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Beach Wedding, Black-Tie

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Not all beach weddings are the same. The sunshine may glisten on the cerulean sea everywhere, but the cost of that natural setting differs worldwide, which in turn can set the tone for the wedding. Fancier locales – a la Hawaii and its stunning resorts, or the French Riviera – often lend themselves to “beach formal” attire. Translation? Usually ladies can leave the swimsuit cover-up behind and don a nice chiffon sundress in deference to the bride who will be wearing more than a slip dress.

Beach formal lends itself to a more elegant, stylish affair. Grooms opt for tuxedos and brides don’t shy away from veils and trains. That doesn’t mean the bride should wear a thick duchess silk satin gown encrusted with rhinestones. The beach calls for a lighter touch – less fuss, less drama.

“The fabric of choice can be silk taffeta or organza, but not a heavy silk satin,” says Michele Martin, owner of M Bride Salon in La Jolla, Calif. “Style-wise, she can wear what she wants. She can even have a big train. We just outfitted a customer in an Ines di Santo silk taffeta gown with a big feathery train for an ethereal effect.”

Whether brides marry right on the sand or on an event lawn nearby, they should bear in mind the elements, like the wind and the cold. They can cover bare shoulders with a little bolero for an evening wedding. A long dress can keep legs warm. A slimmer cut dress may work better in a windy setting. And, veils should be weighted at the bottom to stay in place.

Libby Hansen, a stay-at-home mom and former television executive from the Los Angeles area, recently attended a wedding at the Four Seasons Resort in Maui where the bride dazzled in a formal mermaid gown. The gown paired nicely with the groom’s off-white custom tuxedo crafted in a light fabric. The female guests hewed to sundresses. Tie-less summer suits were the ensemble of choice for the men.

“Clearly, [venue] dictated a fancier vibe,” Hansen says. “I think people know what an upscale hotel it is and thus didn’t go too casual.”

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