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What to Wear to a Beach Wedding: Attire By Dress Code

Ahhhhh, summer weddings on the Outer Banks.

Wedding couples spend many hours picking out a perfect beach location and deciding what he/she is going to wear at their Outer Banks wedding. But guests often wonder what to wear for beach weddings. This guide will help you find beach wedding attire that looks good and is still comfortable.

Beach weddings are often more casual affairs than church weddings, however, dressing for a wedding on the beach can take some planning. Here are some tips on what to wear to an Outer Banks wedding - taking time and location into consideration.

Formal Beach Wedding Attire

The most important thing to think about when dressing for a formal beach wedding, whether you're planning to dress more masculine, feminine, or somehwere in between, is the fabric. Even though the wedding calls for formal attire, it's still important to choose breathable fabrics that are loose and light on the skin. This will help with the chill from the wind while also protecting you from any sand that might make its way on the breeze.


For women and people looking to dress more feminine, dresses, jumpsuits, or even a loose-fitting suit can be great options for beach wedding attire for female and feminine guests. Choose bright-colored fabrics (not white - obviously) such as cream or peach and feel free to experiment with length as long as it's not too short. Tea-length dress or ankle-length dresses are always a safe option. Try to avoid anything strapless, as the wind and weather on the beach can be extremely unpredictable. A light shawl, wrap, or scarf is a great way to elevate your outfit without missing the theme. Beach formal is also a great opportunity to experiment with jewelry like a statement necklace or hoop earrings that will give your fit a little bit of flair.


For men or a more masculine look, beach formal attire isn't all that different from traditional wedding attire. You'll want a jacket at the very least with a pair of slacks and a tie or a suit. Still consider the fabric of your outfit and find something that won't be too hot or uncomfortable, but will still keep the theme going. Look for a summer suit or consider linen pants or khakis with a suit jacket. Shorts and short-sleeved shirts are a big no-no, even for beach formal. A seersucker suit is a safe bet while a sportcoat over a pair of khakis is also a reliable option. Don't go for anything too dark or too thick.

Cocktail/Semi-Formal Beach Wedding Attire

Cocktail or semi-formal beach wedding attire is a little bit more fluid than formal, meaning that you have the chance to be just a bit more comfortable while still keeping things classy. Keep the same things in mind regarding colors and fabric as you would with formal clothing. Keep it light and airy and avoid black and white.


Stick with jumpsuits or dresses, but you can feel free to show a little bit more arm, back, or leg. Consider open-backed dresses with top buttons or reverse v-necks. Jumpsuits with loose legs and off-the-shoulder sleeves are also a great way to keep things classy while being a little more relaxed. Cocktail attire also means that you can choose brighter colors or louder patterns that allow you to express yourself. And don't forget to include a fun accessory piece like a scarf or a hat (just be prepared for the sea breezes coming off the water).


For men, you aren't necessarily going to need a jacket but you can always wear one with a bright print or a fun pocket square to liven up your outfit. You still may want to consider a button-down, but feel free to consider a three-quarter-sleeve shirt.

Casual Beach Wedding Attire

A casual beach wedding theme means you get a little more freedom in your wardrobe, but don't take it too far. This isn't the freedom to wear bathing suits or board shorts. Instead, think about what you would wear on a cruise or a photo-shoot for family pictures on the beach.



Maxi dresses, juimpsuits with bright patterns, or boho-style lace is perfect for a casual beach wedding. Don't wear anything super short and plan for the weather to change quickly, but feel free to have fun with it. Floral prints are always a great option as are fun accent pieces with a halter-style top or a free-flowing skirt.


A casual beach wedding is a great excuse to break out the cozy, bright-colored polos or the floral button-up shirts with short sleeves. Khakis or linen pants are a great option and you won't need to worry about bringing a jacket unless you want to. Cinos or loose shorts are also allowed when you're going casual, but don't wear denim or cargo shorts if you can help it.


One of the most important things to know in advance is whether the wedding will take place on the sand or on grass (or another solid surface). Beach or elsewhere, you should select shoes that are practical. You don't want to be that guest struggling to walk in expensive high heels or scuffing up your nice shoes in the sand. 

Skip the stilettos in favor of cute flats. And for both men and women, don’t be afraid to sport a pair of nice sandals. Remember that you may be walking through sand and if you don't have the option to take your shoes off, you'll want shoes that are easy to walk in.

Different locations call for different footwear:

  • Beach (sand): You should wear flat shoes to a beach wedding, particularly if it is being held right on the sand. Fancy flip-flops are perfect for most beach weddings - but why not take it up a notch with a pretty sandal? Flat sandals can be both chic and comfortable. Select a thong sandal embellished with crystals, stones or other adornments.
  • Grass or other hard surface: Try kitten heels, wedges, or Espadrilles.

Tip: You can always bring a pair of comfortable flip flops for dancing afterwards!

Plan for Outer Banks weather

Although not on the formal guest list, Mother Nature should not be forgotten as a guest - bringing with her sun, sand, wind, and possibly rain.

Sun: Hats aren't just for the Kentucky Derby or the ballpark, they can be a chic fashion accessory for a summer wedding. Select a hat with a wide brim for optimal sun protection. Make sure to wear makeup or moisturizer with SPF and don't forget your sunscreen.

Wind: Remember, it can get breezy at Outer Banks beach weddings. Be prepared to pull long hair back into a ponytail or to use a scarf as a headband. Have a pashmina, wrap, or sweater for cool breezes.

Rain: Make sure you consider an umbrella, hat, or shawl to wear like a headscarf, or be prepared for hair to do its own thing.

Tip: Long, floaty dresses for the ladies (or loose hairstyles) may prove troublesome and a shorter, close fitting dress may be more practical if wind is going to be a factor. View Outer Banks weather.

What not to wear to a beach wedding

Although beach weddings are more casual affairs, there are a few common points to note:

  • It is standard not to wear white in order to not conflict with the bride's dress.
  • Try to avoid wearing black for a daytime beach wedding... the sun gets hot!
  • Formal dress is not usual due to the weather but the couple may specifically request it.
  • Avoid wearing jeans, really short shorts (or dresses) or ripped clothes.

When in doubt about proper wedding attire, ask a bridesmaid, groomsman, the parents of the bride, or the happy couple if they are close friends. When in doubt, go slightly dressier and remove a suit jacket or embellished cardigan to simpler clothing underneath.

Need a place to stay when you attend an Outer Banks beach wedding? We have amazing Outer Banks rentals ranging from 1-10 bedrooms (including oceanfront condos) so you can enjoy the beach while you're here.