For a couple that’s more laid-back than lavish, a casual wedding is the way to go. Casual weddings typically have a smaller guest list, which allows the couple to be more present with their guests and actually enjoy the experience rather than worrying about what’s next on the timeline. Instead of four-course meals and a detailed seating chart, expect to see comfort foods and open seating at the reception.
A casual ceremony may seem simple, but it’s still a celebration worthy of looking your best. So, how do you dress for this type of wedding without going too informal or too dressy? We asked an expert in fashion and wedding styling to help define and recommend what to wear for this particular dress code.
Meet the Expert
Together with the expertise of personal stylist Yasmin Moinian, we’ll outline the basic do’s and don’t’s of this dress code and help you low-key nail the laidback look.
Casual Wedding Attire for Men and Women
When choosing what to wear, sometimes it’s easier to start with what not to wear. Avoid jeans, shorts, tank tops, and tennis shoes, unless the invitation specifically says otherwise. Sandals are tricky, as some might consider them too casual for an event like a wedding, while others say sandals are the obvious choice for casual beach nuptials. Again, rely on the invitation to steer you in the right direction.
What is Casual Wedding Attire?
Casual wedding attire is clothing that’s comfortable and easy to dance in—nothing fussy or over-the-top. Most casual weddings are held outdoors, so this style of attire should be something that works during that day and at night.
To play it safe, Moinian recommends women wear a wedge or block heel. For men, a casual loafer gives off a relaxed vibe that goes perfectly with a casual wedding. What's more, your attire will be dependent on the season and temperature. What you might wear to a beach wedding is completely different from what you’d wear to a backyard affair in the fall.
In the spring and summertime, stick to lightweight fabrics. “Men in navy, cream, or white linens is great casual attire,” says Moinian. “For women, floral dresses are a great example as well for warmer weather.”
In the fall, a casual suit (tie optional) or a blazer and dress pants, in a dark hue, are both appropriate options. For women, Moinian suggests a midi dress in a silk or chiffon fabric. If it's chilly, feel free to add a sweater on top. Play around with funky fabrics, patterns, and accessories to make your casual look more unique and reflective of your own personal style. As far as designers go, some of Moinian’s go-to brands include Christopher Esber, Staud, and Loewe.
To make your ensemble more special, add little touches that give a nod to the wedding theme (if the couple has one). For a beachy wedding, wear palm tree-themed accessories or consider a fishtail braid for your hair.
Avoid wearing black, which can come off more formal and/or stuffy. Casual weddings are a perfect opportunity to play with color when it comes to your wardrobe!
Casual Wedding Attire Etiquette
If the invite says casual, the couple is probably expecting that at least a few guests will test the boundaries on both sides of the spectrum of what’s considered “casual.” It’s easy to go overboard, since it is a wedding, after all, but don’t overthink it. “[The] basic dress code for a casual wedding would be [to not wear] something overbearing,” says Moinian. “Don’t go above and beyond. Just an easy dress that you could wear day or night.”
There’s a common belief that it's always better to be overdressed than under-dressed at a wedding, which is true for the most part. But if the event is more informal, chances are that the bride is wearing a no-fuss simple yet elegant wedding dress. The last thing you want to do is upstage the bride, which is easier to do at a casual wedding than at a formal occasion.
Consider the couple, their preferences, and what they would consider casual if you’re hung up on what to wear. The answer should be fairly obvious given your relationship with the couple, especially if the ceremony has a smaller guest list, which means they consider you to be a close and personal friend. When in doubt, text someone else who’s going and ask for their opinion.
What dress styles can you wear to a casual wedding?
Think midi-length sundresses, breezy maxi dresses, or even high-quality jumpsuits. High/low dresses are also great for a casual wedding if worn with an elevated sandal or a shorter heel.
How do you accessorize casual wedding attire?
“A block heel is perfect,” says Moinian. “Platforms are fun, too.” As for jewelry, she recommends wearing minimal pieces or adding a pop of color or texture with statement earrings. “Play with your pieces based on the environment you are in,” says Moinian.
What’s the difference between casual and cocktail attire?
“Cocktail is a mix between casual and formal, whereas casual attire is simply casual,” says Moinian.
Can I wear sandals to a casual wedding?
It depends, but we advise something a little dressier, just to play it safe. If you are wearing sandals, leave your beach flip-flops at the hotel.
Can I wear a hat to a casual wedding?
A summer sun hat is a fun accessory for an outdoor daytime wedding, but make sure to take it off for the ceremony so you don’t block the view of the other guests. No baseball hats, visors, or beanies!