Wedding dress codes spark plenty of debate and just as much confusion. Unfortunately, the two or three words usually included on an invitation often don’t really explain much. The question is, can you wear jeans to a wedding?
Jeans should never be worn to even the most casual of weddings. The rugged, informal texture of denim won’t meet the minimum standard and will risk underdressing, potentially offending the couple and ruining photos. Dress pants, dark chinos, or a casual 2-piece suit would be better options.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
After going through the main reasons why you shouldn’t do it, I’ll give you a few great alternatives you can go for instead.
Let’s get to it.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Wear Jeans To A Wedding
This list should leave no doubt in your mind. It just isn’t a good idea.
1. Denim Can Never Look Formal
Weddings are occasions where you want to make it clear you’ve made an effort. Unfortunately, no matter what type of wedding it is, jeans will rarely ever do that.
There’s just something about denim that looks so immediately informal. That’s actually the beauty of it.
It’s become a staple of casual attire around the globe. Jeans are an iconic item you’re guaranteed to see wherever you may be.
But the rugged texture of denim just doesn’t ever look “formal”, no matter how dark, tapered, or expensive they may be.
It’s difficult to know exactly why that is.
It may well be because rugged and rough fabrics generally look more casual than shinier fabrics (take worsted wool as an example).
However, it’s equally possible that we’ve just become so used to jeans being thought of as casualwear over the years that it’s hard to think of them as anything else.
The bottom line here is that it’s tough to select any pair of jeans that’ll look formal enough to make it clear that you’ve made an effort for a loved one’s special day.
The risk here is disrespecting people you care about (i.e the marrying couple) and most people would say that isn’t a risk worth taking.
2. “Casual” Weddings Aren’t Really Casual
A common reason for people choosing to wear jeans to a wedding is that the wedding has been labeled “casual”.
This poses a problem.
No matter where the wedding may be, who the wedding couple happens to be, or what the invitation says, a wedding should never be considered truly casual.
Put it this way.
Going to the movies, hanging out at a friend’s place, or heading to the local bar – sure, label these events casual.
A hoodie, sneakers, and cargo shorts would almost definitely be fine. Jeans? Absolutely no problem.
But even the most “casual” of weddings would never actually be casual.
There’s still an unstated, underlying expectation that people are going to dress to a certain standard.
A wedding is, for many people, considered an important life event – one that doesn’t happen every day.
There’s no better way to emphasize this than by dressing in a way you wouldn’t do on literally any other day.
Jeans are an item you could wear wherever and whenever you want to.
Wearing one to a wedding would be a bold choice for that very reason. A choice which, in the vast majority of cases, would be considered unwise.
3. It’ll Ruin Wedding Photos
You don’t want to be “that” person. The one in the wedding photographs wearing jeans, surrounded by a crowd of people in more “formal” clothing.
They won’t necessarily all be in 3-piece suits.
But there’s a good chance someone in a pair of jeans will be the most casually dressed person in the photographs.
It’ll stand out, even if it’s just a little more casual than everyone else.
It may not be immediately obvious at the first glance of a wedding photograph.
But these are photographs that could potentially be kept over generations. That’s why people pay so much money for them.
Because of this, you don’t want to be the one that stands out and draws comments.
“Who’s the one in the jeans?”
4. It’s Hard To Dress Them Up
People that wear jeans to a wedding often try their best to “dress them up”. In other words, they try hard to make their jeans the most casual item in their outfit, pairing them with more traditionally “formal” items.
For example, they may try to pair the jeans with a blazer, sport coat, dress shirt, and dress shoes.
While it isn’t impossible by any means, it often doesn’t look right, especially on special occasions like weddings.
It almost just looks incomplete.
It’s like they’ve gone halfway with their outfit. They’ve made a reasonable effort at trying to dress appropriately but maybe got bored or lazy halfway through.
They had the dress pants in sight but chose to go for jeans because they were easier or didn’t need ironing.
While a smart-casual outfit like this is definitely better than going for a T-shirt or even a polo, pairing jeans with formal items won’t ever look very sophisticated or stylish at events like weddings.
That brings me nicely onto the next section. So, what should you be wearing instead?
3 Great Alternatives To Jeans For A Wedding
Consider these alternatives when attending a “casual” wedding. Any one of them would be a lot better than choosing jeans.
Dress pants aren’t quite the same as suit pants, mainly because they were designed to be worn without a matching blazer.
Suit pants need to be worn with a matching suit jacket. A “suit” is defined as a matching jacket and pair of pants made from the same roll of fabric.
Wearing suit pants without the matching jacket looks immediately obvious, usually because the fabric is lighter and often shinier.
Dress pants give you a lot more choice. The great thing is that they look so much more sophisticated than jeans, but still allow you to wear more casual items up top without looking awkward.
The heavier fabrics dress pants are usually made from allow you to wear them with non-matching jackets.
You can wear a dress pants and blazer/sport coat combination and still look formal enough for most weddings.
It’ll save you having to wear a full suit if you didn’t want to.
Chinos can be worn to weddings, although they aren’t ideal.
They won’t ever look quite as formal as dress pants or suit pants, but choose the right pair of chinos and you won’t draw too much unwanted attention.
Chinos would definitely be a better option than jeans. They’re versatile enough for more formal settings – it’s why they’ve become a staple of business-casual attire.
But when dressing for a wedding, you want to be more careful with your choice of chinos to reduce the risk of underdressing.
Choose a slim-fit, tapered pair of chinos in a dark and neutral color (eg. charcoal or navy blue).
In addition, make sure what you wear up top looks formal enough to account for the relatively casual appearance of the chinos.
Go for a dress shirt and blazer to be safe. A knit tie would probably work well with the smart-casual aesthetic too. Dark brown dress shoes would round things off nicely.
A Casual 2-Piece Suit
Not all suits need to be as smart and formal as worsted wool or sharkskin.
Remember, a suit is simply a matching jacket and pair of pants, made from the same roll of fabric.
That fabric could literally be anything, which means you can get suits that look pretty casual.
Chino suits do exist but aren’t that hard to find.
Linen suits are pretty easy to find and are great because they’re comfortable, breathable, and don’t come across too formal.
They’re pretty wrinkly, but that’s part of their charm. They also come in a wide variety of colors – when dressing for a casual wedding you’ve got some choice, but don’t choose one that draws too much attention.
Cotton twill is another fabric that doesn’t look as formal or “professional” as worsted wool. A cotton twill suit could be a great option when dressing for a wedding.
The point here is that there are ways of dressing “casually” without having to resort to jeans. Wearing a suit made from a casual fabric could be a great choice when dressing for a wedding where you don’t want to overdress or overdress.
Always remember that overdressing usually doesn’t feel quite as bad as underdressing does.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions on the topic to really round things off.
Can You Wear Jeans To A Wedding Reception?
Jeans can be worn to a wedding reception as the dress code is usually more relaxed than that of the wedding itself. However, it’s worth asking the wedding couple in advance to be sure. In addition, choose a dark, tapered pair of jeans and avoid distressed jeans.
It’s true that you’ve got more freedom when dressing for a wedding reception. The reception is usually more focused on food, dance, and having a good time than the wedding ceremony itself.
Because of this, what you wear generally isn’t as important and comfort is often prioritized over style.
Having said that, it’s important to bear in mind that it should still be considered part of the overall “special occasion” and you do still want to make some effort.
The specific features of the jeans you’re wearing should be considered.
Acid-washed or stone-washed light blue jeans with frays, rips and other forms of distressing probably won’t be good enough. They’ll just look too casual.
Slim-fit jeans with a tapered silhouette and in a dark, neutral color would be a much better option.
Can You Wear Jeans To A Casual Wedding?
Jeans should not be worn to a casual wedding. The reason for this is that even “casual” weddings should be considered semi-formal at a minimum and jeans would usually lead to underdressing. Dark chinos, dress pants, or a casual 2-piece suit would be a much safer option.
The bottom line here is that if a wedding invitation says “casual”, you should really take it with a grain of salt.
You may not be expected to wear a suit, but that doesn’t mean you should head to the complete opposite end of the formality spectrum and choose a pair of jeans.
Instead, land somewhere in the middle and wear something where you’ve got less of a risk of underdressing.
Wearing jeans to a wedding is definitely risky. It’s often not a risk worth taking, as there are plenty of alternatives that are relaxed and comfortable, while still remaining formal enough for a setting such as a wedding.