While suits and shirts used to be the standard for every man at a wedding, modern times are different. We’re seeing a big rise in casual weddings, with more relaxed dress codes, giving men more freedom regarding what to wear. Indeed, when it comes to casual wedding attire for men, there are lots of options from which to choose.
But, whether it’s your big day or you’re a guest at someone else’s wedding, it’s important to follow the casual dress code correctly. “Casual” doesn’t simply mean you can wear whatever you want. There are still rules and codes to follow, and the best casual wedding attire will allow you to look stylish while feeling comfortable.
Before picking out your casual wedding outfit, the first thing to do is read through the wedding invitation. Often, this can be one of the most useful sources of information about what to wear and what not to wear.
Most, if not all, invitations should mention the dress code for the big event. Standard dress codes can include formal, black tie, white tie, semi-formal, and casual. Some might even give you extra information about the specific type of clothing expected.
For instance, Bridgette Raes points out, “The adjective accompanying the word casual— usually words like dress, business, or smart — is used to let the invitee know the exact degree on the thermometer of casualness they should aim for.”
If the listed dress code is casual, you’ve got quite a lot of freedom regarding what to wear. It also indicates that the event aims for a more relaxed, laid-back vibe, which can help guests feel more at ease.
However, it’s easy to misunderstand a casual dress code – just like any other dress code, it has specific rules and restrictions. For instance, a casual dress code doesn’t imply that people can turn up in the kind of laid-back outfits they’d wear at home or that they should arrive in tees and jeans.
Instead, it means you don’t need to wear full suits and formal wear. You can enjoy more comfortable clothing items, like linen shirts and chinos, but you still need to dress nicely and stylishly to suit the importance of the occasion.
A casual wedding means that men don’t need to wear a suit. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still wear something resembling a suit. In fact, Men’s Health recommends always wearing a jacket of some variety, stating: “For starters, always wear a jacket, even if it is not a suit.”
But what kind of jacket is best? Well, you’ve got a few options:
A classic blazer is the perfect casual jacket to slip over your shirt. It has that suit-like formality but with shapes, cuts, and colors that feel a little more casual. And blazers are very versatile, too. You can pair them nicely with an array of accessories or other attire items.
A sports coat is another option. Similar to blazers but with patterned fabric, these jackets work well when paired with pants of a different color or material. They have a relaxed yet polished feel to them, which is perfect for groomsmen, in particular.
Vests tend to be associated more with formal weddings than casual events. However, if you’re the groom and need something a little fancier than the rest or are invited to a so-called elegant casual wedding, a vest could provide that extra formality you need.
Shirts are the go-to clothing items for men at casual weddings. As bridal stylist Julie Sabatino notes in The Knot, “When it says casual, men could show up in pants and a blazer with no tie – or maybe not a jacket at all – but just a nice shirt and a pair of slacks.”
Indeed, a nice dress shirt is all you really need to form the core of your casual wedding outfit, and here are a few recommendations to focus on:
If you just want a quick, simple casual wedding outfit, look no further than the timeless button-down shirt. Classic, versatile, and effortless to wear, these shirts are ideal for casual weddings at any time of year.
A linen shirt could be your best bet if the wedding vibe is a little more rustic or vintage or if the big day is planned during the warm summer months. Soft, comfortable, and breathable, these shirts are perfect for sunny days.
A chambray shirt is another option to consider. These shirts add a little more texture and depth compared to the others, and they particularly work well on their own without the need for a blazer over the top.
With the top half of the outfit sorted out, it’s time to consider the bottom half. Dress pants are an option for casual weddings, but are not wholly necessary. Other pant styles are acceptable too, from casual jeans to chinos.
Chinos are widely considered the standard for many men’s casual wedding outfits. Throw a decent shirt together with a pair of chinos, and you’ve got yourself a great ensemble with minimal effort required. They provide just the right balance between comfortable and classy.
If the event is a little more elegant, or if you’re a key member of the party – like the groom or one of the groomsmen – dress pants are a great choice. They’re the most formal kinds of pants you can get away with at a casual event. They’re ideal for men who like to dress up, or for important business casual days.
Jeans are also possible, provided that the event isn’t too elegant. For rustic and barn or country-style weddings, it’s perfectly fine to slip on a pair of jeans. But make sure they fit nicely. Loose or baggy jeans simply won’t look the part at a wedding.
In terms of footwear, “casual” doesn’t mean that you can turn up in your old pair of sneakers. It’s recommended instead to opt for shoes and footwear items that have a certain degree of class, without going all the way into dress shoe territory.
Loafers, like chinos, are the go-to, standard option for most casual wedding outfits. They pair perfectly with chinos and exude that quiet sense of sophistication while still having a more casual feel and a wide range of colors.
A pair of brogues might be best if the wedding has more of an elegant air, or if you’ve decided to wear items like dress pants and a vest. They can give you that suit-like look and feel without actually having to wear a suit.
The final option would be a pair of suede shoes or dress boots. These footwear items tend to be best suited for specific themed weddings, like rustic weddings or weddings during the colder times of the year.
You can also complete your outfit with a couple of key accessories. These small and simple items can elevate your look without weighing you down.
While most casual wedding outfits don’t necessarily call for a tie, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to wear one. A colored, patterned, or textured tie can add depth to your look. Bow ties can also be fun in casual settings, just make sure you’ve mastered the art of tying a bow tie before the big day.
A simple pocket square placed in your breast pocket, can add an instant pop of color to your look. This can also be a fun way to introduce cohesion to groom and groomsmen outfits – they can all wear the same pocket square to match one another.
Belts and suspenders are also popular ways to accessorize when wearing only a shirt and pants. They add some casual class to the ensemble and can fit nicely at bohemian or vintage-themed weddings.
Of course, you also need to think practically when picking out your casual wedding attire and choose something that suits the season. While many couples dream of a summer wedding, others prefer to schedule their big day at other times of the year. Guests and wedding party members alike will need to dress appropriately to feel comfortable.
For a summer wedding, it’s likely to be warm and bright. There’s also a good chance that you’ll spend plenty of time outside, so opt for light, breathable fabrics to stay cool. Light colors that work well include sky blues, gentle greens, and light grays.
If you’re invited to a fall wedding or winter wedding, you may have to cope with some cooler temperatures. Layer up with additional clothing items, like a jacket, that you can remove later on if it gets warm indoors. Pick heavier and cozier fabrics, too, like wool.
For a spring wedding, the conditions may be a bit warmer, so you can opt for breathable fabrics to stay cool and fresh. Pastel shades are also very appropriate at this time of year.
Color coordination is also key when picking out a casual wedding outfit. Not only do you want to make sure the various items of your outfit all go together, but you also need to ensure that the color of your jacket, pants, shirt, and so on matches the theme of the wedding itself.
A lot of themes have go-to colors that tend to work well. At rustic weddings, for instance, soft blues and tans work nicely. Brighter options like green, blue, and khaki can work well at boho weddings.
Read the invitation to get a feel for the ideal color palette, and speak with other guests or the bride and groom themselves to learn more. This should help you narrow down your outfit options and find a look that complements the theme and décor of the venue.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to mix up shades and patterns. One-color outfits are mainly suited for formal weddings. At a casual wedding, you can feel free to experiment with varying hues and tones, such as navy pants with a light blue shirt or tan pants and a dusty green jacket.
When it comes to whether the groom needs to match the groomsmen, everyone has their own opinion. Some people appreciate the uniformity of a groom and groomsmen in matching outfits, while others say that the groomsmen should all look the same, but the groom needs to stand out.
In general, it’s up to the groom to make the call. But, in most cases, some level of harmony between groom and groomsmen is expected. That doesn’t mean that the groom has to wear the same clothes as his groomsmen, but that they should try to match one another in some way.
At a casual wedding, for example, you might decide that the groom and groomsmen all wear the same light blue linen shirts and dress pants. To stand out, the groom could then add on an additional layer, like a waistcoat.
Another option would be to let the groomsmen and groom pick out their own casual shirts or blazers, but all wear a matching accessory, like a pocket square. This can be a fun and innovative way to help the male members of the wedding party stand out from the crowd.
In either case, when it comes to casual groom attire and groomsmen attire, it’s typical for these key members of the party to wear the most elegant outfits. While guests can come in simpler jeans and shirts, the groom might like to level up his outfit a little with the likes of waistcoats, suspenders, and jackets.
With your outfit all picked out, accessories selected, and footwear chosen, most of the hard work is done. But it’s not quite over yet. You still need to finalize your ensemble with a few finishing touches. It’s important not to overlook this part of the process, as it could be the difference between a good outfit and a great one. Here are some key styling tips to keep in mind:
Many weddings have their themes, and casual weddings are no different. The beauty of a casual dress code is that it can work so well with a wide range of wedding themes, from boho to rustic. Once again, this is why it’s so important to inspect the wedding invitation closely, checking not just the dress code, but the theme. Here are some tips for picking attire by wedding theme.
Bohemian, or boho, weddings tend to be quite chilled-out and unconventional. This wedding theme gives guests the chance to express themselves, and popular items can include hippie-chic harem pants, ripped denim, loose-fitting shirts, and lots of natural fabrics.
A rustic wedding aims to embrace the beauty of old and traditional things. Such weddings might be held in barns or similar buildings, and suitable attire for men can include waistcoats, suspenders, jeans, and caps. Opt for rustic colors, too, like brown, tan, and light blue.
Vintage weddings are all about old-fashioned clothing. They may have a specific decade or style in mind. For the 1920s and ’30s, for example, cocktail attire for men can be a good fit. Or they might be more general. In either case, opt for clothing items that are old-fashioned and traditional.
The phrase “elegant casual” might seem something of a misnomer, but it’s actually a popular dress code variation for many modern weddings. This code implies that you should pick out your most elegant shirts and dress pants, giving more of a semi-formal feel. Find out the answer to what does semi formal mean for a wedding to learn more.
Of course, not all weddings are casual. Many retain a sense of formality and sophistication, with male guests expected to wear suits or tuxedos to honor the occasion. For this kind of event, casual clothing won’t suffice, and you’ll need to find a quality tux to look the part. Generation Tux offers quality wedding tux rentals for the big day.
We hope this guide to casual wedding attire has demystified the casual dress code, making it clearer and easier to understand. The next time you need to pick out something to wear to a casual wedding, you’ll know exactly how to start.
As you can see, despite still having some unwritten rules, casual dress codes are quite relaxed. They allow you to dress comfortably from a soft linen shirt and pair of chinos to some dressy jeans and a sports coat.
And while it can be a little daunting to pick out your first casual wedding outfit, it can also be quite a fun process. Celebrate it by trying out different items and ensembles to find the right blend of comfort and style so you look great and feel fine when the big day comes along.