How A Man Should Dress For A Wedding: From Groom To Guest
Our guide to modern men's wedding attire shows you how to dress in a stylish and appropriate way for summer and winter nuptials.
Heading for a wedding? Then you’ll know that deciding what to wear can be a monumental pain in the nuptials. You want to look your best, but you don’t want to upstage the groom. You want to feel relaxed and comfortable for a long day of socialising, but you don’t want to appear as if you just rolled out of bed. Dressing well for a wedding is all about hitting that sweet spot right in the middle of these two extremes.
In this in-depth guide to men’s wedding attire, we’ll equip you with everything you need to know in order to tackle the day in style. From demystifying the plethora of easily misinterpreted dress codes to taking a closer look at some of the key garments.
Whether you’re jetting off for a destination ceremony in the Caribbean or wrapping up for a winter wedding, the tips and information below will enable you to approach it with confidence. Here’s everything you need to know.
- What should the groom wear to a wedding?
- What should the best man wear to a wedding?
- What should a male guest wear to a wedding?
- What should an evening guest wear to a wedding?
- Wedding dress codes explained
- White tie
- Black tie
- Black tie optional
- Cocktail attire
- Casual/smart casual
- What to wear to a summer wedding
- What to wear to a winter wedding
- Classic wedding attire for men
- Lounge suit
- Suit separates
- Dress shirt
- Oxford shoes
- Men's wedding attire FAQs
- Do I have to stick to the dress code?
- What colours should I wear to a wedding?
- Can I wear sneakers to a wedding?
- Can I wear a short-sleeved shirt to a wedding?
- What outerwear should I wear for a winter wedding?
- Do men have to wear a suit to a wedding?
- What colour shoes should I wear to a wedding?
- Should I wear a waistcoat to a wedding?
What should the groom wear to a wedding?
It’s your wedding, so you get to wear whatever the hell you want, right? Well, kind of. Chances are there’s another person involved in deciding on the dress code, so unless you both decide that there is no dress code, you’re still going to have some sartorial rules to adhere to.
As a rule of thumb, you’re going to want to be dressed a tad sharper and more formal than your guests. If you’re having a semi-formal wedding, this could be something as simple as elevating your suit with a waistcoat. For a formal wedding, you and your band of best men/ushers might choose to wear traditional top hats and tails.
The most important thing is that the fit is bang on. Remember, you’re going to be the centre of everyone’s attention today, so that tailoring needs to hang beautifully and fit like a glove. The best option is to go for a bespoke or made-to-measure suit, but they can be very expensive. The second best option is to take what you have to a good tailor and have them work their magic.
What should the best man wear to a wedding?
In short, whatever the groom tells you. This is his day and it’s already stressful enough without his best mate whining about his choice of suit colour. That said, it’s also your job to help guide him and make sure he doesn’t make any drastic missteps – sartorial or otherwise – so if he seems to be leaning towards canary yellow zoot suits or Pirates of the Caribbean fancy dress, don’t be afraid to give him a friendly nudge in the right direction.
Generally speaking, it’s hard to go wrong with a navy three-piece suit. Try a grey waistcoat for a bit of contrast if you like, and make sure the wedding party has something to tie you all together. Matching ties or pocket squares (or both) work well for this.
What should a male guest wear to a wedding?
The first thing you’re going to need to do as a guest is take a good hard look at the dress code (see below). The bride and groom have picked this out so that everyone has an idea of exactly what to wear, and it’s their day, so it’s important to respect it.
Most dress codes offer at least a little room for some sort of creative expression. Generally speaking, the more formal the dress code, the smaller the degree of this will be. For example. white tie and black tie are firmly set in stone in terms of what they require, but you have a little bit of freedom in terms of things like accessories and the cut of your tuxedo.
At the other end of the spectrum, dress codes like ‘cocktail attire’ are open to interpretation to an extent. You still have to dress smartly, probably in some form of tailoring, but there’s more freedom to bring in different colours, textures and even pattern. If ever in doubt, wear a three-piece suit in a dark, neutral colour.
What should an evening guest wear to a wedding?
Maybe you’ve just been invited to the evening part of the wedding – after the ceremony, food and speeches. If that’s the case, still follow the dress code, but on the whole it’ll be a bit more relaxed as everyone is ready to let loose.
By this point in the day, many of the guests will have taken their jackets and ties off to hit the dancefloor, so don’t feel like you need to rock up in a tux unless the invitation says so.
Wedding dress codes explained
Dress codes are designed to make getting ready easier. They’re specific guidelines that give you an idea about what sorts of garments are appropriate and which ones aren’t. The trouble is, there are a lot of them, and unless you know the exact meaning behind each and every one, it can be a bit confusing.
Below are some of the key dress codes you’re most likely to encounter on a wedding invitation. They range from the most formal down to the least, with instructions about what to wear and how to wear it.
White tie is the most formal dress code. In reality, you’re unlikely to see it on an invitation unless the wedding in question is connected to royalty. Still, it’s good to have an understanding of the fundamentals just in case. White tie is sometimes referred to as full evening dress.
A traditional white tie outfit consists of a black tail coat, white bow tie, white waistcoat, white shirt and black trousers. In other words, be very careful with that glass of red at the table. The tailcoat should be single-breasted and extend down to the back of the knees. The waistcoat should be low cut to show the front of the shirt and have no lapels. The trousers should be plain and unpleated. The shirt should be starched and have a detachable wing collar, and the bow tie should be made from silk or satin.
In terms of accessories, a white pocket square can be worn in the left breast pocket, and a top hat is optional. As far as footwear goes, only a pair of polished patent-leather Oxfords will do.
White tie requires a great deal of effort and attention to detail. Remember that this is a very formal, historic and traditional dress code and should be treated with the appropriate degree of respect and reverence.
Key white tie pieces
- White bow tie
- Wing-collar shirt
- White waistcoat
- Dress trousers
- Patent leather Oxford shoes
- White pocket square (optional)
- Top hat (optional)
Black tie is second only to white tie in terms of its formality. It’s becoming less and less common at weddings these days, but there’s still a good chance you’ll have to deal with it at some point. Aside from weddings, it’s most commonly required at dressy events such as formal dinners and galas.
It’s composed of a black bow tie (hence the name), white dress shirt, black tuxedo, a cummerbund or waistcoat, black dress trousers and leather dress shoes.
The black bow tie is a must and can be either pre-tied or self-tied. The white dress shirt can be either pleated or plain-fronted, with French cuffs and cufflinks. The tuxedo should be jet black or midnight blue (which looks even blacker under artificial light), single-breasted, with peak lapels or shawl lapels, and the cummerbund or waistcoat should be black and match the lapel of the tuxedo in texture.
Trousers need to match the tuxedo jacket. They can have a satin stripe running along the outside leg seam, but this is optional. Footwear-wise, it’s patent-leather or polished smooth leather Oxfords.
Key black tie pieces
- Bow tie
- Wing-collar shirt
- Shirt studs
- Patent leather Oxford shoes
- Cufflinks or knots
- Cummerbund or waistcoat (optional)
- White pocket square (optional)
Black tie optional
Black-tie optional is exactly what it sounds like. It’s formal and you’re expected to treat it as such, but you don’t necessarily have to wear a tuxedo and bow tie if you don’t want to. An alternative would be to wear a three-piece lounge suit in a dark colour. This still hits the brief in terms of looking sharp, but it’s slightly less formal than a dinner jacket.
Other options include maintaining the surrounding black tie pieces but switching the jacket for something more interesting, such as a patterned, jacquard, velvet or white design.
The safest option when it comes to the black tie optional dress code, is simply to treat it exactly the same as you would treat black tie. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, and this way there are no grey areas.
Key black tie optional pieces
- Tuxedo or other formal suit
- Dress shirt
- Bow tie
- Black shoes
- Pocket square (optional)
Sitting in the middle of the dress code spectrum is semi-formal. This (or some variation of it) is what you’re likely to encounter at the vast majority of weddings. The goal is to look dressed up and sharp without appearing overly formal. That means no tuxedos or bow ties and much more freedom where things like footwear and accessories are concerned.
Semi-formal may not require a tux, but it still requires tailoring. Specifically, a well-fitting suit. It’s best to stick to dark colours like navy and charcoal, but feel free to go either single or double breasted. The most important thing is that it fits immaculately, so again, take it to a good tailor and have them alter it for your exact measurements. Lighter colours are fine in the summer too.
There’s an opportunity to show some flair via the rest of your outfit. A patterned tie or pocket square is a good way to add some personality and create a focal point, while the right pair of shoes can either dial up or tone down the level of formality. Think black leather Derbies at the dressier end of the spectrum and brown suede loafers at the more casual end.
Key semi-formal pieces
- Dress shirt and tie, or roll neck
- Smart leather shoes
- Pocket square (optional)
The best way to think of cocktail attire is like semi-formal but with more freedom for sartorial self expression. It’s about looking smart and presentable, but with flair and personality, and this can be achieved by some clever styling, mixing tailoring with more casual pieces and using pattern, colour and texture to your advantage.
One solid option when it comes to cocktail attire is to experiment with suit separates. It’s still sharp and smart, but it’s more playful than a plain old suit and creates contrast within the outfit.
There are lots of failsafe colour combinations, but dark dress trousers with a lighter suit jacket is always a good bet. If you’re feeling particularly jazzy, you could go for a statement blazer in a patterned fabric, a rich velvet smoking jacket, or swap the shirt out for something like a fine-gauge turtleneck. This works particularly well in the winter and for evening dos.
Again, shoes can be more casual. A Derby shoe, monk-strap or even a loafer is fine in leather or suede.
Key cocktail attire pieces
- Suit or tailored separates
- Dress shirt or roll neck
- Smart shoes
It’s rare, but there might be the odd occasion you get invited to a casual wedding. Does that give you carte blanche to rock up in a dressing gown and pool slides? Not quite, but it does afford a lot of freedom and means you can ditch the tailoring altogether if you want to.
As with most wedding dress codes, it’s best to take casual at its smartest possible definition. Think Oxford shirts and chinos rather than T-shirts and sweatpants. Think smart casual and you won’t go wrong. This means you can wear a blazer if you want to, but it’s not a requirement, and nor is a tie.
A shirt, on the other hand, is a must. Footwear can be pretty laid back too. Opting for suede over leather is a good way to keep things relaxed, particularly when you choose a nice casual silhouette like a loafer, chukka or Chelsea boot.
Key casual/smart casual pieces
- Sports jacket
- Oxford shirt
- Smart casual shoes and boots
What to wear to a summer wedding
Dressing for a summer wedding is about keeping cool and looking good in equal measures. That means you should focus on wearing light and airy fabrics in light colours. A great option for a summer wedding is a pale linen suit or a cotton-blend seersucker suit. These materials are lightweight, breathable, quick drying and great at wicking moisture away from the skin. For a more casual look, you can opt for a pair of lightweight khaki trousers, teamed with a light-coloured shirt and sports jacket.
In terms of accessories, keep it simple and seasonally appropriate. Ties and pocket squares in bright or pastel hues work well to add a splash of colour to an otherwise muted outfit. Shoes should be a classic style, such as loafers or Derbies, and match the lighter coloured tailoring. That means shades like tan, light brown and beige as opposed to black. Finish it off with your coolest pair of sunglasses and you’re good to go.
For destination weddings in beachy locations, the dress code might be a little more laid back due to the stifling heat. Make sure to check, but garments like short-sleeved shirts, linen pants and even shorts and sandals may be worn as long as it fits with what’s on the invitation.
What to wear to a winter wedding
Weddings can involve a fair bit of standing around outside. You might be waiting for photos, lining up to get into the venue, or just moving from one location to another for the reception. This isn’t an issue in the summer, but it can be in the winter, which is why its so important to make sure you’re warm as well as well dressed.
The key here is fabric choice. If you’re wearing a suit, it should be cut from a wool or wool-blend cloth. Perhaps with a touch of cashmere if you’re feeling extravagant. Winter is also a good time to play with textures, so things like knitted ties, tweed sports jackets and even a bit of well-placed knitwear can all be used to your advantage.
Another key detail specific to winter weddings is outerwear. A classic option is a traditional single-breasted wool overcoat, in a nice grey melange or striking camel. This should be roomy enough to comfortably throw on over your suit without it restricting movement. Add in a nice cashmere scarf and you’re good to go.
Classic wedding attire for men
There are certain garments that crop up in wedding attire over and over again. It’s important to know what they are and why they’re important if you want to put the perfect wedding outfit together. Below are some of the key pieces you’re likely to come across.
A tailcoat is a classic piece of traditional tailoring that is typically worn for formal events. It’s a long, tailored jacket that’s cut away in the front, exposing the trousers beneath it, featuring ‘tails’ that extend from the back of the coat down to the back of the knees.
It’s typically made from wool, or sometimes from velvet or silk, and is often paired with a waistcoat and trousers, as well as a shirt, tie and pocket square.
A tuxedo (or dinner jacket) is a type of formal suit. It’s typically worn in the evening for black tie events. It’s usually black or midnight blue, with a matching waistcoat and bow tie, and is supposed to be worn with black patent-leather Oxford shoes.
The jacket can also feature satin lapels and trim, and many people will wear a pocket square as an accessory. Sometimes the trousers feature a satin stripe down the side.
In modern parlance, a lounge suit is simply a normal suit, but in terms of wedding attire it’s important to make the distinction. It consists of a matching tailored jacket (single or double breasted) and trousers cut from the same cloth. It may or may not be worn with a waistcoat.
This is the default setting for the vast majority of weddings.
Suit separates are exactly what they sound like: a tailored jacket and tailored pants that aren’t part of the same suit. Wearing separates is a great way to dial down the formality while still keeping things sharp. Plus, it’s a great way to create contrast in your wedding outfit, particularly when you combine light with dark.
A dress shirt is a formal shirt that’s designed to be worn with a tailored jacket. It should be slim and fitted in the body, but long enough to tuck into the waistband of a pair of dress pants.
Collar styles vary a lot depending on the intended purpose of the shirt. For example, a wing collar is designed to be worn with a bow tie and therefore perfect for wearing with a tuxedo. A cutaway collar, on the other hand, is meant to put a Windsor tie knot on full display, so is best for wearing with a classic necktie.
In terms of fabric, fine, tightly woven cotton materials are best, with poplin being one of the most common options.
Oxford shoes are the most formal footwear style there is. Even more so when they’re rendered in shiny patent leather. Oxfords differ from Derbies in that the eyelets are stitched under the vamp as opposed to on top of it. This is referred to as a ‘closed lacing system’.
These shoes are mostly worn with tuxedos, and for white and black tie events, but if you go for a smooth black leather pair they will work just as well for corporate offices.
At the more casual end of the wedding-footwear spectrum we have loafers. These breezy summer shoes are great for lending tailoring a more relaxed vibe and dressing things down while still looking sharp.
They work well for anything from semi-formal to casual, but should be avoided if the invitation says formal, black tie or white tie. Leather gives them a smarter look, while suede makes them feel more relaxed and warm-weather appropriate.
Men’s wedding attire FAQs
Still have a few unanswered questions about how to dress for a wedding? Never fear, read through our wedding-attire FAQs and hopefully by the end you’ll have all of the information and guidance you need to attend your next wedding dressed to perfection.
Do I have to stick to the dress code?
In short, yes. The dress code is there for a reason and it would be disrespectful to ignore it. Plus, nobody wants to be the guy who sticks out like a sore thumb because he underdressed.
The foolproof approach is to follow the dress code to the letter, and if in doubt, consult the bride and groom before venturing off piste.
What colours should I wear to a wedding?
The best colours to wear to a wedding vary wildly based on a number of factors. These are predominantly the time of year and the level of formality, as well as your own skin tone considerations. Dark colours are usually better for winter weddings, while light colours are usually reserved for summer weddings. This is partly down to the fact that light colours are better for staying cool in hot weather.
In winter, colours like black (yes, you can wear black to a wedding), navy, grey and brown work well. In summer, stick to light neutrals, pastels and even the odd bright, statement shade here and there.
In terms of formality, darker colours are generally more formal. That said, if it’s a black tie or white tie affair, you won’t really have much room for manoeuvre in terms of wearing colours anyway.
Can I wear sneakers to a wedding?
Again, this depends largely on the dress code. For the most formal weddings, sneakers are a definite no-no. However, dress codes have loosened up a lot over the last decade or so, which means sneakers are now a legitimate option for weddings that specify semi-formal, cocktail attire, casual or something similar.
The key thing here is to make sure you wear the right sort of sneakers. Rocking up in a suit with a pair of Air Jordans or Converse isn’t going to fly. Instead, go for smart, minimalist leather sneakers in premium materials. A prime example of this would be a Common Projects Achilles Low.
Can I wear a short-sleeved shirt to a wedding?
To a summer wedding, yes. As long as it’s in keeping with the dress code. A camp collar shirt can look great with a tailored linen jacket and pants. It’ll lend your outfit an extra summery edge and sense of playfulness, particularly if you go for something patterned.
What outerwear should I wear for a winter wedding?
What’s the point in spending days agonising over your suit if you’re going to cover it up with a battered old puffer jacket? If you want to look properly put together for a winter wedding you’ll need to find some outerwear that matches the level of formality.
A mac or trench coat could be a good option for milder days, but for deep winter you’ll need something more substantial. In our experience, you can’t go wrong with a single-breasted wool overcoat. Just make sure it’s big enough to comfortably layer over your jacket.
Do men have to wear a suit to a wedding?
Again, this is heavily dress code dependent. A suit is pretty much always a safe bet, but for more laid-back occasions it isn’t always necessary. If the dress code is fairly relaxed, suit separates or even a sports jacket and chinos will be fine.
For the most formal of dress codes, a suit or tuxedo is definitely required.
What colour shoes should I wear to a wedding?
For very formal weddings, black leather shoes are the only way to go. Outside of that, there’s a bit more room to get creative. The best way to decide is to base it on the colour of your suit or, if you’re wearing separates, your trousers.
Generally speaking, dark goes with dark and light goes with light. Some examples of failsafe colour combinations would be things like a navy suit with dark brown shoes, a beige suit with tan shoes or a charcoal suit with black shoes.
In terms of material, stick to leather for more formal dress codes and suede if you want your outfit to look a bit more informal and relaxed.
Should I wear a waistcoat to a wedding?
It’s really a matter of personal preference. As long as the dress code doesn’t require one then you’re free to decide. Wearing a waistcoat with a suit lends it a slightly more formal, polished look, so if you want to look your best, it could be a good option.
For casual weddings, it’s not necessary, but you can still wear one if you’d like to.