Despite what you might expect, casual attire is one of the hardest for attendees to pin down, likely for fear of underdressing. Where fashion styles such as gowns, tuxedos, and stilettos might be the norm for black tie and cocktail attire, a casual dress code calls for button downs, slacks, summer dresses, and natural hairstyles.
Luckily, the accessibility of this dress code generally means that you can find something to wear that’s already in your closet. If you’re looking for some guidance on where to start, we’ve put together some tips to serve as inspiration for your next casual attire wedding.
Casual farm weddings are likely to have a very different ambience than their city hall or church counterparts, so make sure that you dress accordingly. Whereas you might wear an elegant shift and heels to the latter, the very same outfit might feel out of place in a barn. In addition to considering the city in which the event is taking place (ie. New York vs. Kansas City), make sure that the venue is also on your mind. Places such as farms, beaches, and backyards lend themselves to softer ground, so it’s best to avoid thin heels to be safe.
Boat shoes are great if you’re attending a seaside ceremony in the summer, but might not do the job if it’s a spring celebration on the East Coast. Seasonality is an important element in planning, not only for predicting the weather, but also for choosing color palettes and patterns. For example, you might choose a mint green shift and wedges for a backyard summer affair, but swap it out for a black shift and plaid scarf in the fall.
If the ceremony is likely to take place outdoors, make sure that you check forecasts in advance and have a backup outfit on hand. Comfort is still important, no matter the season or location. After all, the couple put together an amazing event in hopes that all their attendees would have a good time.
If a wedding invitation explicitly says casual attire, then wearing a full-length ball gown is definitely over-the-top, but a little bit of understated elegance is always appreciated. As with most dress codes, casual means different things to different people, so avoid details such as tank tops, short skirts, and flip flops; think business casual or smart casual just to be on the safe side. This means choosing fashion such as cotton dresses, chinos, linen button downs, and low heels.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out what’s appropriate, consider what you’d wear to a business event or dinner with your mother-in-law. Most of us have attended smart casual events at some point in our lives, even if we didn’t think of it that way at the time.
Casual dress codes provide a lot of freedom, but that doesn’t mean breaking the unofficial wedding guest attire “rules” that we all know so well. This unwritten set of rules includes the list of the usual pieces not to wear to a wedding, including white dresses, overly revealing ensembles ,and (unless otherwise noted) denim. If you know the colors of the wedding party, it’s also best to avoid those if you can. With the flexibility that a casual dress code allows, it’s pretty easy to abide by these guidelines without much extra thought, though they’re always good to have in mind.
If you’re usually pretty lost when it comes to dress codes, there’s no harm in having some accessories on hand that you can swap out at the last second. Maybe you couldn’t decide between heels and flats, or you weren’t sure if a tie was overdoing it. These are items that you can bring with you and choose to wear (or not wear) once you see the venue or have a better gauge of the event’s formality. This could be as simple as carrying some red lipstick in your purse or leaving the crepe blazer in the car and wearing a light sweater instead. Who likes making those kinds of decisions anyway?
More than any other dress code, a request for casual attire gives you the opportunity to really show your personality and have fun with accessories. Maybe you’ve been waiting for the perfect place to wear that two-piece, linen ensemble that you bought last summer, or you’re excited to whip out your favorite pair of wedges for the occasion. Colorful bags, printed bow ties, statement earrings, and leather loafers are all fair game.
So remember, as long as you check the wedding invitation for guest attire pointers, steer clear of a tuxedo or evening gown, and follow the suggestions laid out above, your casual wedding outfit will be a hit.