The Definitive Guide to Wedding Attire for Guests
Wedding attire may need to be clarified. When you’re getting ready for the big day, you’ll want to ensure you have the right color, materials, elements, and overall look for the event. A well-put-together wedding suit or tux keeps you looking sharp and confident while matching the overall dress code.
The Importance of Dressing Right
Choosing the proper wedding attire is a crucial consideration. Firstly, adherence to the dress code shows respect for the bride, groom, and marriage. You wouldn’t want to appear in chinos and polo at a formal black-tie wedding, and conversely, there’s no reason to wear a butterfly bow tie with a tuxedo at a casual midday wedding.
In addition to showing respect for the bride and groom’s love, wedding attire also helps you match the rest of the guests, creating an overall look of uniformity. Frequently, wedding planners will pick out specific venues with the guest’s outfits in mind for the best backdrop and appearance.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about men’s wedding attire, including dress codes, dressing for seasons, and some classic looks that can’t go wrong.
Understanding Dress Code
When getting ready for the big day, the wedding dress code is the first thing you should consider. Some dress codes will give you a general sense of what to wear; others, like the black tie, will help you precisely define your overall look. Each dress code comes at different levels of formality, each with its acceptable elements and variations. If you’re unsure how to approach the dress code, ask the groom for general instructions or recommendations. Some dress codes include:
- White tie – This is the most formal dress code in existence. While it’s unlikely to be the assigned wedding dress code for younger couples, it’s still worth keeping in mind. It includes wearing a black tail coat, black trousers, white wing-tipped collar shirt, pique bib, white bow tie, pique waistcoat, and black leather shoes.
- Black tie – These events are more common than white-tie weddings yet are almost as formal. They’re usually reserved for evening wear and don’t allow much variation. Wear a tuxedo, bow tie, white shirt, tuxedo pants, and black leather shoes for black tie events. If you want a bit of personality, consider adding a black waistcoat.
- Black tie optional – A close cousin of the black tie, a black tie-optional code allows you more room for personality. You can go with the same elements mentioned above, or choose a black suit and long black tie instead of a tuxedo. However, you’ll need to wear a white shirt and black leather shoes.
- Cocktail attire – Even more flexible, this dress code offers the chance to include more colors. You can opt for a dark suit with conservative colors like charcoal, black, or navy. You can’t go wrong with keeping the shirt white for cocktail attire. Avoid wearing a tuxedo to such events as these are seen as too formal for cocktail attire.
- Semi-formal – This is where things get flexible. Your choice of color and suit type will depend on the venue, theme, season, wedding time, and style preferences. Lighter shades may be perfect for daytime events during the summer while sticking to darker and more conservative shades during winter is best.
- Casual – A casual wedding dress code is about being relaxed yet clean and presentable. While the colors might depend on the exact event, you can most likely get away with wearing a button-down shirt or polo with khakis and loafers. This also includes beach casual, where linen, loafers, and even sandals might be appropriate.
Seasonal Wedding Attire
After you get the dress code, the next factor you should consider is the event’s season. If it’s a white tie, black tie, or cocktail event, then you need not worry. These events tend to have stricter formality, so you won’t have to worry about what colors to wear. Regarding materials, look for lightweight wools during the summer, medium-weight wools for the fall and spring, and heavy wool tuxedos for the winter. Getting the material right will ensure you’re comfortable. Here are some things to consider for semi-formal seasonal weddings:
- Summer wedding – For this season, you want to use lighter materials like white, light gray, tan, champagne, or cream. Make sure your shirt is also light or breathable. Acceptable materials are lightweight cotton and linen.
- Winter wedding – Heavy wool or tweed with a layered look works great for winter weddings. Typically, it’s best to choose darker colors like black, navy, charcoal or brown. You may consider wearing a turtleneck with a suit blazer or a three-piece suit with a waistcoat for added formality.
- Fall wedding – You can go for medium-weight wool or cotton for fall weddings. The color of changing leaves can inspire your color pallet. Deep reds, greens, browns, burgundy, and even purples are acceptable for this season.
- Spring wedding – As the weather warms up, opt for a color pallet that reflects this. Light grays, lavenders, and blues are all great options. You can also mix it up with pastel color shirts. As for material, it’s best to look for wool, cotton, and linen blends. You may want to layer with a waistcoat since spring temperatures fluctuate during the day.
The Classic Tuxedo Look
Now that we’ve covered some general guidelines for dress codes and seasonality, it’s time to look at some of the best readymades looks out there. Following these examples will help you choose what to wear.
Classy, streamlined, and sophisticated, you can’t go wrong with a tuxedo at a black-tie event. Anything other than a tuxedo would look wrong. Given the high formality of this dress code, adhering to black tie rules will ensure you match with everyone else and show respect for the bride and groom.
To complete this look, you’ll need the following:
- A black tuxedo
- A white wing-tipped collar shirt
- A black bowtie
- A white handkerchief (optional)
- A waistband (optional)
The tuxedo gives an overall streamlined and elegant look. You’ll recognize them as different from suits because of the satin strips that run through the pant leg, satin lapels, and satin buttons.
Formal Wedding Attire
There is indeed a difference between more formal and black tie weddings. While the tuxedo is a common and often flawless choice for formal wedding attire, some dress codes might leave you with more room for experimentation. Suppose you’ve been invited to a black-tie optional wedding, a cocktail wedding, or a semi-formal event. In those cases, you can go for some other options. Wearing a suit in these situations is great for those who prefer something other than a classic black-tie tuxedo’s overall look (or investment).
The main difference is that you’ll be able to choose a suit. However, keep the colors conservative. The dress code is formal, after all.
For black tie optional formal events, you can go with:
- A dark suit in deep navy, charcoal, or black.
- A white dress shirt.
- Black leather shoes.
- A black or conservative-colored tie.
- A white pocket square for accessorizing.
Of course, you can opt for a tuxedo, too, as that would be perfectly acceptable for this level of formality.
While still formal, the cocktail dress code for men affords some more room for customization. Some popular choices include:
- Both dark, conservative suits and some lighter tones like gray and deep green are acceptable, especially if it’s an outdoor event.
- A white dress shirt or subtle pastel colors are both a safe bet.
- A tie with subtle patterns, brighter colors, or more dark and conservative options.
- Black or brown leather shoes, depending on your suit color.
- A brighter color pocket square is acceptable for customization.
For semi-formal, you can do all the above but go all out with different colors, ties, and accessories. This is where you can let your style shine through while still looking sharp. Frequently, your exact suit colors will depend on the wedding venue and season. Make sure not to wear a tuxedo to a semi-formal event, as that would be much too formal.
Casual Wedding Attire for Men
For less formal weddings, you’ll have a broader choice of what to wear. Some examples include:
- A button-down shirt in white or pastel colors, or a polo shirt
- Chinos, khakis, or dress pants
- A lightweight blazer (optional)
- Loafers or leather dress shoes
As with semi-formal, the exact colors and tones will depend on the venue, season, or theme. However, you can often be more adventurous and opt for patterns and bright colors.
Wedding Attire Accessories
Your suit or tuxedo makes the main look. But adding the right accessories can add a touch of sophistication and elevate your overall fit. Some of the best common accessories are:
- Pocket squares – These can either add a contrasting tone to your tie or they can match. A white pocket square works best for more formal attire when in doubt.
- Bow tie – A black bow tie is necessary with a tuxedo during black tie events. Feel free to go for brighter colors and subtle patterns for cocktails and semi-formal.
- A long tie – Long ties add a bit of formality to your suit. For semi-formal events, you can experiment with colors. For the safest choice in formality, go with darker options.
- Lapel pins, cufflinks, tie pins, and tie bars – Use these to add sophistication to your overall look, but don’t overdo it. Silver or gold cufflinks can work well in black tie events, while the rest may be less formal.
- Belts - You won’t be wearing belts with a tuxedo. When wearing a suit, ensure your belts match your shoes.
What Not to Wear
Knowing what not to wear is just an important consideration when picking your outfit. Some of the most common mistakes are:
- Casual wedding outfits – Unless it’s explicitly stated to do so, there is no reason to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. While this is the more common casual interpretation, it isn’t appropriate for weddings.
- Mismatching belts or shoes – They should be the same color.
- Ill-fitting clothes – Your fit should be snug, making you look streamlined and sharp yet allowing you to feel comfortable.
Being underdressed or overdressed – While being overdressed is slightly less problematic, both can make you stand out in all the wrong ways. Make sure you match the dress code.
Wedding Themes and Special Cases
Most importantly, you can gauge your overall look depending on the dress code and formality level. For example, a black-tie event means you go with a tuxedo no matter what. However, formal vs. semi-formal aren’t the only considerations. Some semi-formal and seasonal events depend on the wedding theme and certain special cases. Choosing your groom’s wear will also depend on the wedding venue.
Always ask the groom for an exact theme for a clear picture, and then look for inspiration. For example, a vintage-style wedding would warrant wearing suspenders as an accessory. Beach-themed weddings suggest wearing linen material in whites, blues, and creams is a good choice.
Wedding Guest Etiquette
Looking the part is only one aspect of having a good time at a wedding. Once you get to the venue, there are some common etiquette principles for you to follow. This ensures you respect the bride, groom, and the overall ceremony as a whole. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Do RVSP – Once you get the invitation, let the groom and bride know you’ll attend so they can plan accordingly.
- Don’t wear attention-grabbing attire – Avoid wearing fully white attire (unless specified) or any options that take attention off the bride and groom.
- Don’t leave too early – You don’t need to be the last to leave, but it can be seen as rude if you’re gone before the cake is cut.
- Do adhere to the dress code – If the bride and groom set a specific dress code, follow it appropriately. A tuxedo at a casual beach ceremony will look off, as would chinos at a black-tie event.
The Latest Trends in Men’s Wedding Attire for 2023
While it’s simply good practice to observe regular dress codes, it always helps to have a bit of contemporary inspiration. There are plenty of new wedding attire trends in 2023 that stylish men are wearing.
For example, many are going for dark, double-breasted jackets in 2023 instead of single-breasted options. One example is actor Michael B. Jordan on the red carpet in his Louis Vuitton tuxedo. While not a wedding, the look is perfectly acceptable for black-tie optional events.
Deep-color suits and tuxedos are yet another recent wedding trend that is turning more heads. Actor Gabriel LaBelle wore a burgundy tuxedo, which works for many formal dress codes.
Your Wedding Attire Checklist
In this definitive wedding guide, we’ve covered all you need to know for the big day. Black tie wedding attire includes a classic tuxedo look, while less formal events will give you more room for personal style.
Here’s a checklist to ensure you’ll have everything you need to make your mark:
- A suit or tuxedo based on the dress code
- A white or subtle pastel dress shirt
- Leather shoes to match your belt
- Accessories like cufflinks, pocket squares, tie bar, lapel pin, and watch (optional)
- A belt that matches your shoes (if not wearing a tuxedo)
- Confidence, knowing you have the perfect look for the occasion
- Wedding etiquette