The MANual: Formal Wear

8 Rules To Looking Sharp At Your Wedding

What should you wear to get married? The short answer is: whatever you damn well please. The longer answer is: you should wear something that makes you look good, that’s appropriate for the occasion, and that compliments whatever your bride is wearing.

Guys tie themselves into Windsor knots about arcane style “rules”, but unlike your marriage, these rules are not legally binding. You can break them without fear of being arrested by the fashion police.

But should you break them? We say no—at least, not just for the sake of breaking them. You could be a rebel and get hitched in a T-shirt and shorts, but if you don’t show respect for the occasion, you’re literally and figuratively making yourself look bad.

Plus, it’s fun to get a new suit, and you’ll never have a better excuse to splurge on one. What kind of suit? Well, that’s where those aforementioned “rules” can serve as useful guidelines.

#1:  BUY FOR REPEATED USE

As this is your wedding, you may be tempted to go nuts with bright colors, bold pattern or contrast buttonholes. But resist, especially if you’re having a custom suit made, or even if you’re spending a lot of money on something off the rack. Unlike a bride, you can get more than one day’s wear out of your suit—assuming you choose wisely.

  • Navy and grey are the safest bets (although dark grey is a bit severe in summer).
  • Black tie is officially supposed to be for after 6pm, but is often worn earlier (especially in the US).

#2:  BUY A TUXEDO

If you can afford it, and it works with the style of your wedding, you should buy a tux. It’s a smart investment. Even if you only wear it a few more times, it will pay for itself—and because tuxes never go out of style, you won’t wince when you look back at your wedding photos in 20 years.

#3:  BE SMART IN TOWN

If you’re getting married in the city, then chances are the event will be on the more formal side, especially if it’s in the evening. You’ll want a smart suit that’s more “special day” than “everyday.” Hallmarks of a smart suit include:

  • Peak (read: pointy) lapels instead of the more everyday notch,
  • A double-breasted jacket or a vest, which can also help you look neat and hide sweat later in the day when you get your jacket off and your groove on.
  • Dark colors are dressier and are more evening appropriate.

#4:  LOOSEN UP IN THE COUNTRY

You have more leeway with color if you’re having a less formal, rural wedding.

  • Lighter colours, coarser textures (such as tweed or flannel), and patterns will all dial down the dressiness. (The exception is pinstripe, which feels a little too corporate for a wedding.)
  • In menswear, the smoother, sleeker, and shinier something is, the smarter. Most suits tend to be made of worsted wool, which has a slight sheen to it; for something a little swankier, silky mohair – which is also used to make some tuxes – is a nice, light option that breathes well for summer ceremonies or sweaty receptions.

#5:  SHOES THAT LET YOU TREAD STYLISHLY

Black shoes are the smartest option for your footwear.

  • Whether you wear a suit or a tux, you won’t put a foot wrong with sleek polished Oxfords or plain lace-ups.
  • Shiny patent shoes are OK with black tie, but strictly speaking are meant for even fancier white tie.
  • Wingtips or brogues are usually too chunky for a slick suit (they were originally a country shoe worn by farmers.)

There’s an old-fashioned saying that you should “never wear brown in town.” Unless you work in the City of London, this rule should seen as flexible.

  • Brown shoes are less dressy.
  • Chocolate brown shoes can look sweet with a dark suit, anything much lighter will be out of step.

#6: WHITE SHIRTS ARE THE RIGHT SHIRTS

Tux or suit, you should wear a white shirt. White is the perfect choice because:

  • It works with everything from the most casual to the dressiest dress codes;
  • It hides perspiration better than a pastel shirt. (In case you haven’t realized by now, weddings get sweaty.)
  • It will go with literally any tie.

Ideally, your shirt should have cuff links, studs instead of buttons, and some kind of faintly jazzy front.

  • A normal white shirt will fly—again, double-cuff is more formal.
  • Wing collars are meant for white tie only.

#7: TIES AND POCKET SQUARES ARE FUN

Your tie and your pocket square are your tools for adding a festive touch to your suit.

  • Some color or pattern in your neckwear will help you look less office-y.
  • A textured knitted tie is a subtle, sophisticated flex.
  • You can coordinate your pocket square with your tie–but it shouldn’t exactly match. (It draws the eye to your chest, not your face, and looks like you bought a packaged set.)
  • Your pocket square should break up the monotone expanse of navy or grey of your jacket—for example, a lighter shade of your tie color with white polka dots to call out your shirt.
  • Don’t fold your pocket square too neatly—a wedding is a formal occasion but it’s still a party, not a business conference.

#8: IN SUMMER, THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT

The rules change if you’re getting married in the height of summer, somewhere hella hot and/or on a beach.

  • The holiday vibe allows you to lose the tie altogether and swap your shoes for loafers or sandals. (Maybe go for leather ones though, to retain at least some semblance of formality.)
  • Unlined tailoring will trap less heat, as will sunlight-reflecting light colors, which are also more seasonally appropriate.
  • You don’t have to dress like Colonel Sanders though: cotton, linen and seersucker are all available in darker shades – and are breathable, so you won’t fry.
  • Only the bride should wear white.
Bottom Line

Formal wear seems complicated, but it’s really not. Keep certain guidelines in mind, and you’ll be able to crush your wedding day look.

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