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Jan, 29 2024

Men’s Attire: What to Wear to a Wedding Rehearsal

A man in a navy suit fixing his red bowtie

If a “save the date” wedding invitation from close friends or family has just landed in your mailbox, you’ll probably find that an invitation to a rehearsal dinner isn’t too far behind, which means you need some wedding rehearsal attire. Granted, not all couples opt for this rehearsal. They’re confident their weddings will go off without any problems, so spending extra on a practice run isn’t in their budget.

But for those that do, a wedding rehearsal gives them a taste of the big day while being a little less formal than the event itself. And that’s where you come in. As a guest for this event, you probably ask yourself what you wear to a rehearsal dinner.\

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Hint – you can’t rock up in a t-shirt, sneakers, and jeans. Read on and all of your questions about what to wear to a wedding rehearsal will be answered.

Understanding the Rehearsal Dinner

A rehearsal dinner is like a dry run of the wedding itself. Typically held the day before the wedding, it’s not only an opportunity for the bride and groom to practice the ceremonial aspects of the day to come but also a chance to gather their loved ones in a relaxed environment so they can share some time together.

According to Masterclass, a rehearsal dinner will usually include a meal – the most obvious part – which could be a full simulation of the wedding breakfast or something less formal, such as a cocktail hour or brunch. There’ll usually be a run-through of the ceremony, again, informal, and some couples might choose to hand gifts to members of their wedding party here rather than doing it as part of the speeches at the actual wedding.

As for attire, some couples go almost all of the way by asking their guests to wear proper wedding attire, usually with the bride excluded so she can save her dress for the big day. But usually, you’ll get an invitation that states the attire for the wedding rehearsal that the couple would like you to wear.

Decoding the Invitation

Speaking of your invitation, the dress code it contains indicates what you should wear for the event. Let’s get the obvious out of the way – always follow the wedding dress code guide and avoid wearing white. This rule is as important for the rehearsal dinner as it is for the wedding itself, as the bride will usually wear white and any guests who mimic that color with their dresses (or even their suits) run the risk of upstaging her.

Beyond that, your dress code on your invitation will usually be one of the following:

  • Formal rehearsal dinner
  • Casual rehearsal dinner
  • Semi-formal rehearsal dinner

For a formal dinner, wear something similar, or perhaps even the same outfit, that you’ll wear to the wedding. For semi-formal, something veering toward business casual should do the trick, with wedding cocktail attire working well if the dinner is being held in a bar. Finally, casual attire doesn’t mean jeans and sneakers. Rather, a shirt – sans tie, if you prefer – and decent dress trousers should do the job.

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“It’s all about remembering that you’re being invited to a ceremony, even if it’s an informal one,” says Generation Tux. “Think of the rehearsal dinner as part of the wedding, rather than a standalone event, and that’ll guide you away from outfits that might not be appropriate.

The Role of the Groom and the Wedding Party

A full wedding party gathered around the bride and groom

The groom’s attire sets the tone for all male guests at the rehearsal dinner, perhaps even more so than what’s stated on the invitation. For instance, a groom who arrives suited and booted to the rehearsal may get upset if the other guests – especially his groomsmen – have arrived in more casual attire. But at the same time, that groom may feel upstaged if he’s opted for a more casual look like his groomsmen have gone for something more formal.

Think of a contrast between black tie and beach wedding menswear – one being formal evening wear and the other summery casual wear – and you get the picture.

If you’re in doubt, there’s a simple solution – ask the groom. Unlike the bride, who’s likely going to be keeping her dress a secret, the groom can be more open about the attire they intend to wear. So, ask what they think you should wear to the rehearsal dinner and, perhaps as importantly, what they intend to wear so you can take your cues from them.

Formal Rehearsal Dinners

Let’s come back to what the invitation says and assume that you’re attending a formal rehearsal dinner. Do you dress up for a wedding rehearsal that says “formal?”

You do, and how much you dress up depends on the degree of formality expected at the event.

Formal Dinner

If you’re asked to dress in formal attire, you’re generally going to wear a suit, tie, appropriate dress pants, and a nice pair of shoes. You can accessorize with cufflinks and a pocket square, too. The good thing here is that you’re unlikely to upstage the groom, who may be in his wedding suit, with your only real concern being that you ideally don’t want the suit you wear to perfectly match those worn by the wedding party.

Again, speak to the groom. Ask them if they have a preferred color scheme, for instance, or if they’re happy for you to turn up in any suit as long as it matches the formal criteria.

Black Tie Dinner

With black tie, you’re going ultra-formal to the point where you’ll likely be wearing a tuxedo. GQ Magazine suggests that you’ll usually have a white dress featuring a Marcella frontage, along with a black bow tie. Trousers should also be black, pressed, and properly fitted to your legs. You’ll rarely, if ever, wear a normal tie to a black-tie rehearsal dinner, despite the confusing nature of the name.

Incidentally, these rehearsal dinner clothes usually indicate the wedding itself will be very structured and, for want of a better word, upscale. So, the wedding rehearsal will usually be a reflection of that.

Casual and Semi-Formal Rehearsal Dinners

A man buttoning his white shirt

In truth, there’s relatively little difference between what a man wears during a formal rehearsal dinner and what they’d wear for semi-formal. You’re still opting for a suit jacket, shirt, tie, and appropriate slacks, with the big difference being that you may have more choice with colors. “Formal” implies darker colors, whereas you get a touch more freedom with semi-formal.

As for casual, take your cues from the bride and groom because everybody has their own definition of what “casual” really is. For instance, a nice pair of jeans combined with a shirt and boots is a casual look that doesn’t veer over into garish, whereas combining that same pair of jeans with a vest and sneakers could be seen as overly casual. If in doubt, ask the groom what he’s wearing and follow his lead in terms of the style and type of clothing you choose.

What Not to Wear at a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

You have some insight into what to wear at wedding rehearsal dinners, so let’s look at the other side of the coin – the clothes you need to avoid.

Starting with the obvious, anything overly casual is to be avoided. Yes, many rehearsals have a more casual feel to them, but always remember that this is still part of the ceremony and the wedding party may want to take photos. Venue considerations are also a concern – some may not even let you in if you’re not wearing appropriate clothes or footwear. So, err on the side of caution if the rehearsal has a casual dress code. A nice shirt (with the top button open), with boots and a pair of slacks or jeans should do the job.

Then, there’s the other side of the scale – overshadowing the groom (or bride). Taking the casual example, imagine turning up to a casual wedding rehearsal in a full tuxedo. Not only are you going to stick out like a sore thumb – going against the bride and groom’s wishes in the process – but you’re going to upstage a couple that is in casual dress and make the event as much about you as it is about them. That’s a cardinal sin for weddings. Remember who should be the center of attention and choose your clothing accordingly.

Venue Considerations

A bride and groom walking in front of the wedding party

Venues were touched on above and it’s worth going into more detail because you can often figure out what to wear for a rehearsal dinner based on where it’s being held.

For instance, imagine the dinner will take place at a country club. Immediately, you know there’s a certain expectation for clothing that takes many items of casualwear out of the equation. Neutral colors and tucked-in shirts are often the order of the day at these clubs, with jeans and t-shirts being out of the question, so there’s a good starting point.

Now, switch the location to a bar, which suggests a more casual theme. Turning up in a tux to this venue may make you seem out of place, especially if the bride and groom have opted for a more casual approach. In short, the venue hints at the types of attire you’re likely to choose, with the invitation usually providing more guidance.

Last-Minute Tips

Let’s say you’ve read all of this advice and you’re still wondering what to wear. Maybe the invitation isn’t clear and the venue doesn’t give you many hints, so you’re standing in front of your wardrobe sifting through outfits.

You need to decide what to wear last minute.

As a general rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong with a nice shirt, suit jacket, and trousers, all combined with a pair of shoes or boots. Bring a tie along with you (rolled into your pocket) if the event requires a touch more formality. And if you need to switch to a casual look, take off the jacket, unbutton the top button of your shirt, and potentially untuck the shirt. You have some versatility so you can switch between looks at a moment’s notice.

FAQs About Wedding Rehearsals

Is it appropriate to wear jeans to a wedding rehearsal?

It really depends on both the venue and whether the invitation says “casual” attire. Assuming both of those line-up, you can get away with a presentable pair of jeans. That means no rips or strange patterns. Go for clear denim and darker colors. And if in doubt, ask the groom if it will be okay.

How formal should my attire be compared to the actual wedding day?

The rehearsal dinner will never be more formal than the wedding itself. Some wedding parties may want to do a full simulation with guests looking as they will at the wedding, which means matching the attire style you’ve chosen for the big event. But usually, you’ll wear something a little less formal.

A Quick Checklist for Men’s Rehearsal Dinner Attire

So, you think you’ve picked out some appropriate wedding dress rehearsal attire but you want to make absolutely sure you’re going in the right direction. Run the outfit past this checklist to catch yourself before you make any mistakes:

  • Do your clothes match the dress code stated on the rehearsal dinner invitation?
  • Will you feel comfortable in these clothes while inside the venue the bride and groom have chosen?
  • If in doubt, err on the side of dressy, ideally with items that you can take off (such as suit jackets and ties) if you end up overdressed.
  • Be subtle when accessorizing, assuming you accessorize at all.

Get Ready for the Rehearsal Dinner

A man in a gray tuxedo

Though you may be placing a lot of pressure on yourself to get your rehearsal dinner attire right, the reality is that attire for wedding rehearsal events is actually fairly simple. The invitation gives you your first clues, with the choice of venue reinforcing your decisions. Of course, you can always contact the bride and groom if you’re still in doubt.

Assuming you’ve decided to go with a suit, you may need to rent a suit for the wedding rehearsal. That’s where Generation Tux comes in. With over 25 suits to choose from – all of which you can try at home for free and have fitted based on your feedback – you can get the perfect wedding rehearsal attire without ever leaving your couch.

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