Attending a Dressy Casual Wedding? Here's What That Means

We explain one of the most popular wedding dress codes and provide outfit inspo.
Dressy casual wedding attire
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated May 20, 2020
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If you've received an invite to a dressy casual wedding, you might have two questions: "What does that mean?" and "what should I wear?" While dressy casual remains one of the most popular wedding dress codes, it can be hard to decipher what couples envision when they request such attire at their event. While dressy casual is certainly not as formal as a black-tie affair, it requires you keep a few fashion rules in mind when selecting your wedding guest look. We break down exactly what dressy casual means along with shoppable inspiration for your next wedding.

In this article:

What is Dressy Casual?

While the phrase "dressy casual" might sound contradictory, consider it to be the style in between casual attire and semi-formal. "Dressy casual is a modern approach to the dress code that allows the guest to wear special event clothing that is on-trend, relaxed and comfortable but still within the structure and guidelines of etiquette in regards to the time of day and elegance of the event and location," says Steele Haley Stevenson, Director of Catering and Conference Services at the Willard InterContinental in Washington D.C.

She recommends guests allow the venue and time to influence their style choices, and if you're still stuck, it's better to dress on the nicer end as a precaution. "I would recommend attire that is dressier than what you would wear to work but not as formal as if you were attending a black tie event," she says. "It is a much better problem to be overdressed for a casual event than to be underdressed for a dressy casual event."

For a daytime dressy casual wedding in warmer climate conditions, a cotton or light fabric shift dress is one choice. A button-down shirt tucked into a pair of chinos is also appropriate. For weddings taking place in the evening, consider wearing a slightly more upscale outfit, like a midi dress with statement jewelry or a light-colored suit.

The venue can also provide inspiration for your dressy casual wedding attire. For an event at a winery or upscale restaurant, your outfit should be on the dressier side (like a sleek jumpsuit or a blazer and slacks). Conversely, a relaxed backyard wedding is the place to wear a simple sundress or a dress shirt tucked into a pair of chinos.

Dressy Casual vs. Semi-Formal

Occasionally, dressy casual and semi-formal are used interchangeably. While the styles are similar, a few nuances differentiate the two. Lighter fabrics are ideal for a dressy casual wedding. But at a semi-formal fête, stick to materials like silk or chiffon. Mini and midi dresses and skirts are great options for both dress codes—but for a dressy casual wedding, you could also pair a statement blouse with a pair of chiffon pants or slim-fit cropped slacks.

If you're still unsure of what to wear to a dressy casual wedding, we've rounded up a few of our favorite (shoppable) wedding attire looks for men and women. Browse through our editor-approved picks to help guide your dressy casual outfit, or better yet: Buy your favorite styles on the spot.

Dressy Casual Attire for Men

Grey windowpane check suit

A dressy casual wedding means you have the ability to wear something laid-back—think light colors, casual material and bold prints. This suit is the perfect combination of all three. The windowpane check print livens up the soft gray color, while the soft woven fabric will be comfortable to wear all night long.

ASOS DESIGN Plus super skinny suit in Light Gray Windowpane Check, $95 for the suit jacket and $48 for the pants, ASOS.com

Navy blue wool suit

You don't necessarily have to wear a full suit to a dressy casual wedding—a wool blazer is a great alternative to help you look put together without being over dressed. Even better: This design comes with brown elbow patches, adding an element of sophistication to an otherwise classic jacket.

H&M slim fit blazer in Dark Blue Melange, $70, HM.com

Light blue button down shirt
Navy blue wool pants

Attending a dressy casual wedding in the afternoon? It's totally acceptable to forgo a blazer and stick to a dress shirt and slacks instead. Wear this light blue button-down on its own, or dress it up just a bit with a wool tie (The Tie Bar has plenty of options). To finish off the look, tuck the shirt into a pair of solid wool pants

The Tie Bar blue diamond dobby shirt in Blue, $55, TheTieBar.com; The Tie Bar solid wool pants in Bright Navy, $75, TheTieBar.com

Light blue button down shirt
Dark dress pants

Spoiler alert: You don't have to sacrifice comfort when it comes to dressy casual wedding attire. This brand's fabric technology is designed to feel like athleisure no matter the clothing style. So, even though you're wearing a crisp button-down shirt and dress pants, you'll be comfortable enough to break out your best moves on the dance floor.

Rhone Commuter dress shirt, $118, Rhone.com; Rhone Commuter pant, $128, Rhone.com

White button down shirt
Slim fit black chinos

For those going to a dressy casual evening wedding, a more sophisticated outfit would be appropriate. Keep it classic with a crisp white dress shirt tucked into a pair of black chinos. To elevate the look, add a statement tie or a colorful blazer.

ASOS DESIGN Plus regular fit shirt in White, $32, ASOS.com; ASOS DESIGN Plus slim chinos in Black, $32, ASOS.com

Dressy Casual Attire for Women

Navy knit texture fit and flare dress

For the fashionistas who value comfort, turn to fit-and-flare silhouettes in a soft fabric like this knit design. The mock high neckline and puff three-quarter sleeves enhance the classic silhouette, making it a great dressy casual option.

Gal Meets Glam Collection Maggie texture knit fit & flare dress in Navy, $148, Nordstrom.com

Hunter green belted mini dress

This shift dress is accented with an adjustable tie belt, meaning you can customize the shape of your look. The boat neckline gives this style a relaxed vibe, meaning you can wear this to a dressy casual wedding at any time of the day. (Plus, it has pockets. Score.)

Of Mercer Riverside dress in Hunter Green, $165, CoEdition.com

Floral print high-low midi dress

Ruffles and ruching make this chiffon midi dress a must for trend-loving wedding guests. While the high-low skirt is a laid-back shape, the floral pattern makes it perfectly appropriate for an evening dressy casual wedding.

For Love & Lemons Ross midi dress, $280, Shopbop.com

Black belted jumpsuit

Forget the LBD and break out a little black jumpsuit instead. You'll look effortlessly chic in this belted design, which can be dressed up with a pair of flashy earrings or statement heels. To keep the look casual, consider wearing a pair of flats or strappy sandals (ideal for a dressy casual summer wedding).

ASOS DESIGN Curve wrap front jumpsuit with peg leg and self belt in Black, $60, ASOS.com

Floral shift dress

Don't want to buy a brand new dress for the dressy casual wedding on your calendar? No worries. Rent this floral Draper James mini dress instead. The loose skirt falls just above the knee, making this an excellent option for a spring dressy casual wedding.

Draper James floral smocked sleeve dress in Black Multi Floral, $30 for a 4-day rental, RenttheRunway.com

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