Tropical beach weddings are a romantic dream come true for many couples. There is magic in making vows to love and cherish each other in a breathtaking location surrounded by crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and swaying palm trees - what a great start in making vows that last forever! Tropical beach weddings are also certainly magical for the guests who are lucky enough to join them. If you’ve been invited to a tropical beach wedding, lucky you! I’ll bet the question of what to wear is at the forefront of your mind, and for good reason too!
You'll want to look your best in what might be an unfamiliar setting and an unfamiliar climate. Whether you're attending a beach wedding, a sunset ceremony, or even nuptials on a private island, we’ve got you covered with our quick guide to putting together the most fabulous tropical wedding guest outfit.
Attending a tropical wedding requires careful planning of your wardrobe. You absolutely want to contribute to the elegance and sophistication of the event without compromising your comfort, looking your fabulous best while feeling comfortable and cool in the hot and humid weather.
Allow me to give you a few tips from my personal experience that might help with your planning. Why?! Because this is totally my jam! I’m a fashion designer who lives in the very beautiful (but hot and humid) Cayman Islands and I create elegant pieces for women whose goal is to look stylish on the beach, regardless of the occasion, and whatever your body type.
I get my inspiration for my hand-drawn prints from Island stories and folktales and share their magic through the designs I create. I also love to inspire women to be their very best, so I’d be delighted to walk you through this anxiety-making task of finding your perfect tropical wedding guest outfit or even just give you some glam-it-up inspiration for your next tropical gateway.
In this quick tropical beach wedding style guide, I’ll share with you my tips on what to wear to a tropical wedding to look a million dollars, bring out your inner tropical queen, and deal with the climate. Let’s get started!
What to Wear to a Tropical Wedding
When it comes to dressing for a tropical wedding, there are a few key things to keep in mind. The first is of course the climate - the weather is likely to be warm (or absolutely roasting hot, depending on what you’re used to) and sweat-inducingly humid, so it's important to choose
fabrics that are lightweight and breathable. This will help keep you comfortable throughout the day.
Another tip is to consider a lightweight layering piece over your dress like a kimono or a duster. This is because the layering piece won’t cling to your body (making you hotter) and will allow air to circulate (keeping you cool), and also importantly if you do sweat (don’t feel bad, it happens), it all gets contained under the kimono until you can get back into somewhere that has (hopefully) air-conditioning at full blast, or lock yourself in the walk-in freezer in the kitchens to cool off. The layering piece will also protect your skin from sunburn if the ceremony is in the sun.
Another tip is to avoid 100% silk if it’s going to be humid. Yes, silk being lightweight keeps you cool, but with all that humidity, if you sweat in 100% silk, you will have visible sweat marks, plus the stain from the water may permanently ruin the fabric and therefore your evening. Instead choose a silk blend fabric mixed with cotton, modal or viscose, straight-up 100% viscose or cotton fabrics.
Here are some beach wedding outfit ideas to get you started:
A kaftan dress can be a stylish and comfortable option for a tropical wedding guest outfit. The loose and flowy silhouette of a kaftan dress provides a relaxed and airy feel, perfect for warm weather or beach settings. Adding a belt to a kaftan dress defines and flatters the waistline, creating a more structured look. Choose a belt that complements the color and style of your kaftan dress, such as a natural-tone, metallic or woven belt for a boho-chic vibe. The addition of a belt can also make your overall outfit feel a touch more formal, making it suitable for both casual and semi-formal tropical weddings.
TIP: You can lose the belt during the outdoor ceremony and let your kaftan hang loose to keep you cool until you find some blessed shade. Then pop it back on for dinner and dancing if you want to.
Flowy Maxi Dress
A classic choice, as it allows for plenty of movement and breathability while still looking elegant and chic. I love maxi dresses because I can dress them up with heels or flats, especially useful if you have to walk on uneven surfaces at any point. I also love a maxi dress with a
beautiful print because there’s less chance of you looking like one of the bridesmaids! You can pair a flowy maxi dress with sandals, wedges, or glam heels to take your maxi dress from casual to formal and add accessories such as statement earrings, a scarf worn as a shawl, or a statement clutch bag to complete your outfit.
A Lace Dress
Lace does double duty in planning your wedding guest wardrobe. The absence of actual fabric (lots of holes!) makes it cooler AND lace doesn’t show sweat marks as badly as other fabric. But make sure that the lining underneath is not a polyester fabric or 100% silk, otherwise, you will cook under all that cool-looking lace!
Easy to throw on and easily elevates even the most simple outfit. It also offers a bit more coverage while still being comfortable and lightweight. The combination of silk and cotton fabrics provides a lightweight and breathable feel, making it comfortable to wear in warm weather. Choose a kimono with fringe detailing for that stylish and boho touch to your outfit, adding movement and flair to your overall look. The versatility of a kimono allows you to wear it over a variety of outfit options, such as a maxi dress, a jumpsuit, or even as a beach cover-up. This kimono is the perfect layering piece for both casual and semi-formal tropical weddings, providing a touch of elegance and individuality to your attire.
The type of hat that works best for a tropical wedding guest outfit will depend on your personal style and the dress code of the wedding. Consider options such as a wide-brimmed sun hat for added elegance and sun protection, a straw fedora or Panama hat for a more hip vibe, a fascinator or headpiece for a more formal or dressy look.
This stunning piece can be styled in multiple ways, adding a touch of elegance and exotic flair to your wedding guest outfit. To wear it as a layering piece, simply drape the pareo over your shoulders or around your arms for a sophisticated light cover-up during the ceremony or in cooler evening temperatures. The next day, it also makes the perfect cover-up over your swimwear when you’re lying by the pool. And yes, another pina colada would be a great idea! As tropical crooner Jimmy Buffett says, it’s five o’clock somewhere!
A statement handbag is the perfect practical accessory for a tropical wedding but it’s also an area of outfit where you can feel free to unleash your creativity of choice. Go ahead, ditch the black, and choose something insta-worthy! It should be small enough to carry all of your essentials while still being stylish. What are your essentials? A small tube of sunscreen, a discreet face cloth or sheet of kitchen roll, (using regular tissues to wipe sweat, and any wedding tears will result in paper stuck to your face), a small pack of shine reducer, a small vial of perfume or deodorant and also maybe the small battery operated hand fan that will likely become your best ever investment in keeping your face cool, and help stop your makeup from sliding off.
When it comes to footwear for a tropical wedding, it's important to consider both style and comfort. Find out what surfaces you're likely to be walking over. Is it Sand? Then definitely flats. Look for sandals with elegant embellishments or metallic accents to add a touch of sophistication to your ensemble. If it’s Grass or wood decking, then wedge heels or a thicker heel will work too. For all other surfaces; go ahead and wear whatever you want.
TIP: These days many brides choose to have flip-flops waiting for their guests to change into if the wedding is on the beach, but nothing can beat your own carefully chosen pair of flats!
Pop them in a little bag and take yours with you. It also means you have a comfy (yet stylish!) pair of shoes to slip into after a few hours on the dance floor!
I invite you to come and shop my designer Storyteller collection which includes a range of kaftan dresses and beach kimonos made from high-quality, breathable fabrics perfect for keeping you looking amazing in heat and humidity. Each piece is versatile and can be dressed up or down according to the theme of the wedding or your mood, making them a great choice for a wedding guest outfit. Shop the Storyteller Collection now!
Dressing for Different Seasons
Tropical weddings are not limited to just one season. It may surprise you that some evenings can feel very cool or you might get caught in a tropical downpour (In the old wives' tale, rain is supposedly a sign of good luck for the wedding couple…has anyone ever tested that theory I wonder?!)
Depending on the season you may need to bring a shawl or even a light jacket with you.
What to Wear for a Summer Beach Wedding?
For hot-weather weddings, lightweight breathable fabrics are key. Consider an elegant kaftan dress that can keep you cool and comfortable and looking fabulous throughout the ceremony and reception. Pair it with flat sandals that will let you move freely on the sand so you can enjoy the beautiful beach. Don’t forget a stylish hat for more sun protection throughout the day. Accessorize with a small handbag and a handcrafted cuff for that island look. I’m also loving decorative parasols as an accessory. Just don’t block the view of all the guests behind you!
What to Wear for a Fall Beach Wedding?
If you're attending a beach wedding in October or November, consider a light jacket or wrap to keep you warm during the cooler evenings. Forget any rules about fall-inspired color palettes (there aren’t any rules!) and brighten the event with glorious color by opting for a colorful silk kimono. Pair it with pants (skinny or wide-legged) or even over a mini dress for a stylish ensemble. Take your tropical wedding outfit to the next level with a matching clutch. Check out our matching combo of a kimono and a small handbag. Finish your wedding guest look with your favorite accessories.
Formal and Casual Tropical Wedding Attire Tips for Guests
Like all weddings, tropical weddings can come with a range of dress codes, from formal to casual, and everything in-between, depending on the couple's preferences and the overall vibe of the event.
So before you start to prepare your wedding shopping strategy, make sure to understand the dress code. If the dress code on the invitation is still unclear (What the hell does Island Elegance mean anyway?), a great tip is to find out what the bridesmaids will be wearing and let the bride’s vision guide you. If the bridesmaids are wearing formal gowns or floral sundresses, then you have your cue for the spirit of the event.
What to wear to a formal beach wedding?
Formal tropical weddings can get a little tricky because in general formal or black tie on a beach may be uncomfortable depending on the time of the day. A formal prom queen style gown could be too heavy. Beach formal wedding attire for female guests usually calls for a dress that is light and airy, and made from breathable fabrics. In this case, I would generally opt for a flowy maxi dress instead of a full-on evening gown. Let your accessories elevate the look with a conversation-starting piece of statement jewelry and/or structured clutch bag. Men can wear a tailored suit in light colors like beige, light gray, or navy, paired with a crisp dress shirt and dress shoes. Find out if a tie is required.
What to wear to a casual beach wedding?
On the other hand, for casual tropical weddings, think more relaxed and comfortable, but still elegant, please! For women; a breezy sundress, maxi dress, or even a jumpsuit in bright colors or fun prints will work nicely. For men; lightweight linen shirts, paired with dress shorts or trousers, and sandals.
Wedding Guest Attire Do's and Don'ts
When it comes to wedding guest attire, there are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind.
- Choose lightweight and breathable fabrics to stay cool in the hot and humid climate - When attending a beach wedding, it's important to be mindful of the weather and choose appropriate attire that is both comfortable and stylish. Avoid heavy fabrics that will make you feel hot and uncomfortable, and instead opt for lightweight and breathable materials such as cotton, linen, or silk.
- Step beyond your comfort zone and opt for brightly colorful prints. They’re perfect for the festive tropical atmosphere.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on sand or grass.
- Dress appropriately for the dress code, whether it's beach formal or casual - If no dress code is specified, I find it's always better to err on the side of being slightly more dressed up rather than being too casual.
- Accessorize with statement jewelry or a small handbag to complete your look.
- Wear white, which is traditionally reserved for the bride - Yes, ivory, off-white, and cream fall into that category. It's traditional to avoid white unless the bride specifically requests that guests wear it. You don’t want to upstage the bride on her special day, do you?
- Wear overly casual clothing, such as shorts or tank tops, unless it's specified in the dress code - Avoid wearing anything too casual, such as jeans or sneakers, unless specifically instructed to do so on the invitation.
- Wear uncomfortable shoes; you won’t be able to make it through the day with a smile on your face to celebrate the happy couple if your feet are pinching.
- Wear anything too heavy or restrictive that could make you uncomfortably hot.
What are some beach wedding guest dresses for those over 50?
Shout out to my beautiful over-50 clients! When it comes to dressing for a beach wedding as a mature woman, there are plenty of stylish options to choose from. I think it’s because the older we get, the more likely we dress to please ourselves, and nothing those around us. Sundresses are a great option. Consider opting for a knee-length or midi-length sundress in a lightweight fabric like cotton or linen. Look for dresses with flattering silhouettes, such as A-line or fit-and-flare styles, that can enhance your figure. Draped details add elegance and movement to your outfit. Cleverly placed draping or ruching can help give the illusion of a smaller waistline and a more toned stomach.
I also love pants for my lovely ladies in this age group. They give you a bit more edge than a dress but still provide full coverage. I know a lot of women don’t like to show their arms, so choose a light layering piece like a light jacket, kimono, or a shawl to cover your arms. Or bring attention instead to your beautifully elegant collarbones and décolletage with a large statement necklace.
Don't be afraid to embrace your personal style and wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Choose a fabulous pair of shoes and a statement handbag or jewelry for an instant dose of confidence regardless of your age!
Can I wear black to a summer wedding?
The answer is yes, kind of, it depends. Let me explain; wearing black to a summer wedding used to be considered a fashion faux pas (something to do with funerals), it’s now generally accepted, as long as it is done tastefully, especially for more formal weddings. However, it's important to keep in mind the dress code and formality of the wedding. For a formal evening wedding, a black cocktail dress, tailored jumpsuit, or gown would be acceptable but I would avoid black for a summer beach wedding. What can I say?! I guess I’m still a traditionalist.
What do men wear to a beach wedding as a guest?
When it comes to dressing for a beach wedding, men have some great options for looking dapper while staying comfortable in the warm climate. Opt for lightweight and breathable fabrics like linen or cotton for your outfit. A crisp button-up shirt paired with tailored shorts or trousers is a classic and sophisticated choice. Finish off the look with a linen jacket in a light color if jackets are requested.
Generally, men don’t have to wear ties at beach weddings but do check the dress code. For a more casual look, a well-fitted short-sleeved shirt with chino shorts or pants can be a stylish option. A pop of color might be outside your guy's comfort zone, so start gently with a touch of light color; pastel blues, greens, yellows, and pinks, or fall back on neutral whites or creams. Consider wearing loafers or boat shoes for footwear, as they are comfortable and will be practical for sandy beach terrain. Accessorize with a straw fedora or a stylish pair of sunglasses to complete your best-dressed beach wedding guest outfit. As ever, remember to check the dress code and any specific recommendations from the couple. The goal is to look effortlessly suave and stylish whatever the dress code.
For great tropical beach wedding guest outfits for men, check out TABS, a fashion boutique offering a wide range of men's fashion perfect for beach weddings. Located in Bermuda and Cayman, TABS Cayman offers a curated collection of menswear that includes linen shirts, tailored shorts, stylish footwear, and accessories. Also check out brands like Vineyard Vines, J.Crew and Bonobos.
TIP: One handy tip for men at beach weddings is to consider wearing a t-shirt, preferably made from moisture-wicking polyester, inside your shirt to prevent sweat stains from showing and keep you looking fresh all day long!
There you have it folks! You’ve been armed with the inside scoop on what to wear for a tropical beach wedding from a designer whose life goal is to make all women, regardless of age or body type, look fabulous on the beach. Go forth and shine your brightest. Enjoying being a part of the most romantic of weddings as a guest.
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