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Dress Code Guide: What Does Beach Formal Mean?

Happy bride and groom at the beach surrounded by people dressed up

As we work our way up toward the more formal side of dress codes, you’ll run into some confusing possibilities, like “beach formal.” However, this dress code is easier to navigate than it might sound.

Unlike business casual or dressy casual, beach formal attire is a reasonably uncommon dress code. However, it is popular for beach weddings, and other parties or ceremonies that take place on the beach or outdoors.

If summer might bring you to a fancy beach event, you’ll want to know what to wear—so let’s dive in!

Beach Formal: A Definition

Couple getting married under altar on the beach

Beach formal means you need to look great, but within limits imposed by sun and sand.

If the invitation simply said “formal,” guests might show up in stilettos and full black suits, which would make hanging out on the beach difficult. So, what should you wear to a beach wedding? Because you’ll be out in nature, you can’t go as formal as you would for an indoor event. You’re expected to put in the effort needed to look elegant, but also stay comfortable.

The good news about beach wedding attire is that 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 relax and have some fun with your outfit. Still, there are a few things to avoid, like wearing shorts with a blazer.

When to Dress Beach Formal

Woman in a red dress on the beach

Dress codes like “dressy resort” and “island chic” are effectively the same as beach formal. Beach formal attire works well for many outside events:

  • Beach weddings
  • Outdoor weddings
  • Fancy beach parties
  • Garden parties

If you’re attending an event on the beach (or outside) and it seems like a classy function, you should opt for beach formal wear. Your goal is to look nice while avoiding sweat and navigating sand easily. You can also dig into the beach theme with flowy fabrics and tropical colors or prints if you want.

Opt for this comfortable, outdoors-friendly style for other fancy outside functions like weddings, parties, and luncheons, too.

Beach Formal Ideas for Women

Three women in colorful dresses on the beach

Women have a few options when it comes to what to wear to a beach wedding. While it’s important to be on-trend and fashionable, you’ll also want to be comfortable if you’re going to be spending your day in the sand, so choose the best option to fit your needs and personal sense of style.


Avoid stiff fabrics and extremely fitted silhouettes for beach formal dresses, and go flowy instead. 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 are clean with the nails well cared for. A light jacket or wrap is a good idea for when the sun sets and the breeze cools.

PRETTYGARDEN Women's Summer Maxi Sun Dress

The perfect blend of formal and flowy!

This sleeveless halter dress will keep you cool while the warm summer sun beats down, especially with its flowing skirt that’s formal enough to make you look and feel fantastic.

An autumn wedding on the beach calls for something breezy and somewhat casual, but something that will also keep you warm when the sun sets and you’re dancing the night away. So, choose something flowy, but consider long sleeves.

ANRABESS Women Kimono

Light, loose, and lovely!

You can’t go wrong with a floral dress for a beach wedding, and this kimono-style option is perfect for a more relaxed and casual vibe.


It’s hard to find a women’s evening suit that’s not too stiff and heavy for the beach, so if you want to wear pants, jumpsuits are ideal. A skirt or romper tends to look too casual for beach formal events, but dresses in just about any length (aside from super-short) will work.

ANRABESS Women's One Shoulder Pleated High Waist Wide Leg Jumpsuit

A perfect summer jumpsuit in plenty of colors and patterns.

You can’t go wrong with a strapless or single-strap jumpsuit for a beach wedding. Plus, this option has wide legs that will perfectly pair with your favorite sandals so you don’t sink in the sand.

Dokotoo Women's Loose Jumpsuits for Women

Keep it light and loose at a casual wedding.

If you’re attending a more casual affair, this jumpsuit is perfect to head from the ceremony on the sand to the reception—where you’ll be comfortable enough to dance the night away!

Dokotoo Women's Loose Green Jumpsuits

Who said beach weddings can't be formal?

Beach weddings can still be “dressy,” and if the one you’re attending has a more formal dress code, you can look your best and still find comfortable in light-weight, flowing fabric that will breathe throughout the day and keep you cool.


If you want to choose a skirt for your beach wedding attire, go with something loose and flowy, and try to avoid heavy fabric. A maxi skirt can be a great option as long as it’s not so long that it drags in the sand all day!

HAEOF Women's Summer Elastic High Waist Boho Maxi Skirt

A boho-style skirt is lightweight and great for dressy-casual events.

Choosing a boho-style skirt is a great option for a casual wedding. You can keep it dressed down with a simple tank top or fitted tee, and you’ll fit right in with the “island” vibe.

If you don’t want to worry about finding a top to go with your skirt, this option has you covered. It’s a perfectly put-together look that is just flirty enough for a dressy-casual beach wedding.

If you’re attending an evening beach wedding, you’ll feel like a princess and a fairy all at once while you hit the dancefloor in this champagne-colored tutu skirt. It’s lightweight enough to keep you cool!

Beach Formal Ideas for Men

Bride and groom feet on the beach
Mariia Smeshkova/Shutterstock.com

Men should arrive at a formal beach event in things like summer suits, linen pants, khakis, and light dress shirts. Avoid shorts and short-sleeved shirts, which will look too casual. Instead, opt for light-colored clothes, and roll up your shirt sleeves if you’d like.

Although it’s the beach, sandals typically aren’t ideal for a men’s beach formal look. Instead, wear nice but casual closed-toe shoes, like loafers, and a belt that matches. If the other guests take off their shoes and go barefoot, you can join them.

Both men and women should come prepared for sun, sand, and sweat. Pack extra deodorant and sunscreen, and make sure your clothes won’t show sweat stains or get damaged by water. Beach formal attire is usually found at fun summer events, so show up comfortably and ready to enjoy yourself!

Summer Suits

A linen or seersucker suit in a light color works perfectly, and you can layer up with a light-colored shirt underneath, so as the night gets cooler you won’t overheat on the dancefloor, and you can even offer up your suit jacket to your date—for bonus points!

Men's Mint 2-Piece Linen Slim Fit Suit

A light color and light fabric for a perfect suit.

Fabric is important for beach wedding attire, but so is color! This mint linen suit offers a slim fit and an easy breezy color that practically screams summer. You’ll stay cool and look even cooler.

Men's 3-Piece Linen Suit

Live it up in layers.

Yes, you can still wear a formal-style suit to a beach wedding. A three-piece option offers a retro vibe, but the lightweight fabric allows you to stay cool, and you can remove layers comfortably.

Wehilion Retro Beige Linen Men's Suit

Perfect for the groom, bridal party, or guests!

A classic, neutral-colored linen suit is the gold standard for beach weddings. You’ll look the part whether you’re in the bridal party or a guest, and because of the neutral tone of the fabric, this is the kind of suit you can wear to multiple events throughout the summer.

Linen Pants

If you don’t want to go formal with a suit, a pair of linen pants is typically appropriate attire for a beach wedding. Choose a light, neutral color if possible, and don’t be afraid to go with a loose-fitting style. Linen pants aren’t typically meant to be “slim fit!”

Club Room Men's 100% Linen Pants

100% linen for an easy, breezy wedding day!

These 100% linen pants are just about as perfect as it gets. They’re dressy enough for members of the bridal party, but casual enough to keep you comfortable and cool as a guest all day.

Club Room Men's 100% Linen Pants

A tropical vibe---pass the pina coladas!

If the wedding you’re attending is a bit more casual, consider a drawstring option for your linen pants. They’re a little looser-fitting, but perfect for a Caribbean-style wedding when paired with a loose linen shirt.

Lauren Ralph Lauren Men's UltraFlex Classic-Fit

Slim and sleek for a sophisticated wedding look.

If you’re attending a more formal wedding and you do want a more tailored look, consider these ultra-flex linen pants. They’re not exactly slim-fit, but they will hug your legs a bit more, giving a cleaner look, especially when paired with a well-fitted button-up.

Light Dress Shirts

Speaking of dress shirts, the name of the game here is to keep from choosing heavy, dark fabrics. Keep things light, loose, and breezy, and you’ll be able to mix and match different pants and shirts for every beach wedding or other dressy-casual event you’re invited to this year.

Some shirts are just destined to be beachwear, and this one fits the bill! It comes in a variety of light colors, and is fitted enough to be worn comfortably under a blazer or sport coat.

Yes, you can wear short sleeves to a wedding! If the happy couple is going for a dressy-casual style, a short-sleeved linen button-up and a pair of linen slacks or khakis are absolutely appropriate. Plus, you don’t have to worry about overheating.

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to what to wear to a beach wedding. If you’re still in doubt or questioning your outfit, reach out to the couple to get more information about the attire they’re expecting. Other than that, choose an outfit that will let you stay cool and comfortable all day and night.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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