Q & Answer: What Is Casual Elegant Wedding Attire?

June 27, 2015

Q & Answer: What Is Casual Elegant Wedding Attire?

Wes asks: I have an outdoor wedding to attend tomorrow evening, 7:30 PM, on a farm back home.The wedding invitation says “Casual Elegant Attire”. It’s my best friend’s brother’s wedding, and I know my friend was buying khakis as part of the wedding party ensemble. What would you do?

The 21st century’s greatest mystery is the wedding dress code. Why do we make it so difficult on each other? I was once invited to a rehearsal dinner with the dress code “Calypso Casual.” What does that mean? Harry Belafonte cosplay?

Here’s my advice when faced with a situation like this: don’t worry about it too much. Usually people pick these sorts of non-dress-code dress codes to take pressure off of their guests, not the reverse. They know chill Uncle Joey doesn’t want to wear his monkey suit, so they try to make something up that’ll welcome everyone. Does this work? Not really, but you can play along.

Here are some parameters I’d suggest for a situation like this:

  • Unless the wedding’s in a mud pit or a motorcycle garage, it’s still a wedding, so there’s no sense in wearing jeans. You don’t need to judge anyone who shows up in denim, but you’ve got better options. The same goes for anything torn or stained.
  • If casual is in the code, avoid ties. Sure, maybe a knit tie or a wool tie or a bow tie is a little less formal than a silk repp, but ties are one of the few symbols of formality almost anyone gets. Be respectful.
  • Casual dress can and probably should be simple and conservative. Few are the weddings to which you should be wearing drop-crotch trousers. The goal is to respect the occasion and the community it creates.
  • No sports clothing. It’s a wedding, not a workout.
  • Truly casual? Try a something Bing Crosby might have worn on a Saturday afternoon. Cotton or flannel pants, a shirt with buttons, maybe a sweater if it’s cold. Simple.
  • “Elegant” or “cocktail” casual? Add a casual coat and maybe a pocket square. Dark colors for “cocktail” or indoor evening wear.

(Above is what Wes ended up with after we emailed. I think he nailed it.)