Dress to Impress

Whether you’re invited to a faraway wedding or you’re the stars of the show, here are expert tips on what to wear for the big day.

By Emily Howald Sefton

Dressing for a destination wedding is a tricky business. You’ve got the spatial limitations of a suitcase and the overarching conundrum of finding fashions that are the perfect blend of breezy and beautiful. From beach chic to seaside sophistication, wedding experts weigh in on the best styles for brides, grooms and their guests at destination “I Dos.”

The lightweight crepe in this Jenny Yoo stunner says breezy, while the fit and flare silouette keeps the sweeping skirt in place. $1,750 jennyyoo.com

The lightweight crepe in this Jenny Yoo stunner says breezy, while the fit and flare silouette keeps the sweeping skirt in place. $1,750 jennyyoo.com

If the picture you’ve had in your head since the moment you decided on a destination wedding includes a long, gauzy gown that softly blows in the wind while your hair frames your face in celeb-worthy waves, think again. Most destination wedding experts direct brides away from flowing frocks in favor of something a little less prone to unwanted wafting. “There’s a lot of breeze here,” says Lisbeth Cruz, a wedding specialist with Live Aqua Cancún and Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancún.

If you’re set on a full skirt, ask a tailor to sew coin-like weights into the seam of your hemline. Otherwise, Cruz encourages her clients to embrace more structural gowns in breathable fabrics that won’t be caught by the occasional gust of wind.

“Most brides want their dream, which is to look like a princess,” she says. “I always say bring the big dress, just use a lighter fabric.” Silk, cotton, chiffon, charmeuse and organza are popular options, while tulle, satin and beading are best left at the bridal boutique.

The Tipster: Plan activities that are separate from the wedding to make it a real vacation—whether you’re the bride or a guest.

The right hair and makeup also play a major role. “We’ve seen a lot of ladies fight their long hair in the middle of a ceremony,” says Cruz. “It’s best if it’s up.” Schedule an appointment with the hair and makeup team at your resort and try styles that speak to your personality.

Silvia Gutierrez, a romance expert with the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancún, encourages brides to use local technicians simply so they don’t have to worry about the ramifications of the elements.

“Things are different here because of the humidity,” she says. “Our specialists know what products and makeup to use so that [your look] doesn’t change with the heat.” A good tip for staying put together in the heat and humidity is to use airbrush makeup.

The Tipster: In lieu of gifts, destination wedding couples can consider telling their guests their presence is present enough. Guests who do want to give a gift should have it shipped to the couple’s home before or after the wedding.

Slip into sandals that are easy to remove on the beach but fancy enough to take you through the reception with style. Stuart Weitzman Mermaid, $225, zappos.com

Slip into sandals that are easy to remove on the beach but fancy enough to take you through the reception. Stuart Weitzman Mermaid, $225, zappos.com

One thing that should change, however, is your footwear. Brides often opt for sandals during the sandy portion of the ceremony, only to slip into strappy stunners for the reception. For a beach ceremony, Cruz recommends brides avoid ankle straps.

“When the bride is about to walk down the aisle and she stops to take her shoes off . . . if someone needs to help her, it’s usually not very pretty,” she says. If you plan to avoid shoes altogether, Samantha Landry, a concierge with Weddings by Funjet, encourages brides to consider foot jewelry.“It is a beautiful option to still have something on your feet, while not having to worry about sinking in the sand.”


Custom-made Paisley sports coat, tailored to fit comfortably in all seasons (and climates). Prices starting at $1,200. www.fredericklynn.com.

Custom-made Paisley sports coat, tailored to fit comfortably in all seasons (and climates). Prices starting at $1,200. www.fredericklynn.com.

While the bride’s gown is often a decades-long fantasy in the making, the groom’s attire is primarily dependent on the formality of the wedding. Aaron Comes, owner of the premier custom suiting store Frederick Lynn Haberdasshere in Chicago, encourages grooms to eschew tuxes for lighter fabrics, and to try to complement the bride’s dress as much as possible.

“I recommend a stunning jacket, a cream or white pant, white shirt and a lean tie,” he says. “For warmer weather, you have to choose a nice lightweight fabric that won’t wrinkle, maybe a silk or linen or mohair blend.”

Comes also invites men to play around with color— choose, say, a  ink or purple sport coat—to match the tropical setting. He suggests that footwear be casual, such as a driver shoe or loafer without socks, or a leather flip flop. “I like guys to stand out,” he says. “It’s their big day and they should feel like themselves and have some fun.”



Guests should also heed direction from the formality of the wedding. Just because you’re under the sun, doesn’t mean sundresses and sandals are accepted apparel. “Make sure your attire is elegant enough to look like uou are a member of the wedding group, not a tourist onlooker,” says Landry. Plan to wear something light, airy and comfortable. And remember, chic sun hats are welcome. “Think Kentucky Derby, but a little less extreme,” says Landry.

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