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 what men should wear to weddings…
Top tips for wedding guest attire
- It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. You can always take off your tie or jacket.
- Check fit. An inexpensive suit that fits well looks better than a badly fitting expensive suit.
- Dress for the season. You’ll freeze in a linen suit in December, and overheat in velvet in summer.
- Smart casual still means making an effort. Wear a jacket, shirt and trousers.
- Look well groomed. It’s a sign of respect.
- Have fun. A wedding is a celebration, so play around with accessories and colours.
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 leaves you cold, why not take the opportunity to acquire some new threads? Let’s go suit shopping.
Keep your choice of fabric understated if you want your new suit to be versatile enough for many different occasions. You can always add a bright tie and pocket square to brighten things up.
Leave the faddy patterns and fabrics to younger generations. Who wants to look like mutton dressed as lamb? Go for a quality wool suit – remember, the jacket should always feature half-canvas construction, a traditional form of interlining that gives greater stability in the front chest area, and supports the lapels.
How to get the best fitting suit
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. More “well-built” men are better suited to lighter fabrics in darker colours, or perhaps a silhouette-lengthening pin stripe. And stay away from double-breasted jackets unless you’re very tall.
To avoid your look becoming dated, pay attention to the length of the trouser. We recommend you go for an elegant quarter or half break length where the trouser covers the first half or all of the eyelets of your shoes. As for style, slimmer men should go for flat-fronted slacks while larger men will look better with pleats. 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.
If you don’t have time to hit the shops, our guide to getting a great fit online is worth a quick look.
Best shirt for a wedding
A crisp white shirt is an easy, classic option. Feeling bolder, but not sure what colour shirt 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 show 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 classic cut to give you adequate breathing room.
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.
Unless your wedding invitation explicitly states otherwise, smart casual means jacket, shirt and trousers. Whether or not you add a tie depends on the venue – remember that places like golf clubs sometimes insist on one.
Take your cue for co-ordinating separates from the season. For summer weddings try a pair of chinos, crisp white shirt and a summer blazer. For autumn and winter celebrations a tweed jacket is a great option. Add the matching waistcoat for a sophisticated edge.
Creative black tie for weddings
Occasionally, you might see ‘Creative black tie’ as the dress code on a wedding invitation. While this might seem confusing, it’s actually pretty straightforward.
Creative black tie gives you licence to play around with the traditional black or navy blue dinner suit look, either by choosing a striking dinner jacket, or jazzing up a traditional black tie outfit with a colourful bow tie and matching cummerbund.
Looking for ideas? A velvet dinner jacket and waistcoat is a great way to get creative with texture. Stick to traditional black or go for brighter colours like green, wine or purple.
Best shoes to wear to a wedding
Classic black leather Oxford shoes are the epitome of conventional ‘smart’ dress. If you’re sporting a more casual outfit, monk strap shoes, brogues or loafers will perfectly complement your look.
Black or brown shoes are de rigueur for most suits, but because it’s a wedding, you could consider adding a splash of colour. Oxblood shoes bring a warm and approachable vibe to autumn/winter outfits.
Whichever shoes you plump for, make sure they’re polished to perfection. Attention to detail is a sign of respect.
Did you know that some wedding traditionalists frown on people who wear a wristwatch to weddings? 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. 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.