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Sep, 29 2023

Attending a Cocktail Attire Wedding? Here's What You Should Wear

A man in a blue tuxedo wearing a tie

Your friend has decided to tie the knot, and the theme of the celebration requires you to wear a cocktail outfit. But what do they mean by cocktail attire? Men wedding norms that dictate this clothing style are less strict than white-tie events, but it's also more formal than casual garments. In other words, it's a compromise between formal and casual that lets you add a personal touch to your look.

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Knowing the definition of cocktail attire is great, but this is only the first step. Read on for a detailed guide on what to wear to a cocktail attire wedding.

Basic Components of Cocktail Attire for Men

A man in a gray suit with a pink tie looking down

When choosing clothes for any occasion, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the color. However, let's take a step back and start with the basics. The most important element you should figure out is the structure.

In other words, what are all the elements of cocktail wedding attire? Can you go for something like Hugh Grant in 2000? You're about to find out.

Dark Suit

Here at Generation Tux, we recognize the immense importance of a good suit. No one put it better than our fellow fashion expert: "A suit is like a foundation. It's where everything starts in your cocktail attire. It lays the groundwork for other elements and determines whether you'll make jaws drop in a good or bad way."

So, don't take a chance. If you're looking to create a stunning visual effect with your cocktail wedding attire for men, the suit should be the first item on your to-do list.

And not just any suit, mind you. You need a dark garment. After all, a cocktail wedding isn't entirely casual. There are a few formal conventions you'll have to follow, one of which is a dark suit.

How dark should you go? This depends on your preferences. If you're into traditional, evergreen clothing that's worked for millions of other men, a black suit is an excellent choice.

It's super-versatile, allowing you to combine the garment with different types of accessories, pants, and shoes. Plus, black is a great way to slenderize your figure and appear more fit, just like Hugh Jackman did in his one-man Broadway show.

But what lane should you take if you're tired of black suits? Navy blue comes to the rescue. It's just as flexible, if not more flexible, as black. It lends itself to an array of patterns, textures, and materials, enabling you to stand out while following the dress code. Furthermore, it goes brilliantly well with countless colors, which paves the way for endless accessorizing.

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Besides the color, you want to take a few other factors into account when picking a suit:

  • Fit – The quest for the right suit should start with the color, and it should continue with the fit. Make sure the jacket isn't too loose or too tight. It should rest on your shoulders snugly while leaving enough room for you to move your arms freely. Otherwise, the fabric may break. As for pants, try them on while sitting down to check the length and tightness around the thighs and groin area.
  • Lapel style – Don't forget to consider your lapel too. There are three main options: notch, peak, and shawl lapels. The last one is generally associated with formal events, so wearing it to a cocktail wedding can be risky. Instead, stick to notch or peak lapels, both of which are characterized by indentations at the lapel-collar area. The only major difference is that peak lapels have a sharp edge.
  • Single-breasted or double-breasted – Choosing between a single-breasted and double-breasted suit is a no-contest when it comes to cocktail weddings. As this is a less formal event, you want something that reflects the slightly casual style. Single-breasted garments are a perfect fit.

Dress Shirt

As this is a cocktail event, men's formal wedding attire is out of the discussion – but not entirely. There are some similarities between the outfit you'd wear to a formal event and the event you're attending. The dress shirt is the most notable connection.

In particular, you can opt for a standard white dress shirt here. Despite its slightly formal appearance, it works well with several other colors. For instance, you can easily pair it up with a black, navy blue, or burgundy blazer or jacket.

Besides white, consider a few other lighter colors. Light blue is an excellent choice, especially when combined with olive, white, and navy blue pants.

Dress Shoes

Cocktail weddings are fairly liberal, giving you a degree of freedom when choosing your outfit. You can even sometimes pick from a variety of semi-formal dresses for men and be a unicorn at the gathering.

But when it comes to shoes, there's little room for experimentation. You normally wear elegant black or brown footwear that matches the rest of your attire. Brown is particularly versatile since it complements black, navy blue, white, and pretty much any other color.

As for the style, several options are available. You can pull off standard Oxford shoes if you're all about stylishness. Likewise, loafers are a fabulous pick for gentlemen who want to achieve next-level elegance and comfort.

Tie or No Tie?

A man in a navy tuxedo fixing his beige tie

Tie or no tie has been the apple of discord among stylish men for generations. The jury is still out regarding some events, but there's no more doubt regarding cocktail weddings. Even though a tie isn't mandatory, you should wear one to this party.

When buying a tie, consider the color of your shirt. In most cases, you'll want a tie darker than your shirt to stand out. Just don't go too far with nuances that don't belong in your attire.

Regarding the length, try to find a tie that sits just above your belt buckle or waist. Such ties are generally 57-58 inches long, but the ideal dimensions depend on your body type.

Playing with Colors

A man in gray pants and a navy jacket

What's the first detail other guests will notice at the cocktail wedding? It's neither the material of your suit nor your hair. Instead, this title belongs to the color of your outfit. The hues should be harmonized with one another to produce a pleasing effect and elevate your appearance.

As previously indicated, several colors are a safe bet. A black or navy blue suit is guaranteed to make you look good.

To further stir your imagination, here are a few mesmerizing combinations you can try:

  • Olive suit with a black shirt, olive tie, brown shoes, and a brown belt
  • Light brown jacket with charcoal trousers, light gray shirt, dark gray tie, black shoes, and a black belt
  • Off-white blazer with light green pants, white shirt, checkered tie, brown shoes, and a brown belt
  • Navy blue jacket with light gray pants, white shirt, navy blue tie, brown shoes, and a brown belt

Accessories Make the Difference

A man in a dark gray tuxedo and blue tie

Although minute, some accessories can make a world of difference for your cocktail wedding attire. If all the extras go hand in hand with each other, you'll look better than ever.

But what accessories should you wear to your event? After all, you can't go for the same set for every celebration. No worries – we'll give you a short list of ideal candidates and how to maximize their appearance.

Pocket Square

The first accessory you should consider for the party is a pocket square. Like ties, pocket squares aren't mandatory. That said, they're all but obligatory if you wear a tie. Otherwise, the upper part of your outfit will look scarce and incomplete.

A well-designed pocket square saves the day. The key to pulling off a sleek pocket square look lies in matching it with your tie.

But tread lightly here. Although you don't want to contrast the two (e.g., a blue tie and a yellow pocket square), the accessories shouldn't be identical either. The same colors simply don't mesh together.

Instead, vary the colors to achieve the desired appearance. Some of the most popular and effective combinations include:

  • Olive tie with black stripes and white pocket square with olive polka dots
  • Burgundy tie and yellow pocket square with burgundy ornaments
  • Orange tie with black polka dots and pocket square with orange floral embellishments

Bow Tie

If you're looking for some formal elegance without overhauling your suit, a bow tie can help. It's a small yet significant detail that contributes to a sophisticated image. In terms of the color, take the same approach as with your tie (e.g., black bow tie and black and white pocket square). Try to find a middle ground between identical and contrasting.


Whether or not to wear a tux to a cocktail wedding is a bone of contention. One school of thought prohibits this fashion choice, but others are more flexible. Therefore, you can go for a tuxedo despite the fact that it's more formal. This especially holds true if the wedding invitation says "black-tie optional."

Traditional vs. Casual Cocktail

A navy tuxedo with a flower pinned on it

Traditional cocktail outfits for men generally consist of a suit (matching jacket and pants), a neutral shirt (white, black, or navy blue), black or brown Oxford shoes or loafers, and matching accessories.

Casual cocktail attire is more relaxed. You can be more creative when dressing up for casual events and make some bold, colorful fashion choices:

  • Plaid blazer with unbuttoned shirt (one button and without a tie)
  • Bow tie and pocket square with five to six colors each
  • Light blue shirt and orange pants
  • Playful printed shirt and boat shoes

Understanding Formality

A man in a gray tuxedo and blue tie

Formality is a critical aspect of any cocktail wedding. So, how formal should you dress? The answer lies in your invitation. If it only says "cocktail attire," don't go too formal. Stick with a standard suit and tie.

If black-tie garments are allowed, you can be more formal. Wearing a tux and bow tie to this event is perfectly fine.


A man smiling and sitting on a bench

Whether or not you prefer colorful or neutral cocktail wedding attire, bear this in mind – the elements should complement and not clash with one another. This is especially important when attending these events since you'll likely combine multiple colors and materials. Also, be sure your garments are comfortable because you'll look more confident.

All that remains is to find the ideal suit or tux. Whichever you prefer, Generation Tux is here for you. We offer premium men's tuxedo rentals to help you look fantastic without denting your budget. Our tasteful collection won't let you down.


Three men standing in gray tuxedos smiling

What should men wear for a cocktail attire wedding?

Men should either wear a single-breasted suit with matching accessories or separate pants and a jacket/blazer to cocktail attire weddings. There are some variations, but you should also put on dress shoes, a shirt, and a tie.

Does cocktail attire require a tie for men?

No. Cocktail attire weddings generally don't require men to wear ties. They're entirely optional.

Can men wear all black for cocktail attire?

Yes. An all-black suit is perfectly fine. However, tuxedos are typically too formal.

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