So you just got your friend’s save-the-date in the mail and notice that the dress code says casually. 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 business casual attire, you have a lot of flexibility to pick outfits for a wide range of venues and times of the year.
Every wedding has a dress code though, and it’s always unique. 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 Business Casual?
First, though, let’s talk about what the term business casual actually means. Business casual is one of those terms that gets thrown around all the time and is taken for granted.
In a nutshell, business casual attire can be considered the level below shirt and tie formal. It’s somewhat formal attire, but not incredibly formal. 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 business casual means only clothing that 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, a business casual 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 business casual attire.
When it comes to business casual, 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 shoes in a business casual environment.
The actual history of business casual is a bit interesting. It actually started in Hawaii with the concept of Aloha Fridays in which office workers were pushed to wear Hawaiin shirts. This trend eventually worked its way over to the continent in the form of casual Fridays on which office workers could wear casual clothing to work.
Of course, some people have to ruin a good thing and take things a bit too casually. That was when the company Dockers put together a new brochure highlighting so-called “casual business wear.” As you might expect, Dockers put their line of khakis front and center of this new style trend. More offices embraced the trend, and suddenly business casual was the norm at workplaces around the country.
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 Business Casual Attire for Weddings
Nothing says business casual like 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. Business casual attire should 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. The classic business casual short has two seams down the back and hugs the frame. Color schemes can change depending on the time of year and the specific venue of the wedding.
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.
Business casual does not require suit pants so you have a lot more options than a traditional wedding. In our opinion, the best pants for a business casual 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 the business casual 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 for business casual attire, 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 Business Casual Wedding?
Business casual might be casual but it is still business. 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 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 part of business casual clothing.
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, business casual 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 business casual dress. 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.
Do I need a tie for business casual?
No, business casual attire does not normally require a tie, though this is optional. Business casual traditionally gets rid of the tie but might allow an alternative like a pocket square.
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 and you should be fine.
What are common options for business casual attire?
Some of the most common clothing items for business casual dress 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 business casual dress and you should be fine. Business 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.