentially means you should look dressy, but within the limits imposed by sun and sand.

For example, if an invitation simply says “formal,” guests might show up in stilettos and full black suits. This would make hanging out at the beach pretty difficult, though. Because you’ll be out in nature and the elements, you can’t dress as formally as you would for an indoor event.

Still, beach formal implies that you should put in the necessary effort to look elegant, while also being comfortable.

The super-good news about beach formal is it’s not a dress code you’ll usually see at stressful events, like work functions. Without the pressure to impress a boss or interviewer, you can usually relax and have some fun with your outfit.

However, there are a few things you should avoid wearing to a beach formal event, such as shorts with a blazer. You also won’t see a lot of black, cream, or white (think bolder summer colors), and you should absolutely avoid wearing denim and/or flip-flops.

When Is Beach Formal Attire Appropriate?

A bouquet at the beginning of the aisle and a marriage ceremony being conducted on a beach in the background.
kireewong foto/Shutterstock.com

If you receive an invitation to an event that calls for “dressy resort” or “island chic,” these are essentially the same as beach formal.

Beach formal attire is popular for many spring and summer outdoor events, like the following, even if they’re not taking place on the beach:

  • Weddings
  • Birthday parties
  • Graduation parties
  • Fancier beach parties
  • Class or family reunions or picnics
  • Garden parties
  • Luncheons
  • Wedding and baby showers

If you’ll be attending an outdoor event that’s on the classier side, but the type of attire wasn’t specifically stated, beach formal is a good way to go.

Your goal is simply to look nice, while hiding (or avoiding) sweat, and navigating sand or the elements more easily. You can also lean into the beach theme if appropriate with flowy fabrics and tropical colors or prints.

Beach Formal Wear for Women

A woman in a mint green beach dress, a woman carrying a silver evening bag, and a woman in a royal blue tropical print dress.

Jumpsuits or dresses are both acceptable women’s attire for a beach formal event. For those who prefer slacks, it can be difficult to find an evening suit that’s not too stiff and heavy for the beach, which is why jumpsuits are ideal.

While skirts and rompers tend to look too casual for beach formal events, dresses in just about any length (except super-short) will work. However, tea-length—meaning the bottom of the dress falls below your knee and about three inches above your ankle—is ideal for beach formal wear.

Think “flowy” and avoid stiff fabrics or extremely fitted silhouettes. Bright or light colors tend to look better than dark colors. Choose low wedges or flat sandals (not flip-flops), and make sure your feet and nails are clean and/or painted. If you can afford it, definitely schedule a pedicure the day before the event.

A light jacket, wrap, or shawl would also be a good idea for evening events—after the sun sets it can get quite chilly on the beach.

When it comes to jewelry, just about anything goes, as long as it works with your outfit. Just keep in mind that heavy winds are usually a factor on the beach, so long necklaces and earrings might be annoying if they’re constantly being tugged on by strong breezes.

A dressy purse or pocketbook with a shoulder strap is a good idea, as you don’t want to have to set it down in the sand—all your important items inside will quickly be coated in the stuff.

You might want to avoid heavy makeup, especially for an afternoon wedding, as it won’t feel very comfortable in the heat, nor will it be good for your skin and pores. Plus, you’ll probably just sweat it off anyway. A light eye and lip should be perfect.

All of the following would be perfect to wear to a beach formal event:

Dokuritu Women's Beach Crochet Lace Maxi Dress

The perfect example of 'formal,' when sand, waves, and wind are involved.

Romwe Women's Floral Print Boho Midi Dress

For those who want to lean into the tropical look.

BELONGSCI Wide-Leg Long Jumpsuit

For those who prefer pants and the tropical look (it comes in solids, too!)

KOH KOH Womens Sleeveless Cocktail Wide-Leg Jumpsuit

For those who prefer a more formal pantsuit.

SHU-SHI Sheer Kimono Cardigan

When it comes to a wrap, an option with sleeves is wise on a windy beach.

Naturalizer Women's Taimi Dress Sandal

With heels or without will work, as long as they're dressy.

lovyoCoCo Evening Clutch Purse

Detachable strap instantly converts this adorable clutch to a crossbody.

Beach Formal Wear for Men

A man wearing a beige linen sport coat, pocket squares in a variety of colors fanned out on a table, and a man wearing a linen dress shirt.
PJ PAUL JONES/Jeatonge/Runcati

Some common beach formal attire for men includes the following:

  • Summer suits
  • Linen pants
  • Khakis
  • Light linen or cotton dress shirts

Like the ladies, guys should also avoid wearing shorts, as well as any short-sleeved shirts that look too casual. Instead, opt for light-colored clothing, and roll up your shirt sleeves if you’d like.

A linen or seersucker suit in a light color will work perfectly. You can also do linen pants or khakis with a light-colored dress shirt with a blazer, sportcoat, or vest. Opt for a tie or pocket square, but not both.

Unfortunately for the guys, sandals don’t work that well with their beach formal wear. Look for a pair of casual, closed-toe shoes (loafers should be fine) with a matching belt. If some of the other guests take off their shoes and go barefoot, you can join them.

Men will look fantastic at any beach formal event in these looks:

Button-Up Long-Sleeve Cotton Dress Shirt

Comes in many colors and sizes.

PJ PAUL JONES Slim Fit Lightweight Linen Sport Coat

Lightweight and comes in avariety of colors.

Perry Ellis Linen Suit Vest

Ditch the hot jacket altogether.

Cubavera Men's Flat-Front Linen Blend Dress Pants

Lightweight and perfect on a hot day at the beach.

Men's Skinny Fashion Necktie

Lean into the tropical theme.

Pocket Squares, 20 Pack

Add a pop of color in any shade you want.

Rockport Men's Classic Penny Loafer

Finish your look off with class.

A beach formal wedding or event definitely calls for a more laid-back style than an indoor formal occasion. You also have to dress for the sun, heat, wind, and sand. Hopefully, some of our suggestions will work for your upcoming event, or, at least, get you on the right track.

Amanda Gambill Amanda Gambill
Amanda is the Managing Editor for LifeSavvy. She’s been writing and editing professionally since 2004. In her spare time, Amanda reads stuff no one else does (classics and historical bios), watches documentaries that put others to sleep (ancient cookware archaeologists found under a McDonald's), and writes stories about things that go bump in the night. Read Full Bio »
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