You open the envelope and out drops a wedding invitation. Of course you’re pleased to be invited, but what should a gentleman wear to a wedding?
It’s the 21st Century and dress codes can be pretty relaxed. But not usually for weddings. Get it right, and you’ll stand out as a super sharp dresser who mingles with confidence. Get it wrong, and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
Read on for the low down on how to nail it at the coming nuptials.
Top tips for wedding guest attire
- As always, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. You can always take off a tie or a jacket, but you can’t pluck a suit out of thin air if you didn’t get the ‘smart’ memo.
- Dress for the season. You’ll be freezing in a linen suit in December, and overheat in velvet in winter.
- Look well groomed. It’s a sign of respect to show you’ve made an effort.
- Smart casual still means making an effort. Wear a jacket, shirt, tie and trousers.
- A cheap suit that fits well looks 100% better than an expensive suit that doesn’t fit.
- Have fun and be yourself. A wedding is a day of celebration, so play around with accessories and colours. And try to avoid dressing like you’re at a funeral.
Wearing a suit to a wedding
Unless the dress code reads smart casual, you’ll need to remember to take your suit to the dry cleaners. But if the thought of wearing your work clothes to a wedding turns you cold, why not take the opportunity to acquire some new threads? Let’s go suit shopping.
We say keep your choice of fabric understated so that your new suit will serve you well as a versatile outfit suitable for many different occasions. Matching tie and pocket square combos will give you all the flamboyance you need.
Leave the faddy patterns and fabrics to younger generations. Who wants to look like mutton dressed as lamb? Go for a quality wool suit with either single or double vents and half-canvas construction, a traditional form of interlining that gives greater stability in the front chest area, and supports the lapels.
What is the best fit of suit for you?
Some guys just look great in a suit. Right? Wrong. It’s not the guy who makes the suit look good, it’s choosing the right suit for your build.
Tall and skinny men look best in a slim fitting suit with well-defined shoulders. Are you more of an average build? Your broader shoulders will compliment a jacket that’s cut with a softer shoulder line. More “well-built” men are better suited to lighter fabrics in darker colours, or perhaps a silhouette-lengthening pin stripe. A single breasted jacket suits larger men, as the double breasted style will emphasis a wide body shape.
If you don’t have time to hit the shops and are shopping online, check out our guide to getting a great fit even without trying it on.
It’s always best to go for two pairs of suit trousers to give your outfit greater longevity. To avoid your look becoming dated, pay attention to the length of the trouser. It’s the current trend to wear your trousers with no break over the shoe – but fashions change.
That’s why we recommend you go for a quarter or half break where the trouser covers the first half or all of the eyelets of your shoes.
As for fit, go for flat fronted or pleated to suit your body shape (slimmer men should opt for the flat fronted style), and always choose a size that fits you now. There’s nothing worse than the misplaced optimism that gives rise to the ‘muffin top’ look!
If in any doubt, check out our essential men’s suit guide which tells you all you need to know about suits in a simple infographic.
A crisp white shirt is an easy, classic option. Feeling bolder, but not sure what colour suit you can wear to a wedding? A subtle check or stripe will do the trick. To make even more of a statement, pastels like pink, lemon yellow and french blue are great options.
What collar to go for? We like classic spread collars for formal shirts and button downs for smart casual dress codes.
Make sure your shirt sleeves are the right length. The cuff should reach the root of your thumb and be tight enough so that it won’t ride over your hand when you bend your arm. You should never show more than about half an inch of cuff below the sleeve of your jacket.
Choose the right fit for your body type. If you’re of slim build, a fitted shirt will avoid billowing folds of material spoiling your look. Are you of larger proportions? Be sure to go for a more generous cut to give you adequate breathing room. Be sure to check our shirt sizing guide before you make your final selection.
Smart Casual wedding outfits
A smart casual dress code can be a minefield but It’s always better to stand out as a snappy dresser than a sloppy one, so avoid making a faux pas by dressing up rather than down.
Unless your wedding invitation explicitly states otherwise, smart casual means jacket, shirt, tie and trousers. You can push the boat out a little by opting for a blazer if you wish and you’re fine to swap smart trousers for a pair of chinos. But that’s as far as you should go.
Remember, there’s no need to dress dull. For a country wedding, a tweed jacket is a great option. Attending a yacht club wedding reception? How about a summer boating blazer?
Creative black tie
Occasionally, you might see ‘Creative black tie’ as the dress code on your wedding invitation. While this might seem confusing, it’s actually pretty straightforward.
Creative black tie gives you licence to play around with the traditional dinner jacket look, either by choosing a coloured tuxedo jacket (and even trousers), or jazzing up a black tie outfit with a colourful bow tie and matching cummerbund.
A bright shirt, or even some flamboyant cufflinks will be appropriate here, as will a bright pocket square. Just make sure your colour choices complement each other, so you can avoid looking like you’ve stepped out of a Dali creation.
Classic black Oxfords are the epitome of conventional ‘smart’ dress while Derbys complement slightly more relaxed but still formal attire. If you’re sporting a more casual outfit, monks, brogues or loafers will perfectly complement your look.
Black or brown shoes are de rigueur for suits, but because it’s a wedding, you could consider adding a splash of colour to your outfit by going for a pair of coloured shoes. Pastel shades in suede work well with summer weight suits or try burgundy leather with a darker suit.
Whichever shoes you plump for, make sure they’re shined to perfection. Remember, you’re part of a party of people and it’s everyone’s job to look good. The smarter you look, the smarter everyone looks!
Did you know that some wedding traditionalists frown on people who wear their wristwatch to a wedding? We doubt many couples will mind if you wear one, but keep it discreet and try not to glance at it too often. You don’t want to look bored or impatient!
Subtle details like cufflinks can really add a touch of sophistication to your outfit but keep them simple and stylish. With bling, less is definitely more.
Finally, a word about grooming. Get your hair cut a few days before the event so that it has time to settle, and make sure any facial hair is trimmed to perfection. Otherwise, make sure you turn up clean shaven and smelling great.
For more information on dress codes, see our men’s dress code infographic.