Style Guide: What To Wear to a Wedding
Going to a wedding is always fun, but it can be stressful trying to pick out the right attire to wear – especially if you’re not sure what the difference between white tie, black tie, cocktail, or a semi-formal dress code is. And while you probably have a wide variety of clothing that can work for events that span across multiple dress codes, what you wear on someone else’s big day can make or break you as a wedding guest – you don’t want to show up overdressed to a beach wedding, for example, or underdressed to a black tie wedding.
Thankfully, we’ve put together a handy style guide that breaks down what you can, could, and should never wear to weddings of all different dress codes, which you can check out below.
What To Wear to a White Tie Wedding
A wedding with a white tie dress code is the most formal of the bunch, so be prepared to be dressed to the nines, and unless you conveniently have a black coat with a tail and matching trousers hanging in your closet, and of course, as the name suggests, a white tie. And while a white tie dress code is pretty uncommon for modern day weddings, the ultra-formal attire was once the standard of wedding wear, as Beaumont Etiquette wedding specialist Anne Chertoff told Brides.
“White tie attire evolved in the 19th century and began to wane after World War I,” she shared with the outlet, adding that men were looking for alternative dress codes with less formality as the 1900s raged on. “Men on both sides of the Atlantic were looking for something a little less formal and they chose to wear black tie: a black jacket without tails, white dress shirt, and black bow tie.”
If for some reason you do find yourself invited to a wedding with a white tie dress code, as mentioned above, you’ll need a black coat with a tail, matching trousers, and a bow tie, vest, and wing-collar shirt all in crisp white color. You’ll also need patent leather shoes, cufflinks, studs, and let’s be honest, a Tide To-Go pen probably wouldn’t hurt to have on hand in case of any spills.
What To Wear to a Black Tie Wedding
A black tie dress code is less formal than a white tie dress code, and it’s actually quite easy to figure out what you should wear to a black tie wedding, as your only option is a tuxedo. Going with a classic black tuxedo with a black bowtie and a white shirt with french cuffs is always a safe and stylish option; however, if the dress code is black tie optional, you can get away with adding slightly interesting details to your tux, like a subtle pattern on your bowtie, or a black shirt instead of a white one. As far as shoes and accessories go, you should pair your tux with dark shoes that are polished and have studs for your shirt.
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What To Wear to a Semi-Formal Wedding
When it comes to attending a wedding with a semi-formal dress code, you have a lot more room to play around with your look, as a semi-formal dress code isn’t as strict or formal as black tie, but isn’t as relaxed as a beach casual or casual dress code. You really can’t go wrong with a nice two-piece suit, and if you don’t already own one for semi-formal occasions like a wedding, now is your chance to invest in a good one – trust us, you’ll wear it to more events and occasions other than just a wedding. It’s also important to note that when wearing a suit, it is imperative that your coat and trousers match and are made from the same fabric, or else it’s not a suit, and you’ll look severely out of place and underdressed.
As far as colors go, you can never go wrong with a classic black, grey, or navy suit; however, if you know the groom is going to dress in a certain color other than black, it may be best to avoid that color so you don’t look like you’re trying to steal the show. Of course, the colors, patterns, fabrics, and materials of the suit you choose to wear to a semi-formal wedding will depend on the season, the weather, the location, and more.
If you’re attending a fall or winter wedding, you can get away with heavier fabrics like wool and tweed, and darker colors like oxblood or charcoal. If you’re attending a spring or summer wedding, you’ll likely be able to get away with wearing lighter colors like light grey or a muted, weathered blue, and fabrics like linen and/or cotton blends.
You should also make sure you wear a tie when sporting a suit to a wedding with a semi-formal dress code, and this is where you can let a bit of your personality shine through. Add an eye-catching pop of color with a pastel or bold-colored tie, or keep it fun and funky with a patterned necktie or bow tie. Finish off your look with a pair of leather Oxfords, brogues, or derby shoes, and you’ve got yourself one snazzy wedding outfit.
What To Wear to a Cocktail Wedding
If you’re attending a wedding requiring cocktail attire, then lucky you, because you get to have some serious fun with putting together your wedding look. Cocktail attire lives in the realm of semi-formal wear, but it’s a bit more relaxed. If you opt to wear a suit, you can go for bolder patterns or colors; however, cocktail attire typically means darker colors, so keep that in mind when putting together your look.
You can also take a mix-and-match approach to putting your cocktail look together – think chinos or dress pants with a patterned or bold color blazer worn with Oxfords, derby shoes, leather loafers, or brogues. And while cocktail attire doesn’t necessarily require a tie – you can add a fun pocket square to your coat in place of one – you most definitely still need to wear a collared shirt.
What To Wear to a Beach Wedding
We haven’t heard of too many beach weddings that fall in the ultra-formal range when it comes to the dress code, so it’s typically a safe bet that you can dress a little more casual than you normally would when picking out your outfit for a wedding on the water – think dressy casual.
For a simple, no-frills beach wedding look, you can never go wrong with a pair of slacks or chinos that hit above the ankle paired with a light-colored button down shirt. Linen is a great material to wear to a beach wedding, too, whether it’s a full linen suit, a pair of linen pants, or a simple linen blazer.
If you’re really looking to lean into the tropical vibes of a beach wedding, wearing a patterned blazer will have all eyes on you when you’re hitting the tiki bar or showing off your moves on the dance floor. Keep the rest of your outfit neutral if you plan on doing this, though, so you don’t stick out in all the wrong ways.
What To Wear to a Casual Wedding
Putting together a look for a dressy casual or casual wedding can actually be a lot harder than it sounds – mostly because casual wedding attire is not the same as your own personal casual look. You should never wear shorts or a graphic tee to even the most casual of weddings, but you can totally get away with wearing dark, fitted denim without any holes, a high-quality basic t-shirt, a blazer, and some loafers or Oxfords to elevate the look.
If the dress code calls for dressy casual attire, skip the denim and opt for a pair of chinos, slacks, khakis, or dress pants – you can get a little creative with the colors and patterns – and pair with either a high-quality solid tee or button down and a blazer or sport coat. You don’t need to wear a tie, but you definitely need to pay attention to your choice of footwear, as sneakers might be too casual; loafers or wingtip Oxfords are always a safe bet.
Keep in mind that the key to dressing appropriately for a casual wedding is that you want to look polished and put together, not like you just rolled out of bed, so how your clothing fits is paramount when putting together a dressy casual or casual look.
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