If you’ve been invited to a wedding this season, then you know that dissecting the dress code can be a bit of a nightmare. Black tie? White tie? ‘Smart casual’? Wedding attire for men is kind of a minefield.
It’s important to know that dress codes are there for a reason, and going rogue is generally frowned upon. The only thing worse than being the underdressed guy at a wedding is being the overdressed guy at a wedding. The goal is to find that balance, and stick to the theme/dress code chosen by the couple.
Let’s dive into men’s wedding attire for every dress code. Get your pocket squares ready.
The wedding fundamentals
No matter what sort of wedding you’re attending, there are a few wedding attire rules that will always serve you well. First, you need to play to the theme – and stick to it. If it’s a summer garden wedding, that means lightweight, unstructured suits, and probably loafers. If it’s a black tie reception, that means a proper tux and patent leather shoes.
Even ‘smart casual’ weddings need a bit of consideration – instead of your standard 9-5 business suit and boring navy tie, try something with a bit of colour, or some bold suiting separates with brown penny loafers and a floral pocket square. Anything that says, “This isn’t the suit I use for Zoom meetings.” Weddings are all about personality, refinement and elevation. A little extra effort in the footwear department can really pay off big.
Black tie & white tie
You don’t see black tie weddings that much anymore, and white tie is even rarer. These are the most formal dress codes, and they’re usually reserved for evening weddings. The good news is, expectations around black and white tie attire are pretty clear. The bad news you don’t have tonnes of room for flexibility. First, steer clear of the black rental suit and Derby lace-ups that probably haven’t been polished in years.
For black tie weddings, guys should wear a black tuxedo, bow tie and black patent leather shoes. Shoes are a big one, so ensure they are polished and fit the brief. You can’t go wrong with black Oxfords, but black velvet loafers are also fun, and look a treat with a black tuxedo.
If the invitation says ‘black tie optional’, guests are encouraged to wear a tuxedo with a bow tie, but it’s not mandatory. Any dark suit with a tie and black Oxfords or Derby lace-ups will do the job. You can also experiment a little here with oxblood and midnight blue tuxedo jackets, if that’s your thing.
Located somewhere between ‘black tie’ and ‘cocktail’, formal wedding attire suggest just that: formal wear.
For guys, that means a dark navy, midnight or black suit, although the former is generally preferred. Wear a white shirt and a conservative tie, too. Your shoes should echo the low-key nature of the dress code: opt for a pair of black Derby lace ups or dark brown Oxfords. Ensure they are polished and looking their best. A pair of black dress loafers, like the ASCOTT or ALBERTO, can also work. Try them with black suit pants, a suit jacket, white shirt and cheeky bowtie.
Cocktail wedding outfits
Cocktail is one of the most common wedding dress codes these days, and it basically means semi-formal (but without the need for a tie or patent leather shoes). You want an outfit that will work outside, with a drink in one hand and a fiddly canape in the other. It’s a tricky dress code, because there aren’t any obvious rules, but on the plus side you have lots of room to play around.
To start with, you need a jacket or a knit blazer, followed by either tailored pants or neatly hemmed dress chinos (if in doubt, go with the suit pants). When it comes to shoes, ‘cocktail’ encourages personality. Brown leather brogues always look great, as do brown or black tassel loafers. This is also the time to consider suede. Suede loafers or Derby shoes are perfect for cocktail weddings, and look great with tonal suits like khaki, light blue, dusky pink or forest green. Lastly, accessories. Consider a patterned shirt, slick dress watch, or at least a pocket square to match your tie.
Smart casual weddings
Ah, the dreaded ‘smart casual’ wedding. We’ve done a deep dive into this one already, but here are the basics. Smart casual wedding attire should be neat, but not stuffy. We’re talking linen jackets, suiting separates, cuffed chinos, or even tailored shorts (for summer beach weddings).
You can experiment with shoe styles for this dress code, so perhaps opt for a sleek brown leather loafer, which will look fantastic with shorts or chinos. A boat shoe is also appropriate, especially if the wedding is beach-bound; they will look great with tailored chinos. Suede driving shoes are also a popular option, as they’re stylish and comfortable, and instantly elevate any smart-casual look. They’re also great for busting moves on the dancefloor later, but that’s by-the-by.
Summer wedding attire
Summer weddings are great, but you do need to give your outfit some thought. Pick the wrong suit, or the wrong fabric, and you’re in for a seriously sweaty day. Breathable natural fibres like cotton and linen are your best friends here, and summer weddings are definitely a good excuse to bust out that unstructured linen suit.
Summer also means experimenting with colour. Ditch the standard navy suit and brown Derbys for a pair of muted pastel loafers, or perhaps blue, green or navy boat shoes. These are all great options that are comfortable, lightweight and stylish. Espadrilles are also applicable to this dress code, so throw them into the mix.
No-one expects you to rock up to a beach wedding in a three piece woolen suit. In fact, it would be weird if you did. Check the invite for specific dress code details, but most beach weddings will specify ‘casual’ or ‘smart casual’. Don’t take this as an excuse to get sloppy, however. Thongs and board shorts are definitely out.
For a casual beach wedding, a nice linen shirt, cuffed tan chinos and leather boat shoes or woven shoes always looks great. You could even throw on a lightweight jacket, if the weather isn’t too hot. Tailored shorts or neat chino shorts are also totally fine. For footwear, casual loafers, boat shoes, espadrilles and driving shoes are generally the way to go. You don’t want to be dodging seaweed and getting sand in your Oxfords, and sandals are slightly too casual, even for a beach wedding. Try to find that balance between comfortable and put together. It’s worth the extra effort.