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What to Wear to a Destination Wedding as a Guest

Practical fashion advice so you can show up in style to your next destination wedding.

Wedding Guests dance at an outdoor wedding
Destination Brides |

Attending a destination wedding with no idea what to wear?  We feel you. It can be difficult to navigate the ins and outs of wedding dress codes, etiquette, and comfort while trying to stay true to your personal style. But don’t worry, we’ve compiled a full list of tips and tricks to make sure you look and feel your best for the whole event.

Put Comfort First

When choosing what to wear to a destination wedding, it’s important to consider the climate and setting of the event. If you’re attending a beach wedding, keep in mind that you’ll be in direct sunlight in a tropical climate. A full tux or satin gown may look stunning, but opting for light colors and breathable fabrics will help you keep cool for the duration of the event.

Some couples will provide fans for their guests to keep cool during the wedding, but just in case, consider bringing your own. A foldable hand fan can be a stylish accessory while being small enough to fit in your pocket or purse during the festivities.

Dress Codes at Destination Weddings

Some couples choose to have a dress code for their destination wedding to set the tone for the event or to coordinate guests for photos. If a couple has decided to have a dress code at their wedding, it will typically be listed on the invitation. But if you don’t see it there, check the website or ask the couple.


Man in Tuxedo stands next to woman in long black dress

Dress Code: Black Tie

Black tie is the most formal dress code and isn’t a common theme for destination weddings. But if your invitation says black tie, you’ll want to wear a tuxedo or evening gown.  If you’re a woman, opt for a floor-length gown in a luxurious fabric. If you’re a man, wear a well-fitted tuxedo with all the trimmings.


Woman in black dress puts her hand on the shoulder of a man in a suit

Dress Code: Formal

When it comes to formal beach weddings, the dress code can be a little more relaxed than for traditional black-tie weddings. However, you still want to look your best. For women, a floor-length gown in a light fabric like chiffon or silk is perfect. Consider wearing sandals or wedges with your dress to keep your feet comfortable. For men, a dark suit with a light shirt and tie is appropriate.


Man in grey suit links arms with woman in satin green dress

Dress Code: Semi-Formal

Semi-formal weddings usually call for a dressier look than a typical beach wedding. For women, a cocktail dress or a nice sundress is appropriate. Heels are fine, but wedges or flats are often more comfortable in the sand. For men, khakis or dress slacks with a collared shirt and jacket should do the trick.


Woman in sparkly dress dances with friends in a nightclub

Dress Code: Cocktail Attire

Cocktail attire is a relatively popular dress code for destination weddings. For women, this means a short, stylish dress. Think about something that would be appropriate for a nice night out on the town. For men, slacks and a sport coat with a button-down shirt is typically what you’ll want to wear.


Women in floral dresses and pants dance with men in slacks and casual shirts

Dress Code: Casual

For a more casual destination wedding, you can still dress up without being too formal. For women, try a sundress or maxi dress in a bold print or solid color. Accessorize with statement jewelry and sandals or wedges. For men, khakis or linen pants with a collared shirt and loafers are a good bet.


Man in a tee shirt and shorts spins a woman in a floral dress

Dress Code: Resort Casual

Resort casual is the most relaxed dress code you’ll encounter. For women, sundresses, Capri pants, and shorts are all fair game. You can also get away with a nice top and skirt combo. For men, shorts and a polo shirt are appropriate.


Women in Mardi Gras masks toast champagne

Dress Code: Festive Attire

Some couples opt for a festive dress code to reflect the location of their wedding. If this is the case, you’ll want to choose an outfit that fits the theme. For example, if the wedding is taking place in Mexico, you might consider wearing a brightly colored dress, traditional embroidery, or accessories that you buy from local shops at the location. 

Other times, you’ll see a festive theme when the wedding is taking place during a holiday or a certain time of year.  In this instance, you can wear something that fits the holiday theme. If the couple is getting married close to Christmas time, opt for red, green, and white, with sparkly details. For men,  a holiday-themed tie or festive socks are a nice touch.


Wedding guests in blue and white sit at a reception table as the best man toasts the couple

Dress Code: Color Scheme

One of the latest destination wedding trends is for the bride and groom to choose a single color or color palette for guests to dress in, like all-white or earth tones. This is usually done to create a stunning effect in wedding pictures. If you’re unsure whether or not a certain look will match, take a picture of the outfit in natural daylight and send it to the bride or groom to make sure.

What to Wear If You Don’t Know the Dress Code

If you’re not sure what the dress code is for a destination wedding, it’s best to err on the side of caution and go with a more formal outfit. This will ensure that you don’t end up looking out of place or too casual compared to the other guests.

That said, there are some occasions when it’s perfectly acceptable to go with a more casual outfit. For example, if the wedding is being held on a beach or in a tropical location, then it’s okay to wear something lighter and more informal. Just make sure that you’re still dressed appropriately for the occasion.

If you have any doubts, it’s always best to contact the bride or groom directly and ask for their advice on what to wear. They’ll be more than happy to let you know what would be appropriate for their big day.

What Shoes to Wear to a Destination Wedding

Another important consideration when deciding what to wear to a destination wedding is the type of footwear you’ll need. If the event is taking place on sand, grass, or any other uneven surface, it’s best to avoid heels or any type of shoe that may cause you to stumble. Instead, opt for flats or sandals that will keep you comfortable and stylish all day long. For men, loafers or boat shoes are a good choice to stay stylish and comfortable at the resort.

Hair and Makeup Tips for Destination Wedding Guests

When it comes to hair and makeup, less is often more for destination wedding guests. Since you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in the sun, it’s best to go with a natural look that will help you avoid sweat and melting makeup.

For your hair, try a loose updo or braid that will keep you cool and prevent your hair from getting in your face. If you have long hair, consider adding a pretty scarf or headband to keep it out of your eyes. 

As for makeup, go with a light coverage foundation, some mascara, and a pop of color on your lips. This will help you look polished without being too overdone. Finish off with translucent powder and a setting spray to keep everything in place in the tropical heat.

Finally, remember to put on sunscreen before you go out, at least SPF 30. You’ll want to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, especially if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outside. You don’t want to spend the rest of your trip treating a sunburn. But just in case, make sure to pack some aloe vera as well.

What Not to Wear to a Destination Wedding

Just as important as knowing what to wear to a destination wedding is knowing what not to wear. There are a few things that you should avoid if you want to make sure you look your best.

First, stay away from anything too casual, like jeans or cargo shorts.  You still want to look your best for the event to respect the couple’s big day. 

Secondly, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid anything made of silk or satin. You’ll likely be sweating, and these fabrics tend to stick to your skin. They also are notorious for being unforgiving when it comes to sweat stains. Stick with breathable fabrics like chiffon and cotton instead.

Finally, don’t feel forced to dress completely outside of your comfort zone for a destination wedding. Your attire should be a reflection of your style, and you’ll look most confident in what you’re most comfortable wearing.


With these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to find the perfect outfit for any destination wedding you attend. Destination weddings are an exciting time to experiment with your looks and try something new. Just remember to keep the dress code and location in mind when choosing what to wear. And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.

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