What to Wear to a Wedding

An invite to a wedding should evoke happy feelings, right? But some guys feel less than celebratory about the demands of pulling together the right outfit for the occasion.

A quick check of the invite usually reveals what’s expected. Traditionally, in the bottom right-hand corner you’ll find the dress code, such as black tie (think fancy event), white tie (even fancier event), or cocktail attire (no tux required).

But as couples seek to celebrate their nuptials in increasingly unique ways, wedding dress codes have become more ambiguous. And if the dress code is casual attire or beach casual, we all know what a style minefield that can be.

While black tie can be considered pretty strict in terms of what’s acceptable, a dress code that includes the word “casual” is up for interpretation.

If you’ve rsvp’d your acceptance, but feel a little unsure about what to wear, keep reading and we’ll help you dress like a good wedding guest should.


Smart Casual Dress Code

At the very least, wear well-tailored pants paired with a shirt or polo (no tie required), and dress shoes. Take note of the season for color options, darker for cooler months, lighter for warmer months.


Smart Casual Checklist

Pants: Tailored pants, such as the Aster Cotton Stretch Chino Pants

Shirt: Consider the Caldwell Micro-Pique Cotton Polo or the Alfano Cotton Dobby Shirt

Tie: Optional

Footwear: A quality leather shoe, such as brogues or Oxfords


Beach Casual Dress Code

It’s become more common to tie the knot at a beach resort, which means you’re dressing for sun and sand. Ditch the dark suit and tie and opt for a light summer suit with a white lightweight shirt instead.

For a more casual look, wear linen pants or shorts. And yes, you can wear sandals. A sunburned nose is never a good look in wedding pictures, so top off your look with a lightweight Panama, or similar.


Beach Casual Checklist

Shirt: A lightweight seersucker shirt or a polo

Pants: Tailored pant, such as the Aster

Shorts: Tailored shorts, such as the Catalpa

Footwear: From boat shoes to slides to barefoot … whatever works with the surroundings.

Hat: A Panama or similar


Semi-Formal Dress Code

Also known as Cocktail, it is more laid back than black tie, but a step above casual.

You can get away with a suit and tie, or even a sport coat paired with tailored pants. Look to the season to decide on your color palette—darker shades in cold weather and lighter hues in warm weather.


Semi-Formal Checklist

Suit: Black, gray, navy … all good options. In summer you can lighten it up, particularly at a daytime wedding.

Shirt: While a crisp white shirt is acceptable, such as the Mulberry, you can also step it up a bit with subtle pattern.

Tie: Wear one!

Shoes: Wear your best shoes, Oxfords, brogues etc.


Black Tie Dress Code

If it’s black tie, it means the happy couple want their wedding to be a formal affair, so a tuxedo is non-negotiable. However, there are a few options within this category, from shirt type to tuxedo jacket (go for a bolder jacket if that’s your thing). And don’t forget your cummerbund!


Black Tie Checklist

Dinner jacket: A dinner jacket with peak or shawl lapel, no vents, with satin or grosgrain detailing. Black is the norm but you have some other options, such as dark blue or something bolder.

Pants: Tuxedo pants have a satin or grosgrain stripe down the outside leg seam to match the jacket lapels. The pants should sit high on the waist and shouldn’t have belt loops. If you’re opting for a bolder jacket, keep the pants black.

Shirt: A dinner shirt with a turndown collar, it can have a plain or pleated front, while a fly front (concealed buttons) or a French placket, are both acceptable. A classic Marcella fabric provides a textured look.

Shoes: Always classic black, and if you want to do things right, opt for patent leather.

Accessories: A bow tie, a waistcoat, a cummerbund, and cufflinks.


White Tie Dress Code

Not that common any more, but if it’s a very formal white tie event, you have little room for maneuver in the style department. Embrace the old school tradition of wearing a jacket with tails (and the fact you have very fancy friends / family).


White tie Checklist

Black tailcoat

Black pleated pants

White waistcoat

Wing-collared dress shirt

White bowtie

Black patent leather shoes


Formal Dress Code

This usually means a dark suit and tie, but could also mean tuxedo if the invite states “Black Tie Optional.” Your hosts expect you to dress up, but aren’t demanding everyone wear a tux.


Formal Dress Checklist

Depending on what you choose, refer to Black Tie or Semi-Formal Dress Code checklists.


Wedding Guest Dress Codes Around the World

If the happy couple want to reflect their cultural identity at their wedding, or if you’ve been invited to a wedding abroad (lucky you), it can pose some additional dress code dilemmas. Depending on your connection to the wedding party, you might be expected to wear traditional garb. A Morning Suit, for example, is more common in the UK than a tux. It involves a dark tailcoat over a pale gray vest, white shirt, and black striped pants. You might even find yourself wearing a top hat!

And while you might have to wear something you’ve never tried before, from Full Highland Dress (yes, that means a kilt), to a bandhgalas (a formal Indian evening suit that includes a jacket with a standing and closed collar), do your research, locate a good rental option as early as possible, and embrace the experience.


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