Unsure what to wear as a wedding guest? The number one rule is to not steal focus from the groom (or bride… she’d hate that). If you want to master the dress code, inject personal style and be the best guest ever, here’s your new go-to guide.
Weddings should be fun. Hopefully, the happy couple is actually happy and the champagne is chilled and bubbly. As much fun as weddings should be, knowing what to wear to one can be problematic.
You don’t want to dress exactly like every other guy in the room, but you also don’t want to steal focus from the groom and make the day about your crazy tie. It’s a balancing act.
How many of us have ever received a wedding invitation only to check the dress code and panic over what to wear to a daytime wedding in the middle of December?
Combine that with venue- and cultural-appropriate expectations and you’ve got a problem.
Let’s define some popular dress-code terminology so you’ll only have to worry about being a fantastic guest… which you obviously are, otherwise you wouldn’t have been invited.
If you’re invited to a ceremony that requires white tie wedding attire, you’re either a movie star or know people who are. This dress code is the most formal of the ones we’ll cover and requires tails on your tuxedo, a waistcoat and all of the old-world charm you can muster.
Dressing in men’s cocktail attire gives an amount of freedom, but you are still expected to wear a jacket or a suit (no tuxedo) and look sharp. Don’t steal focus from the groom… but don’t blend in with the bride’s cousin’s plus-one, either.
Dressing casual for a wedding is really just a nice way for the bride and groom to give permission to wear your suit or blazer without needing to buy anything new or something you don’t already own… like a tux with tails. It typically calls for a suit and dress shirt, but you can get by with a blazer or sports coat.
Here, the bride and groom trust you to look your best without stipulating a specific look for their ceremony. Take note of where the wedding will happen – a public park or the city’s oldest church – and the time of day. We suggest a look that involves neckwear and a blazer. Wear a pair of dark denim jeans if it’s a casual affair.
If your spring is like the Danish one, it can be anything from freezing and wet to warm and sunny. If it’s a warm spring day, choose color with accessories like a bold bow tie or pocket square and wear a lighter-colored suit. If the day is holding on to the winter, opt for a darker suit such as grey or navy (not black) and bring the spring with accent pieces.
Summer weddings are known for clear skies, warm temperatures and great photos thanks to those cloudless skies. They’re also known for sweating like a crazy person if you aren’t dressed appropriately. Stick to a light-colored suit and a pop of color through your bow tie, necktie or pocket square. And don’t forget sleeve garters for when the temperature gets unbearable.
Autumn weddings require a bit of planning because, like spring weddings, temperatures vary. Go for texture and let seasonal colors work into your look – think neutrals in brown and accents in colors that complement autumn reds and yellows.
It’s rare to find a super casual winter wedding. Maybe that’s because the cold weather forces everyone inside… or maybe because it’s easier to dress sharp and polished when hot weather isn’t a problem. Choose a darker color suit for a winter wedding and keep accessories in accordance with the formality of the event.
Our favorite wedding planner, Emily Burton, suggests, “Save your black tuxedo for the late afternoon or evening and lighter colors for the day. Keep the season and dress code in mind, of course. If no dress code has been set, you can’t really go amiss with a charcoal grey or navy suit. These work for both day and evening and the accessories you choose can help them fit the venue, the wedding couple’s style, season and formality.”
You’ve replied to the wedding invitation, found a plus-one and know exactly which suit you'll wear. Now comes the part where you make sure the suit fits and doesn’t look like you borrowed it especially for the wedding… even if you did.
You want to look the part of devoted friend and make the perfect wedding guest, right? We can’t go to the wedding with you – although we’d make a great wingman! – but we can give a few fool-proof tips to get your look in order.
Although the tie clip is often shrouded in myths and not-so-great advice from your 90-year-old grandfather, there are concrete rules to wearing one.
Find a tie bar or tie clip too restricting? A tie chain performs the exact same function but doesn’t pinch the necktie’s delicate fabric. Learning how to wear and put on a tie chain is as easy as a tie clip.
Cufflinks are for formal occasions. If you plan on wearing a pair, make sure you have a French cuff dress shirt.
The pocket square is an accessory that can lift a man’s suit to an entirely new level. Remember to not purchase a square that is an exact match to your tie or bow tie. Instead, the two should complement each other.
Everything looks good until the toast. Then out comes your shirt and the hard work spent perfecting your look is wasted. Keep yours tucked in with a pair of shirt stays. We know that men's shirt stays look a bit strange, but the joy that comes from having a shirt stay tucked in all day long is well worth the effort.
The wedding toasts and speeches are one of the most memorable parts of a wedding reception. It’s a chance for honored guests and close friends to make public their well wishes for the bride and groom.
If you’re not used to speaking in public, it’s also the moment you’ll dread the most and be anxious for from appetizer until it's done. To put that anxiety to rest, we’ve written 6 tips for making a memorable wedding toast or speech.
It depends on when the wedding is and what everyone else will be wearing. If everyone is going to wear a dark suit, you don’t want to be the only guy in a white one. It would pull focus from the groom and that is a serious no-go.
When in doubt, check with the groom or bride or other people you know are going to the wedding. If everyone is planning to wear light colored suits – for a summer wedding, perhaps – then a white one will probably be fine. You can’t really go wrong with a charcoal grey suit and matching accessories though. Just saying.
Assuming that the dress code isn’t black or white tie, go for a dark grey or navy suit. These colors can work for more formal ceremonies or be accessorized with more casual items for a relaxed vibe.
If the invitation lists a dress code, you’ll need to borrow or rent a suit or tuxedo. If it doesn’t, then it’s up to you to take what you have and make it look as respectful and nice as possible.
The couple invited you to their wedding because of your relationship… not because of your suit or lack thereof. Select your best dress shirt and trousers (or darkest denim jeans) and make sure everything is ironed and tidy. Add a tie and clean shoes and you’re set to go. You’re there to celebrate the couple… not give a fashion show. Enjoy!
We’ll say it again. You were invited because of your relationship to the couple… or you’re a cousin that they can’t not invite. Either way, you are there for more than what you wear. That being said, if you have a long-sleeve shirt, wear it. Elbows are better shared on casual days.
If you have an all-black dress shirt, you probably have one in white. Choose the white one. Wearing a black shirt, especially if you’re in a black suit, looks you should be buying bottles at the club… not watching your friends get married.
If you don’t own a suit or if the wedding is casual, wearing a clean pair of dark denim jeans is perfectly fine.
This list may change based on the country in which you live and the venue where the wedding ceremony takes place. We suggest to not wear anything that would be considered rude or pull focus from the bride and groom.