On your wedding day you should dress in a manner that’s comfortable, but also makes you (and your future wife) feel special. It should be a celebration of your marriage and convey the significance of the occasion
This guide is written as a series of options and choices you may want to consider. Above all else, dress in a way you (and your wife) want. Yes, there’s a tl;dr at the end.
As I was researching my own wedding I realized that MFA is lacking a complete guide on how to dress on one’s wedding day. This guide is meant to provide a basic set of tips and rules you may want to consider when deciding what to wear on your big day. This guide will be mostly American-centric and will focus on modern wedding attire. (Anyone with more knowledge concerning morning dress, strollers, or evening tailcoats please chime in.)
The attire you wear is dictated by several things: time of the wedding, formality of the wedding, location of the wedding, and possible unique details to your wedding (family traditions/heirlooms or wedding colors).
Time of the wedding
The time of day should always be considered when choosing your attire on your wedding day. The basic rule of thumb is this: before 6:00 pm or sunset (whichever comes first) a man should be wearing morning dress attire, after and he should be wearing evening dress attire.
This simply means: if you’re getting married earlier than 6:00 pm, DO NOT WEAR A TUXEDO. It’s as simple as that. Morning dress is less common in the states and generally a suit is the acceptable alternate. Other countries may follow different customs in which case I’d advise you to look them up.
Formality of the wedding
Within formal menswear, there are fairly standard rules concerning the formality of your wedding and its appropriate attire. It generally follows as such: Formal = White Tie, Semi-Formal = Black Tie, Informal = Suits. Semantics aside this scale translates to an easy system by which you can determine what you should wear.
Location of the wedding
Location very much plays a part in the attire generally seen as acceptable for a wedding. This will often coincide with the formality of the event. For example: a wedding at a large, Boston church will require a more formal set of standards than a wedding set in the countryside of North Carolina. Beach Wedding often have an even more relaxed dress code which allow for greater flexibility in options.
Every wedding is different (at least they should be) in order to reflect the people and personalities of those getting married. Each couple will have different preferences, tastes, and quirks guiding them to make choices. You can use these personal oddities to make your wedding attire something meaningful and special to wear. Your Grandfather had a great bow-tie collection? I say go for it. Cufflinks passed from father to son? Wear them with pride. But don’t take this suggestion too literally. I don’t care if you love ragtime and the color green, don’t wear a green tuxedo and a top-hat ala Michigan J Frog
It’ll look bad. Keep your choices tasteful, discretion is advised.
What to actually wear
The details of your event can help determine your starting point for what to wear. My basic guidelines are straight forward and easy to follow steps so you look your best on your wedding day. They are of course, my opinion, and nobody will hold you to these decisions. IMO the most important factors will be your comfort ability in your clothes and how they fit. If these are taken into account, you will look great.
/r/mfa’s fit guide can be found here
Tuxedo examples to follow – an album
Black Tie Guide – website solely dedicated to evening formal wear
If you’re considering a tuxedo, classic rules should be followed; I won’t go into extensive details here because it’s been done before. I will reiterate the basics though:
- Single breasted
- Peak or Shawl collar with a grosgrain facing
- Worsted Wool in black
- Pants with grosgrain facing
down the side seam
- Evening waistcoat
- Black bow tie
- Patent black
A tuxedo is a great choice for formal events especially in larger cities. Stick with tradition here and you’ll look classic and elegant. PLEASE DO NOT deviate from the accepted classics, i.e. non-white shirts
, patterned cummerbunds or ties
, or other atrocities that ruin this look. Black tie formal has a strict set of rules for very good reason: they work.
Places to shop
Consider buying (and tailoring) your tuxedo over renting. The advantages are numerous: better fit, better materials, more options, buy-it-for-life, etc. Some quick options for retailers include:
- Brooks Brothers
- Ralph Lauren
- Suit Supply
- Indochino (Budget option)
Wedding suit examples to follow – an album
The hurdle most men come to when choosing wedding attire is the question, “what to wear if I’m not wearing a tuxedo?” The business or leisure suit is the correct alternative. However, we will place some guidelines on what suits fall into this wedding-appropriate category. The reason for more rules is to direct you towards an elegant option that will look great for years to come and not be an embarrassment later on.
Your suit should consist of a solid color such as: navy blue, charcoal, or mid gray and be made from wool fabric: worsted, sharkskin (pick-and-pick), or mohair. Single Breasted, two button suits are the safest option, though you may consider alternatives (say double breasted or three buttons if you’re taller). Peak lapels are regarded as more formal than notch lapel, either is acceptable, and keep the lapel width to a reasonable size that fits you, i.e. between 2.5 inches and 3.5 inches. Three piece suits are considered more formal than two piece, either is acceptable. A waistcoat in dove grey
can be added to elevate an ensemble as well.
AVOID PATTERNS (stripes, checks, tweeds, herringbones) as they are less formal than solids and generally do not convey the significance of your event. They can also carry stereotypes you may not want to encourage (stripes = business; tweeds = countryside, etc)
AVOID COLORS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR A WEDDING. Black is too somber for a wedding suit, if you want to wear black (and your wedding is in the evening) wear a tuxedo. Brown is much too informal for a wedding and is a color that swings widely into and out of fashion. The same can be said for white, royal blue, reds, or greens; be cautious of these non-traditional suit colors
, while they might sound fun they are hardly appropriate and likely to be laughed at in 10, 20, 30 years time.
As mentioned previously, beach or informal country weddings have a slightly different set of rules, this may include opting for tan or light grey suiting and possibly lighter wearing fabrics such as linens or cottons. Again, keep the suit tasteful and use discretion when deciding the suit choice for your day.
Places to shop
Buying a suit is much less daunting than buying a tuxedo, with many more price points and retailers. Having your suit tailored to fit is also detrimental in looking your best. Look to buy your suit MORE THAN 3 weeks OUT from your big day to leave room for alterations. If you’re considering MTM or bespoke more time is suggested. Some options of retailers include:
- Brooks Brothers (MTM option in store)
- Suit Supply (MTM option in store)
- Kent Wang (MTM option)
- Proper Suit (MTM only in store)
- Thick-as-thieves (MTM only)
- Astor & Black (MTM only)
- Indochino (MTM only) (Budget option)
MFA’s guide to custom shirting
Rules for shirting are fairly straightforward: wear white. This rule can be bent if done tastefully, alternative options could include: light blue, very light lavender or pink, and slightly off-white to name a few. This decision should be made in conjunction with the wedding suit and tie, use the shirt as appropriate backdrop to the entire ensemble. Collars should be point, semi-spread, or spread and cuffs should be french cuffs or button cuffs.
There are literally hundreds of options, but I’ll list a few popular options here, including some MTM:
- Brooks Brothers
- Charles Tyrwhitt
- Luxire (MTM only)
- Modern Tailor (MTM only)
- Proper Cloth (MTM only)
- Ledbury (MTM only)
- CottonWork (MTM only)
- TM Lewin (Budget Option)
Shoes follow the same trend as the shirting, basics that help blend the entire ensemble together. This translates roughly to black cap-toe balmorals/oxfords
. These are a classical men’s dress shoes that should be in every man’s wardrobe. Variations from this should be done only when considering other factors. For example a wedding in the countryside could warrant changing from black to brown shoes. Semi-brogues
should be given the same considerations, i.e. only if appropriate for your occasion. I would recommend staying away from alternative leather options (suede, pebble-grain, etc) as they can detract too much visually from the rest of the ensemble. Similarly, try to avoid flashier styles such as wingtips, full-wings, double monk straps, to name a few.AVOID NON-DRESS SHOES, such as sneakers
on your wedding day, please.Places to shop
Many quality dress shoe makers exist. I’ll list some popular options here:
- Allen Edmonds
- Andrew Lock
- Kent Wang
- Florsheim (Budget option)
Visual of some wedding ties – an album
Style Forum read concerning wedding ties
A Suitable Wardrobe post on wedding ties
Traditional wedding ties are silver in color and feature a shepherd’s check
or glen check
pattern or some variation of this. Deviation from these patterns is acceptable though. Your tie should have some substance and but not be overly flashy. The pattern should be elegant and often subtle. Patterns such as repp stripes, paisleys, or contrasting plaid patterns should be avoided. They may be great ties, but they often do not convey the formality of a wedding. Many brides insists on their grooms choose colored ties to match their wedding colors. This should be avoided to an extent. Pale blues, purples, pinks, or gold can work well. But keep in mind that saturated colors may look out of place next to a women wearing only white. AVOID SATIN SILK TIES
, these are reserved for high school proms.Bow ties follow the same rules as long ties. Keep them appropriate for your wedding. Self-tied bow ties are preferable.
Places to shop
There are many fine tie makers; here are some of my favorites to consider:
- Kent Wang
- Sam Hober (MTO only)
- Drakes of London
- Vanda Fine Clothing
- Howard Yount
- The Knottery (Budget option)
- The Tie Bar (Budget option)
Optional accessories (boutonnieres, pocket squares, cufflinks, etc.)
It’s easy to get carried away with accessorizing an outfit. Often times the “less is more” approach works wonders. Whatever accessories you choose, make sure the overall ensemble is cohesive and reflects your wedding.
It’s traditional for the groom to wear a white boutonniere on his wedding day. This can help set him apart from his groomsmen and his guests. It’s a distinguishing element that generally only the groom will wear. Selection of the flower is often a rose
, though these can vary. White is traditional, though wedding colors can be incorporated here easily.Pocket squares should be chosen (if at all) to compliment the existing elements. The safest approach is a white linen, white silk, or a cream silk square folded as a presidential fold
or a simple puff
. Choosing a patterned or colored pocket square risks the entire ensemble of becoming too busy. DO NOT MATCH your pocket square to your tie
. If you’re unsure about this desicion, it’s the easiest element to discard. Here’s a link to MFA’s guide on pocket squares.Most men’s accessories ARE NOT RECOMMENDED for wear on your wedding day. Collar pins, tie bars or other paraphernalia will not add to the overall outfit and should be avoided. Watches are generally frowned upon within formal wear and I’d advise you to forgo it altogether, yes, even your dress watch. Cufflinks are an exception and often a welcome addition to your outfit (assuming of course your shirt has french cuffs). Choose cufflinks that work well with your outfit and wedding. I’d recommend mother of pearl
or silk knots
in a simple design.Some men decide that their wedding day is the day to show the world: “I like quirky socks!” I strongly recommend that you resist this urge. A simple ribbed knit, pin dot, or herringbone in a color matching your pants will work just fine.
Places to shop
As stated before there are numerous places to find quality accessories; here are some recommended retailers:
- Kent Wang (PS & cufflinks)
- Brooks Brothers (PS & cufflinks)
- Vanda Fine Clothing (PS)
- A suitable wardrobe (PS)
- Sam Hober (PS) (MTO only)
- The Knottery (PS & cufflinks) (Budget option)
- The Tie Bar (PS & cufflinks) (Budget option)
- Dapper Classics (Over-the-calf Dress socks)