20-40-60 Etiquette: What does ‘Business casual' mean?

When a wedding invitation calls for “business casual,” 20-40-60 Etiquette is here to help explain what that means. Heather Warlick is the guest.
BY CALLIE GORDON, LILLIE-BETH BRINKMAN, HELEN FORD WALLACE Published: November 2, 2011

QUESTION: I was recently invited to a wedding reception in Oklahoma City. Attire for the event said “business casual.”

What does that mean?

For men: Slacks or jeans? And silk shirt and jacket, no tie? Golf shirt and jacket, no tie? Casual shirt and tie, jacket? Golf shirt, no tie, no jacket?

For women: Slacks and pretty blouse? Slacks or skirt with a jacket? Church dress? Tunic top and jeans?

What would you wear?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: No jeans! Men, the easiest bet is slacks and a button down. Add a tie if you feel like it, no coat necessary. What is a silk shirt? No man should have this in his closet: Way out of style! Women, I would wear a dress. Every woman should know it is better to be dressed up than it is to be dressed down.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: When I read the words “business casual” and “wedding” mixed up in the same sentence, I see two worlds colliding (office casual Fridays and formal wedding) to produce something that is a step down from formal wear and several steps up from dressing down at the office.

Business casual is an unusual choice of wording for a wedding invitation, but I think if you just keep dressy casual in mind, you should be fine.

As a woman, I don't think you would go wrong by going for a sophisticated casual look: a frilly dress with dressy sandals or even a cocktail dress, or dressy slacks and a jacket or a pretty blouse. It would be hard for me to wear jeans to a wedding no matter how informal the setting is. For men, a coat and tie or a jacket and polo or button-down shirt without a tie would be appropriate, but the men are answering this question, too. (Look for 20-40-60 Etiquette Extra: The Men Answer in The Oklahoman on Sunday).

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