Is there a more glorious celebration than a wedding? They're such joyous occasions on so many levels as a new union is formed and friends and family from near and far come together to join in the proceedings and of course, have some fun too.
At certain points in your life (namely in your late 20’s and early 30’s which seem to form a peak in wedding celebrations) it might seem like the wedding season is never-ending, with the invitations for your friend's upcoming nuptials coming in thick and fast. That being the case, you probably already own a respectable and appropriate wedding suit and are familiar with the usual dress code, which is generally described as “formal attire.”
Types of Wedding Dress Codes
For anyone else, the age-old question of “what to wear for a wedding” can be a daunting one, especially when you pull out your suit from the 1980s to find it’s severely outdated or has been attacked by moths. Then there is also the added conundrum when you do scan down the invitation and where you’re expecting the dress code to say “formal” what it in-fact says is “cocktail,” and you’re really not sure what the difference is.
These days though there seems to be all kinds of variations of the conventional wedding dress code which can make it downright confusing. Worry not, we’re here to review the subject and to offer some fashion friendly guidance to ensure you’re not the only guy in the church wearing a top hat!
The Formal Wedding Dress Code
What does formal attire mean?
The most common attire for a wedding is that of “Formal” which, roughly translated in anyone’s book, means a suit. However, we’re not just talking about the suit you wear to work. You don’t want to end up looking like you're going to a business meeting, even if you're a business executive. We’re talking a sharply tailored suit with a proper dress shirt, your best highly polished leather formal dress shoes with a solid tie to keep it on the dressier side.
While you don’t want to look like a complete stiff, this is a very smart look and your best options color wise are usually a classic navy or a dark gray. Nothing too pretentious or casual. This look is best carried off with a formal, crisp white dress shirt rather than a pastel-hued one but you could go for a bold tie with a contrasting bright color pocket square.
Black Tie Wedding Attire
What does black tie attire mean?
Formal could also have the option of “black-tie,” which is such a dashing alternative and one that's usually easy to pull off. Even if you don’t own your tuxedo for the occasion, you can very easily rent one. Just make sure again that your shoes are highly polished for the occasion. Black patent leather shoes are a great option. Black tie doesn’t have to mean only black either. You could wear, for example, a formal pair of dress pants with a deep midnight blue or even a white tuxedo, your dress shirt, and of course the compulsory essential to this look, a bow-tie.
Semi Formal Wedding Attire
What does semi formal attire mean?
If the dress remit is “semi-formal” or “cocktail,” you might start to sweat! What does that mean exactly? Our advice is to stick to the formal basics of dress pants but perhaps have a little bit more fun with your underpinnings and inject more personality or even some seasonality into your outfit. You could try swapping out the formal dress shirt instead for something like a fresh and contemporary looking gingham or paisley patterned shirt. This is still smart, but with a more relaxed vibe. You might also opt to leave the polished dress shoes behind too and instead team your look with a pair of sleek men's loafers. Ditch the tie too; it’s not needed for this look.
Beach Wedding Attire
How about when your friends aren’t getting married at the local church? They’re doing away with the traditions and are heading off to the beach in Mexico to get hitched instead! What then? They’ve called the dress code “beach formal” which means you are still expected to wear a suit but in the sand and sun and heat! The mere idea of formal black two-piece has already made you break into a sweat.
How about then trying a suit in a much lighter hue – something along the lines of beige, cream, or tan, preferably in a nice light linen or cotton mix that will keep you cool. You should still go for a classic dress shirt but keep it crisp, classic, and white. Sand doesn't mean dress shoes are not required either! You can’t be getting out your leather thong sandals if the code is formal. You still need to adhere to the rules and wear your shoes.
Dressy Casual Wedding Attire
What does dressy casual mean?
The final dress code option might be something entirely more relaxed or even a bit of a hybrid that might be described on your invitation as “dressy casual attire.” What this does not mean are jeans. Or shorts. You're still being invited to celebrate a solemn occasion, and it deserves an element of respect and your usual sartorial elegance. A good compromise here might be to go for a nice slim dress pant with a classic blazer and either a simple button-up men's shirt or a plain polo shirt. With this look, you could also ditch the tie and the lace-up shoes and instead wear a pair of polished loafer shoes and maybe even something like a suede slip-on or boot.
The most important point to make when appropriately dressing for a wedding is to read the invitation properly to ensure you're following the happy couple’s specified dress code. While you might be tempted to make your own fashion statement, remember you have been invited along as a guest, and it’s your role to be respectful and to honor that privilege. If in doubt it's always better to be overdressed rather than underdressed and please, don’t forget to wear a smile.