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So you just got your friend’s wedding invitation in the mail and notice that the wedding dress code says not formal wedding attire, but casual. That might seem confusing at first. After all, weddings are normally considered formal events, so what does casual mean in the context of a wedding dress code?
For the most part, casual in the context of a wedding means business casual. That usually means that things like jeans, tank tops, and flip-flops are off-limits. Things like khakis, button-ups, chinos, and blazers are in though. With the this attire, you have a lot of flexibility to pick outfits for a wide range of venues and times of the year.
The Sposa Group Bridal thinks, Every wedding has a dress code though, and it’s always unique - from cocktail attire to formal wedding attire to even being a black tie wedding. Even when you might have some ideas about what to wear, it can be hard to make a final decision. The most important thing when it comes to a wedding is to show respect to the venue and the bride/groom with your outfit and poise, like we explained in our what to wear to a wedding for men guide.
What is Appropriate for a Casual Wedding?
In a nutshell, casual wedding attire equates to business casual attire and can be considered the level below shirt and tie formal. It’s somewhat formal attire, but not incredibly formal like black tie wedding attire. You might think of it as the kind of clothing that one might wear in the office or other professional environments. That doesn’t mean you would wear to work but clothing that is inspired by this kind of office semi-formal look.
The definition gets a bit muddled through, especially with the use of the word ‘casual’ which brings to mind pictures of t-shirts and baseball hats. In some cases, this dress code can incorporate jeans, but only if they are a nice pair of jeans. In the context of a wedding, jeans probably do not fit the bill for suitable attire and wedding guests should avoid it.
When it comes to what you should wear, the classic image is a pair of chinos or dress slacks, a button-up collared shirt, and nice shoes. Ties are optional for business casual attire but the lack of a tie needs to be made up for with style and fashion sense. Loafers, oxfords, and derbies are all good options for male wedding guests in a casual wedding environment such as a beach wedding or backyard wedding.
Since the 90s, the style has consistently evolved to incorporate more styles and trends. In the 2000s, you start to see a loosening of the standards and an embrace of more diverse colorings and clothing articles. As such, business casual has evolved far past its origins in just casual office wear and is now the de facto dress code for a lot of places.
Anatomy of Casual Attire for Weddings
One thing you'll want to wear is a good blazer. By good, we mean well-fitted and tailored. Blazers should have a slim, fit cut around the chest and a square look to the shoulders. The sleeves should stop just before the shirt cuffs and the lapel should go down to just above your butt. The best materials for a blazer tend to be single materials like wool and cotton. Darker neutral colors are also the better choice, colors such as blues, navy, browns, and tans.
A blazer is a good idea for a wedding during the autumn or winter, although it can still be a good choice for a summer wedding. If you are planning for a winter wedding, we would recommend going with a thicker material like wool. In the summer or spring, a lighter material like linen or cotton is a sure thing.
As far as shirts go, the gold standard is a tasteful Oxford button-down. Even for casual weddings you want to mostly stick to sold, light colors like whites, light blues, pinks, and the like. Patterns are ok as long as they are simple and only utilize about 1-2 separate colors. The fit has to be right too as we discussed in our fit guide.
Instead of a blazer, you could also opt for just wearing a slim fit shirt or roping it off with a cardigan or sweater. These two options make a good alternative to a blazer when the weather calls for it. You can pair a button-down shirt with a wool vest while wearing a tie under the shirt. This combination gives a fun but professional vibe that is perfect for casual dress code weddings.
You do not need to wear suit pants so you have a lot more options than a traditional wedding. In our opinion, the best pants for this setting are either slim-fitting or straight leg. These two fits of pants leave a good through line on the leg, slimming your profile and making you look taller. In that sense, a neat pair of flat=front chinos will never be the wrong choice.
As far as jeans go, they are usually not allowed. However, you might be able to get away with wearing jeans in some environments, provided that they are a very nice pair of jeans. It is pretty easy to tell bad quality denim from high quality denim, so if you are going that route at least make a concerted effort.
Shoes have a lot of flexibility in this dress code and for weddings you can even get more fun with it. As long as you stay away from athletic sneakers and casual sneakers then you should be good. A nice pair of loafers of Oxfords is a great choice, especially when you stick to dark, earthy colors like brown, tan, and dark blues.
Chukka boots are another popular shoe alternative that goes great with virtually any kind of wedding attire. If the vibe is right, you may be able to get away with a pair of leather sneakers. Make sure that you have a good grip on the dress standards though.
What Should I Avoid Wearing at a Casual Wedding?
Casual at a wedding might have "casual" in it but this is still a wedding. That means that certain clothing articles will be off limits no matter what. This includes things like shorts, t-shirts, sleeveless shirts, flips flops, open-toe shoes, and a shirt with graphic imagery, words, or icons on it. You should also not wear anything that should not be worn with a suit and not a casual suit jacket as well.
Another thing to keep off for the wedding is hats. Most of the time, you will be required to take hats off for the ceremony, and hats are not generally considered appropriate.
Men’s Casual Wedding Attire FAQ
What does casual mean when it comes to weddings?
In the context of a wedding, a casual dress code most likely means business casual attire. This means chinos, khakis, button-downs, and blazers. Most of the time, this attire does not include Polo shirts, though it may in some cases.
Can I wear jeans to a casual wedding?
Generally, no, jeans are not suitable for a casual wedding dress code This is just a general guideline though and sometimes it will be just fine to wear jeans as casual wedding attire. A pair of high-quality raw-denim jeans with a slim or straight leg cut would go well when worn with a blazer or cardigan.
Does it matter if it’s a winter or summer wedding?
Yes, the time of year can make a difference in the expected dress code. Generally during the summer, lighter and softer colors are favored like pastels, blues, pinks, whites, and soft yellows. During the autumn and winter, darker cool colors like dark blue, reds, and blacks are favored.
Are there any colors that I should avoid?
Yes, there are a handful of colors that men should avoid, including red, white, and any other very loud, bright colors. Otherwise, men do not have nearly as many traditional color restrictions during a wedding. For example, ladies are often encouraged to not wear white to a wedding.
Can I wear a tuxedo to a casual wedding?
You certainly can wear a tux to a casual wedding, though it might not be a good call. Part of dressing well is knowing how to dress for the occasion and at a casual wedding, there really is no need to flex with a tuxedo or something equivalent. Just stick to a nice jacket and some slacks (a dark suit is best) and you should be fine.
What are common options for casual wedding attire?
Some of the most common clothing items for a casual wedding dress code include chinos, a button-down, and a blazer.
Weddings are excited but it can be frustrating when you don’t know what to wear. That goes double for weddings with a casual dress code. As long as you keep the general rules of casual dress and you should be fine. Wedding casual dress needs to toe the line between casual and formal and there are a lot of options for men in this sphere. If you are having trouble thinking of outfits, then take some time to look things up online and pick your favorites. You might find inspiration from browsing the internet and keeping tabs on things that you find interesting. It can also be helpful to ask your friends and family for advice as well. You never know who might have a good idea.