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What to Wear to a Wedding: Wedding Guest Attire for Men
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.
- The type of service – Is it secular or religious? Does the religion or the culture of the bridal couple require head coverings or special clothing?
- Local customs – Is there a traditional outfit or item of clothing you should incorporate? Take note that some parts (even of the same country) are more conservative and reserved than others.
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.
White Tie Wedding
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.
Black Tie Wedding
The dress code for a highly formal and special wedding. Dressing in black tie for a man has certain requirements – like a black tuxedo or dinner jacket – but you can show personality through a pocket square or subtly entertaining cufflinks.
Cocktail Attire for a Wedding
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.
Casual Attire for a Wedding
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.
No Dress Code
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.
What to Wear to a Spring Wedding
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 colour with accessories like a bold bow tie or pocket square and wear a lighter-coloured 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.
What to Wear to a Summer Wedding
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-coloured suit and a pop of colour through your bow tie, necktie or pocket square. And don’t forget sleeve garters for when the temperature gets unbearable.
What to Wear to an Autumn Wedding
Autumn weddings require a bit of planning because, like spring weddings, temperatures vary. Go for texture and let seasonal colours work into your look – think neutrals in brown and accents in colours that complement autumn reds and yellows.
What to Wear to a Winter Wedding
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 colour suit for a winter wedding and keep accessories in accordance with the formality of the event.
The Time of Day
Our favourite wedding planner, Emily Burton, suggests, “Save your black tuxedo for the late afternoon or evening and lighter colours 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.”
8 Suit-Wearing Tips
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.
- Make sure the suit fits. Buying one off the rack is fine as long as it’s altered for your body.
- Have a clean, white dress shirt? If yes, wear it. If no, get one. It’ll be your new best friend.
- Match your belt to your shoes and any other leather you wear. For metals, match your watch to your belt buckle and other metals accordingly.
- When standing, always button the top suit button of your jacket. Unbutton it when you sit. The bottom button stays unbuttoned.
- Your jacket sleeve should never hide the shirt sleeve entirely. A small band of shirt cuff (around 1.3 cm) should always be visible.
- Other sizing tips: The hem on your trousers should hit the top of your shoe, and the top or middle button of your suit shouldn’t fall below your navel.
- Bulging pockets are not your friend. Find another way to store keys, wallet and phone. Money clips are great for cash. Card holders are slim enough to fit your suit jacket pocket. Only bring the key you need to get home… not the one for your garden shed or gym locker.
- At some point, you will get warm during the wedding or reception. If you need to remove your jacket, wait until the honoured guests – like the Father of the Bride – remove theirs. It’s a sign of respect that works worldwide.
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.
The Necktie or Bow Tie
- A wedding is not the time for novelty prints or loud patterns and colours. A black necktie along with a black suit, is always, always a winner. No one can mess that up.
- Another safe option is a grey or silver-coloured necktie.
- At casual weddings, you can get away with a wool necktie, but other than that, the safe bet is on silk, polyester or microfibre.
- Want to add colour? Check the invitation or ask the groom what the wedding colours are. Some weddings have a selected colour palette and matching it will make the bride and the photographer very happy.
- Remember that neckties wrinkle easily. Be careful and hang or roll it before the wedding and if travelling for the ceremony.
- The more casual a wedding is, the more creative your bow tie is allowed to be.
- The edges of the bow tie should match up between the edge of your eyes and the edge of your face.
- If you choose a self-tying bow tie, practice before the day! The same goes for a necktie knot that you’re unfamiliar with.
- Bow ties have been used for more than 430 years. There’s a free conversation starter.
The Tie Clip
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.
- Aim for a tie clip or tie bar with a length that’s approximately 70-80% of the necktie’s width.
- The tie clip should be positioned between the 3rd and 4th button in your shirt or the same height as your chest jacket pocket.
- Your tie clip needs to match all the other metal details such as your belt buckle, watch and cufflinks.
- As the evening progresses with wine and food and your balance takes a nosedive, stay confident that your tie will stay in place. Good news for the well-dressed guest.
The Tie Chain
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.
How to Wear a Tie Chain
- Place the over-button closure on top of the chosen button and bring it down to secure.
- Once in place, begin putting your tie through the open chain.
- Adjust the necktie so that the chain and tie fall flat and are centred.
Cufflinks are for formal occasions. If you plan on wearing a pair, make sure you have a French cuff dress shirt.
- The primary rule with men’s cufflinks is that metal should match metal. This obviously doesn’t matter if you choose wood or fabric.
- We support the notion that cufflinks go hand in hand with a tie clip.
- If you have a wide wrist, it might be worth considering the locking mechanism on the cufflinks. Some are much easier to get through the fabric than others.
FREE CUFFLINK MATCHING GUIDE
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The Pocket Square
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.
- The pocket square shouldn’t bulge out from the pocket. Find the right size for your suit jacket and the best way to fold it.
- The pocket square can complement the shirt instead of the necktie. Consider the colour, pattern and texture.
- A pocket square looks best when it’s made of a material different from the jacket.
- This accessory actually dates all the way back to the Greeks and their perfumed pocket squares. How’s that for a conversation-starting topic?
- There is no right or wrong way to fold your pocket square. There are ways that are more flamboyant and ways that don’t take so long to master. Take a look at our favourites below:
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 holders. We know that they look a bit strange, but the joy that comes from having a shirt stay tucked in all day long is well worth the effort.
How to Give a Great Wedding Toast
The wedding toasts and speeches are one of the most memorable parts of a wedding reception. It’s a chance for honoured 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.
- Practice. It’s important to write down your speech and practice reading it out loud in front of a mirror. Don’t only practice once or twice either… practice until you can perform it without staring at your notes the entire time. And yes, bring notes.
- Start strong. Ever heard someone begin a speech with ‘this took a long time to write’ or ‘writing this wasn’t easy’? You, the listener, immediately know that this guy had a hard time and it changes how you hear what comes after. Start with confidence. Maybe start in the middle of a funny story about you and the groom (or bride) and then work from that point.
- Keep it short. You would rather have the wedding couple and the other guests wanting more than wishing you'd sit down. Keep it under 3 minutes.
- Make it classy. If you’ve been asked to make a speech or a toast, you must be someone special, or perhaps the spirit moved you and you couldn’t keep quiet any longer… either way, don’t tell anything too personal or embarrassing about the couple. Keep in mind that children and someone’s grandmother are there! Would you want your mom to hear about the time you (fill in the blank)? Exactly.
- Look your best. It won’t make your speech any better, but it will make it nicer for the others to look at you.
- End on a high note. No matter how emotional the middle of the toast was, end on a positive, uplifting thought or wish for the couple. Out of ideas? Go with ‘now let’s raise our glasses to X and X as they start the most exciting chapter of their lives.’ Cheers.
You Asked – We Answered
Can a guy wear white to a wedding?
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 coloured 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.
What colour suit is best for a wedding?
Assuming that the dress code isn’t black or white tie, go for a dark grey or navy suit. These colours can work for more formal ceremonies or be accessorised with more casual items for a relaxed vibe.
What do I wear to a wedding as a guest if I don’t own a suit?
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!
Can a man wear a short-sleeve shirt to a wedding?
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.
Is it acceptable to wear a black shirt to a wedding?
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.
Is it rude to wear jeans to a wedding?
If you don’t own a suit or if the wedding is casual, wearing a clean pair of dark denim jeans is perfectly fine.
What not to wear to a wedding?
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.
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