Maybe you’re headed to a wedding that allows jeans and T-shirts, or maybe you’re attending one of the weddings I’ve just described. Either way, this article is not for you.
Instead, we’re focusing on weddings where the dress code is “casual,” “smart casual,” “creative black tie optional,” or any other vague descriptor that leaves you wondering how to interpret it. You don’t want to wear something too formal and out of place, but at the same time, you don’t want to come in wearing an outfit that’s too casual—perhaps even disrespectful—for a wedding venue. If this sounds like your dilemma, read on for our tips for decoding even the most ambiguous of wedding dress codes and nailing your outfit choice every time.
A linen suit
A linen suit is the most casual option for a groom. It’s the perfect choice for a beach wedding or an outdoor wedding in general, and linen suits are easy to come by and are often more affordable than a wool option. A short-sleeved shirt beneath your jacket will help you stay cool on even the hottest days, and you can roll up your sleeves if things get too toasty.
If you want to keep things fairly formal, choose a solid color linen suit in white, cream, or a light beige tone. These suits work well with other neutrals like tan belts and oxfords or brogues in brown or navy blue. If you’re not afraid of something bolder but still want to keep it casual, opt for brightly colored linen suits that coordinate with your overall wedding theme
A polo shirt
The wedding I’m referring to is a casual, outdoor affair that will take place in the summer. It’s not a formal event at all: no tuxedos or gowns or even suits for the groom. Just some good ol’ fashioned leisurewear for everyone—what most of us would wear to play volleyball on the beach on a hot day with our friends and date.
Given this context, wearing a polo shirt seems pretty logical: it’s lightweight and comfortable, yet it’s still stylish enough to make you feel like you don’t have on your Sunday go-to outfit—a blazer over jeans and shoes. The polo shirt is dressed up with a blazer, but it doesn’t have enough going on against its light blue color so that it stands out. If you’re going to be outdoors in 100° heat all day (in case we don’t mention that this will happen), you want to stick with an outfit that doesn’t draw too much attention or call too much attention to itself—otherwise, it’ll look like you’re trying too hard.
A button-down with your “fancy” jeans.
When it comes to dressing for an event like a wedding, there are a few things that you can’t skimp on. After all, the bride and groom will be choosing your attire when they see you.
We’re going to start by talking about one of the most important parts of any outfit: shoes. While many couples choose to wear their traditional black tuxedos, you can make your ensemble stand out with something edgier like high heels. Shoes go hand in hand with button-down shirts. If the shirt is cropped or has a plunging neckline, that means it’s not a button-down (which is why you should probably avoid them). But if the shirt is long enough for you to wear leggings underneath, then that means it’s ok for you to wear them with jeans.
Now we want to talk about some accessories: rings and bracelets are staples at weddings because they’re classic and elegant items that never go out of style. We suggest bringing three or four pairs of bracelets but no more than two pairs of rings as these limits will help keep your outfit from being too busy when seeing multiple people wearing similar pieces at once (which might make it look cluttered).
In terms of jewelry, the simple gold band worn on your left ring finger isn’t very popular anymore nowadays so we recommend going with something more modern and edgy such as silver or colored stones instead. The right ring is always either a wedding band or some kind of engagement ring depending on what time frame this wedding falls into (if this is early in marriage then an engagement ring would still be ok). As far as earrings go we recommend sticking to simple studs unless are really into piercings.
Our final advice? Avoid wearing anything orange because no one will want to look at your ugly sweater vest next December if all they see you wearing on Thanksgiving Day is an orange button-down paired with orange pants and red sneakers.
An earthy-toned sweater and chinos.
That said, it’s best to avoid earth tones in the late spring or early summer. It’s a little too easy to look like you’re on the way to an Easter egg hunt wearing them.
Along with a sweater, consider pairing your pants with a belt. This is for insurance more than anything. If there’s even a chance that you will be dancing at some point during this wedding, do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and strap yourself in!
Chinos are another relatively safe bet for men attending this type of wedding. Unlike dressier slacks or suit pants (which are generally made out of wool), chinos are made from cotton, making them much lighter and more breathable. Additionally, chinos come in an array of colors, so they can be paired with just about any color sweater that catches your eye!
If you’re going to wear pockets while attending a casual wedding (and given how useful they are, it’s hard not to), don’t overdo it. Don’t overload your pockets with all your belongings because that can make your pants look thicker than they already are!
A navy blazer with a tie to match the bridesmaids’ dresses (if you know their colors).
- A navy blazer; wear with a tie if you know the bridesmaids’ dresses are a certain color and want to match, or don’t wear a tie if you’d rather not.
- A white shirt, or even light blue could be good. A white shirt and navy blazer is also really nice.
- Navy loafers, or tan ones for summer weddings (or for spring/fall weddings if you’re feeling brave).
- Khakis—not jeans! You’ll look too casual.
- If it’s hot out, get a white dress shirt made of linen, which will keep you cool while still looking polished.
Go with a suit in a lighter color or fabric.
You want to look polished and put-together at a wedding, but the invitation says “casual,” so you can’t go full-tux. You’re in luck: there’s a middle ground of casual suits that are appropriate for most kinds of ceremonies. When choosing what to wear to a casual wedding, let the weather be your guide. During spring or summer, you should stick with lighter colors and fabrics like cotton, linen or seersucker. In fall or winter months, darker shades like navy blue and charcoal gray will keep you warm without looking overdressed. Remember to pay attention to the fabric as well—you don’t want to wear wool in August!
Mixing and matching different pieces is one way to take your suit up a notch without going too formal. A little creativity can make all the difference when it comes to finding something unique within an expected outfit style! Just be careful not to clash with other guests’ outfits – no one wants their photos ruined by an unfortunate color combination.
The key is to stick with something that feels dressy, but not overly formal.
While it’s hard to go wrong with a classic button-down, pants, and dress shoes, the key is to stick with something that feels dressy but not overly formal. For example: if an evening wedding on the beach requires you wear swim trunks and flip flops, chances are you’re going to feel a little underdressed in all-black slacks and a tie.
- Suit or blazer? The general rule here is that if it’s an evening wedding (e.g., 6 p.m., 7 p.m.), you can definitely wear a suit; if it’s an afternoon wedding (e.g., noon or 2 p.m.), it should be fine to wear a blazer instead of a suit jacket; if it’s outdoors—regardless of the time—it would be advisable to opt for either a jacket or suit jacket.
With so many options, there’s no reason to wear a dress that you either don’t feel comfortable in or can’t afford. If you’re still unsure of what to wear, remember this: if the wedding is outside and you don’t want to be too hot and sweaty, opt for a shorter dress. If it’s an indoor wedding with air conditioning, choose something longer so your legs won’t freeze. Your primary concern should always be your sense of comfort. This is someone’s big day—and whether you’re attending as a guest or as the guest of honor, the last thing you’d want is to be fidgeting instead of enjoying yourself.
If the wedding is taking place after 6 p.m., it’s best to go with a more formal look and opt for dark colors, such as navy or black.