So you’ve decided that nihilism and hedonism aren’t right for you, have met a compatible woman – even fallen in love with her, and are ready to tie the knot. Good for you. What do you wear when you get married?
For a lot of men who have no inclination towards a stylish wardrobe and even for those who are just getting their feet under them, figuring out proper wedding attire is intimidating. There are so many options out there and we’ve all seen our friends get married in the exact same tux that was used a week before for a high-school prom. Sadly, at this point many men give up out of fear or frustration and just turn over the responsibility of their clothing to their bride to be – don’t. You’re a man, act like one. Dress yourself like one.
Besides, your fiance doesn’t have any better idea of what’s appropriate for a man to wear on his wedding day than you do. If she thinks she does, then you’re in real trouble. Either way, if you’re avoiding conflict by letting her pick for you, or your avoiding the work of learning what’s appropriate by delegating the responsibility to her, you’re not ready to get married in the first place.
Thankfully, just like with the rest of the world of menswear, there are some guidelines to follow that will help you look your best on such an important day.
Do not get married in a tuxedo unless you are doing so after dark. Along with being referred to as black tie, a tuxedo is also known as an evening suit – there’s a reason for that. I’ll emphasize that again – do not get married in a tuxedo during the day. If you are getting married after dark, you can refer to my tuxedo guide for all the tips you need.
Even if you’re getting married on the beach a wedding is a serious and a formal event – treat it as such. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a charcoal, wool suit and your patent-leather shoes on the sand, but it does mean you should have on a linen suit and a white shirt.
One key aspect of dressing your best when you’re married is to acknowledge the fact that a wedding is both formal and a celebration. As a result, you’ll want to avoid wearing black. It can very easily begin to look like you’re attending a funeral or you’re a member of the staff who just happened to be standing in the wrong line. Charcoal and navy are both darker colors (more formal) that are classic and can be flattering on most men without looking too somber.
For this reason you will also want to avoid patterns and especially pinstripes in your suit. Solids are more formal than patterns and pinstripes are associated with business – which has no place at a wedding. Save your Gordon Gekko look for the boardroom.
Your shirt should be white or an off white and be solid as well.
Shoes should be black or a dark brown
Avoid loud, garish colors. You look ridiculous in a pink or orange vest.
Jacket and Lapels
Both single-breasted and double-breasted jackets are appropriate for a wedding.
Separate yourself a step further from the business world by wearing a peak lapel. It is more formal and also not seen as often.
As mentioned above, stick with a white, solid shirt. The collar should be of a type that is flattering to your face shape and formal enough to match the event. This means no button-downs or rounded collars.
A hidden placket is more formal than exposed buttons on the body of the shirt.
French cuffs (those that require cuff links) are most appropriate for a formal event like this. They also make it easy to know what to get your groomsmen as most men do not own a pair of cuff links.
A simple pair of oxfords or balmorals that have been shined well are most appropriate at a wedding. The more decoration the vamp has (wing tips, broguing, etc.) the more casual the shoe becomes.
You can wear dress boots the same principles apply.
You will want a long tie done up with a properly formal knot. This means a half or full windsor.
Traditionally wedding ties featured bold patterns in more formal colors like blacks, whites, greys, and silvers. This is a good rule to adhere to but there is much more flexibility when it comes to a tie than in other areas. Learn the difference between casual, business, and formal ties and wear a formal option.
Leave the skinny ties at home. You can wear something slim (if it flatters your build) but a wedding is no time to be trendy.
This is an area wherein you will need to communicate effectively with your bride-to-be. The vast majority of men will wear a boutonniere that is rather large and pinned onto the lapel. This is tacky and inappropriate. Instead you will want a small ensemble that can be tucked into the buttonhole on your lapel. If you do not have a working buttonhole, it is a cheap and simple alteration for a tailor to make.
This is another area wherein you might get some resistance from your fiancé. The men in the wedding party should not all match. It makes us look like we’re extras on an old movie set rather than individuals celebrating a marriage. Give the men in your party basic guidelines (conveniently like those outlined above) and let them wear what they will. You can distinguish between those who are in the wedding party and those who are not by giving boutonnieres to those who are.
The above guidelines are for the most formal day weddings. If your event will be more casual, then you have some leeway and don’t need to follow the rules to the letter. If your bride is wearing a short-sleeved, mid-calf dress you don’t want to be wearing an ensemble that’s too formal.
One last note – don’t rent. Rentals are poorly made and fit even worse. Even if your wedding is happening on a shoe-string budget you’re better off finding a suit at a thrift store and having it tailored than getting a rental. If you’re not on a tight budget, realize how much money is being spent on her dress, the venue, the flowers, the food, and that investing into your own appearance contributes to the celebratory atmosphere of the big day. You’ll feel more prepared, more masculine, and better able to handle the spotlight if you’re dressed right.