What to Wear to a Destination Wedding: A Comprehensive Style Guide

what to wear to a destination wedding

Destination weddings are exciting, but getting dressed for one is not easy. There are so many things to be considered. 

Are your outfits appropriate for the location? What fabrics and silhouettes are most flattering? Should you be carrying a backup outfit? And how much can you fit in your luggage? 

Almost all wedding invites will have a dress code stated, but very few will explain what they actually mean.

Before you start stressing, rummaging through your closet, or rushing out on a shopping spree, take a deep breath and read through our handy style guide. Our guide will shed light on appropriate destination wedding ensembles and decode commonly mentioned dress codes so you can look your best at every event.

Beachwear/Resort Wear 

While a beach wedding is usually a casual affair, unless the invite states otherwise, avoid flip-flops, board shorts, and bathing suit cover-ups.

For women, the perfect look for beach weddings includes free-flowing fabrics in pastel colors and floral or whimsical prints. Think classic cotton summer dresses, soft linen midis, flowing maxis, or chiffon dresses. Stray away from stilettoes or high heels to avoid wobbling and sinking into the sand. Instead, pair your outfit with comfortable wedges or pretty flat sandals. 

For men, think seersucker or linen suits in light neutrals or navy shades. If the weather is extra hot and humid, you can go for a subtle printed linen shirt with rolled-up sleeves along with chinos and loafers or boat shoes. An untucked Guayabera (an embroidered Cuban shirt) paired with cotton trousers can also work well, but this look is best suited to the more casual and extra-intimate beach wedding. 

If the wedding is taking place under the sun, don’t forget to pack your sunglasses, and women can even throw on a pretty sunhat. 


It’s time to lean into a glamorous look because a ‘Black Tie’ dress code is as formal as it gets for a destination wedding. It’ll typically be reserved for the reception. Women should wear floor-length gowns in slinky fabrics like satin, silk, or chiffon. Heels are ideal or fancy flats if you’d like to dance away at the afterparty. 

Men should don tuxedos with a jacket, a cummerbund, a black bow tie, and nicely polished patent leather shoes. 

Black-Tie Optional 

While you can choose to take it down one notch with the ‘Black Tie Optional,’ this dress code is a request for a formal, understated style. Men can opt for a dark-colored suit with a conservative tie instead of a bow tie. 

Women can choose to wear an evening gown or a cocktail dress for a black-tie optional affair. While you do have more leeway to choose different dress styles such as a high-low dress or midi dress, hemlines should stay below the knee. 

Semi-formal / Cocktail 

The most likely attire for a destination wedding is ‘Semi-Formal.’ On the dress-code spectrum, this falls somewhere between extreme elegance and casual. 

Women have more flexibility and can wear knee-length dresses or a flowy skirt with a formal top. A feminine, flirty, and floral vibe lends well to this dress code, and lace or chiffon are good options. Be sure to accessorize your outfit with simple, understated jewelry. 

Consider the venue and the terrain when choosing your shoes. You don’t want to be self-consciously teetering around in high heels if you’ll be walking on grass. Wedges and block heels are a safe choice. 

Men can wear a nice blazer and dress shirt with cotton pants and loafers. If the event is in the day, choose neutral, lighter colors, and if it’s in the evening, classic shades like navy blue and charcoal are some of the favorite go-to colors for semi-formal affairs. 

Themed / Color Coded

Some couples like a little extra customization. They might ask you to dress in a specific color palette or, they might even go all out and choose a bold theme. Irrespective of whether it’s an all-white affair or a roaring ’30s theme, the important thing is that you go along with it. 

If it’s an unconventional theme, do a Pinterest search for ideas. Explore statement jewelry, playful accessories, and embellishments to add some pizzazz. A themed dress code is an opportunity for you to use your imagination and get creative. 

It’s a Mystery 

‘Come as you are’ or not stating a dress code usually alludes to a more casual affair. This should be easy enough to follow, but the ambiguity is surprisingly daunting for most people. 

First, begin by ruling out any formal attire like tuxedos and gowns. Following the rules of a semi-formal dress code is a safe bet to ensure you look elegant, but not to the extent where you upstage the couple. Also, to help you decide on your outfit, you should consider the location and the time of the day. 

Location matters

One of the keys to figuring out what to wear is to research the location and the exact venue of the celebrations. Is the reception taking place at a vineyard with al fresco dining, or is it in a swanky marquee by a lake? Do a quick Google search of the location to be better prepared before you pack. 

It would also be wise to check the climate of the location. You don’t want to be hot and flustered in excessive fabric if the wedding ceremony is taking place by the beach. But neither do you want to be cold and shivering by the time the sun sets and the temperature drops, so be sure to stay updated with the weather forecast. 

Additional Advice

  • Pack light because no one wants to carry excessive luggage when traveling. Light and fuss-free pieces should be your go-tos.
  • Carry a SOS outfit just in case you have a mishap. The backup should be something semi-formal and comfortable.
  • Pack a pair of comfortable shoes. Again, this doesn’t mean flip-flops, but a pretty pair of sandals or ballet flats you can change into later in the evening. Your feet will thank you. 
  • Don’t wear white for the wedding ceremony. Even if the destination is different, the same rules apply. 
  • Even when the wedding is on the beach, remember that denim, shorts, flip-flops and tank tops are inappropriate unless the dress code explicitly states otherwise.

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