How to Choose a Wedding Gown for a Beach Wedding
Wedding season falls between spring and fall for a reason – couples adore the clear, blue skies, warm (and mostly consistent) weather, and that laid back summer feel that stays with people even if they do have to go to work everyday.
Summer is nostalgia and swimming pools and catching fireflies after sunset. It’s ice cream and palm trees and sweet peach tea. It’s such a fun season, myself, Vincent, and my team here at Pixan Photography came up with more than 100 summer wedding ideas just to inspire couples getting married then.
And if there’s one place that embodies summer the most, it’s the beach. Balmy breezes, toes in the sand, salt-water skin.
The beach is such a perfect place to be during summertime, many couples figure ‘why not spend one of the biggest days of our life there too?’
If that sounds like you and you’re planning a beach wedding, you might be wondering what kind of gown is best to wear.
There’s no doubt that a beach wedding has all kinds of pluses, but it also comes with its negatives. And sometimes, the pluses can also be negatives, which is why you should put extra time into choosing a wedding gown that will work wonderfully oceanside.
As Mexico destination photographers, Pixan Photography shoots a lot of beach weddings…a lot. Along the way, the Pixan team and I have made a few keen observations about the top considerations a bride will have when choosing a beach-ready wedding gown and I’m ready to spill the beans.
So put on your sunshades, slather on the sunblock, and keep reading for how to choose a wedding gown perfect for a beach wedding.
TYPE OF SAND
One of the first things you’ll want to think about while shopping for a beach wedding dress is what kind of beach you’ll call your own (for the wedding day, of course).
Where is the beach and what kind of sand does it have?
- Coarse sand will not do well for long trains and trailing dresses.
- Fine sand is easier to walk through and there’s not as much worry about rips and tears in the bottom of the dress.
STYLE OF VENUE
Take a good look at your overall venue as well and select a gown that matches the formality of your venue, decor, and theme.
If you’re splitting time between a ceremony by the sea and a reception indoors, and you don’t plan to squeeze in a costume change, you’ll want to choose a dress that can transition between the two.
What kind of venue is it?
A simple cabana will give off a very different feel than a ballroom with an ocean view.
What is the build of the ceremony space?
A wedding on the beach doesn’t necessarily mean a ceremony in the sand. Some venues own beach real estate and have built their own custom structure right on top of the sand.
If the ceremony space is full tiled, built on a wooden deck or a raised dock to the water, you’ll have fewer concerns about the style of dress because you won’t be walking on sand, except perhaps in a beach photo shoot.
What is the wedding theme?
Same goes for the decorations and wedding theme. If you’re aiming for a laid back beach vibe and your reception space is decorated in bright colors and bohemian details, you’ll probably want to steer clear from a more formal, sleek silk wedding gown and go with one that embodies the same laid back chic feel of your wedding.
How far will you need to travel to reach the venue?
Lastly, think about how far your venue is from home and all the little things that come with having a beach wedding.
- Will you have to check your dress at the airport or drive it cross country?
- Is it easy to pack and move? Will it wrinkle?
- Will it cost a fortune to get to your destination? A dress that is lightweight and fold-friendly is your best bet.
Packing Tip: When traveling with skirts and dresses, you’ll minimize wrinkles and creases if you roll the item, rather than fold it. Or, if you’re flying with wedding attire, consider packing it in a garment bag.
FABRIC & DETAILS
Now let’s talk fabric.
Think light and airy fabrics like organza, chiffon, charmeuse, cotton, and crepe , which all provide breathability and movement, not to mention they’ll dreamily billow in the breeze, which makes for stunning wedding photos.
For more lightweight fabric options, as well as heavier ones, check out The Knot’s epic Dress Fabric Glossary.
You can also attain airflow by choosing a dress with a lace bodice and skirts with slits.
Be mindful of lace trim, as it can easily pick up debris, like sand and everything that has washed up in it. If you’ve been drooling over lace or highly detailed elements, consider a dress that features these in the bodice, not in the trim of the skirt.
Keep embellishments to a minimum. The more frills you add to your dress, the heavier it will get. If you want to add sparkle, consider a simple draping neck piece or a garter belt with a little bling that wraps around your waist.
The overall design of the gown will influence your comfort significantly, so it’s probably a factor you don’t want to ignore.
Although you may have fallen in love with a certain style of dress, it might not serve you well on the beach.
- Keep the dress volume in mind. Ideally you want something lightweight, something you can move in, especially when it comes dancing time.
The heavier a dress is, the harder it will be to walk through sand. Plus, heavy = hot, and with the possible humidity your area might have, hot, sweaty, and sticky is definitely not something you want to endure.
- As for silhouettes, A-lines and shift dresses are ideal, as well as shorter lengths. Short wedding dresses eliminate straggling sand and other debris you might pick up on the beach.
If you’ve had your heart set on length, consider a shorter dress with a longer, lightweight veil to bring in that dramatic trailing effect.
Just as it is important to know what to wear, it’s equally as important to know what not to wear. Mermaid (I know, it seems so appropriate, but trust us!) silhouettes, ball gowns, and empire dresses should be avoided.
- When comparing bodice types, consider that crop tops with a separate skirt, strapless dresses, halter tops, and backless dresses will do wonders for keeping you cool.
Even though that quarter sleeve dress you may have your eye on seems like a lovely fit, think about how it will feel when you’re under the summer sun. And let’s not even think about sweat stains. No thanks!
This decision might seem as easy breezy as a day at the beach – white, obviously – but keep in mind that there are various shades of white. Even non-white colors can be beautiful, especially in a tropical setting.
A champagne or ivory dress you see in the bridal salon might look different once you’re strutting it in front of your home mirror. Different light spectrums will change the color of your dress, even if just slightly.
Since you’ll most likely be spending quite a bit of time under blue skies and sunshine, take your potential wedding gown into natural light to see what it looks like to the naked eye and in photographs. Better to be safe than sorry.
And if you have a beach nearby that has sand the same tone as where you’ll be wed, bring fabric swatches in various shades of white, ivory, champagne or whatever other color you’re considering to compare against the sand. Because sand tends to fall in these same shades of neutral colors, your dress could blend in too much in your beach wedding photos. Finding a shade that contrasts well against the sand will enhance your photos drastically.
DECIDING ON YOUR IDEAL BEACH WEDDING GOWN
To recap what we’ve covered: your beach wedding gown should ideally be lightweight, cool, and easy to move around in; should match the formality of your venue and wedding theme; look great under natural light and against a sandy beach backdrop; and most importantly, look and feel beautiful on you!
With all that in mind, in the end, you have to go with your gut and pick the dress you’re gaga about. This is a day you’ve been dreaming of for years, so you may just choose to throw all caution to the wind and get the dress you’ve been pining over, regardless of the drawbacks.
And, you know what? That’s OK! It’s your day to experience as you wish. Hopefully, these tips will simply give you some insight into considerations that can maximize your comfort and enhance your wedding photos too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vincent is the owner of Pixan Photography, a team of destination wedding photographers in Mexico that are as passionate about their clients as they are their work. When he’s not shooting destination weddings, Vincent loves traveling the world with his wife and son.