When you combine cocktail hour and the beach, you get one of the most epic wedding themes ever. Relaxed yet elegant, this type of event has a special ambiance. After your friends exchange vows, you are able to enjoy the summer sun and take in the salty breezes; maybe even take off your shoes and gently dip your toes in the receding waves. When you’re in such a special place, how do you dress for it?
Overall, you should wear what feels right for the venue and theme. You can get a lot of clues from the wedding invitation to find out if the couple wants to keep things casual or if you should wear semi-formal attire for a different venue after the ceremony. Anything from special occasion dresses to suits or a jumpsuit will do. For this occasion, it’s best to leave your swimsuit and beach coverup at home—or just keep them on standby for the after-party! From semi-formal to formal, here are the best outfits for cocktail beach.
Every venue has its special flavor, so you can get many clues by investigating where the wedding will happen. Whenever the host doesn’t specify the dress code, a little bit of sleuthing can steer you on the right track. Just do a web search of the venue and look for photos of past weddings. Certain photographers who have images of celebrations at your beachfront destination may have done other weddings you can turn to in order to rouse your creativity. Take inspiration from what other people are wearing in the photos you find and make a look that’s entirely your own!
Since you will spend all or some of your time at the beach, it’s important to keep your footwear in mind. Wear shoes that are easy to put on and take off if the sandy terrain is too difficult for your heels or formal loafers. It’s also advisable not to wear any shoes that you don’t want to be damaged from sand or salt water. On the other hand, you may have better peace of mind if you bring two pairs of shoes—one for the beach and one for the dinner and dancing to follow.
When the invitation doesn’t specify a dress code, you can still infer quite a bit from the cocktail beach wedding theme. The typical cocktail wedding at any venue is one step above semi-formal, which calls for a tea-length or midi dress, or formal rompers. Maxi dresses for women also make for good semi-formal looks. Men can rely on a men’s suit to be appropriate for this occasion. In terms of accessories, you should use tasteful accent pieces. Avoid pieces that are too showy since the bride and groom will also be dressed in a more relaxed manner.
If the invitation says “formal” or “black tie optional,” you are now above the cocktail dress bracket and need to take your outfit up a notch. Since it’s not officially black tie, men can stick to men’s suits and standard ties without feeling the need to rent a tuxedo. Women can wear a dressy cocktail dress, floor-length gown, or dressy jumpsuit with glamorous jewelry and a clutch. This tier of dressing is highly encouraged when the beach cocktail wedding relocates to an upscale reception venue.
If the beach wedding is happening in the evening, the dress code can be elevated to the black-tie tier. It’s the only dressing tier that is below white tie, which is rarer and reserved for events like Presidential inaugurations and elite celebrity parties. Floor-length dresses and clutches are standard, but tea-length cocktail dresses can certainly make the cut for a beach setting. Elegant pantsuits are also acceptable here, especially in light of the venue. Men should wear tuxedos or dark suits with black ties.
Although a cocktail wedding should generally stay within the semi-formal zone, there may be some invitations that allow a “festive” dress code. This title is relatively new and can cause some confusion, but there is actually a lot of freedom in how you can dress at a festive cocktail wedding.
This simply means you can dress in a cocktail style with more flair and bolder colors. If you think of the Met Gala meeting cocktail dress codes, you can get a fairly good idea of what to expect. You can boldly choose red, hot pink, fascinators, fishnet gloves, and much more. Men can also opt for suits with fun prints and bright colors to reflect the mood the bride and groom want.
Follow the venue’s mood and the guidelines on your wedding invitation, and you can dress well for any upcoming beach cocktail wedding.