The Wedding Guide: Dress Codes Explained
Weddings have evolved over the last few decades from formal affairs that followed rigid dress codes to more creative and informal affairs that give the happy couple the chance to really put their individual stamp on the day. With more locations than ever allowed officiating over the wedding service, this has meant that in the space of a single year you could be invited to celebrate nuptials in a city church, country house or even on an exotic beach.
An invitation to a wedding can throw you into a state of mild panic over what to wear, frantically scanning your wardrobe, or spending money on an outfit you would not normally have bought and will never wear again.
Follow our simple guide and style tips and the only worries you will have on the day will be avoiding over enthusiastic bridesmaids and tricky-to-eat canapes.
Wedding Etiquette & Rules
- Rule 1: Respect the invitation.
If there is a dress code on the card; adhere to it. It is bad manners to ignore the wishes of the couple, who will have been planning their day, and what they want it to be, for over a year. You will also feel decidedly awkward in a casual outfit when the invite states Black Tie.
- Rule 2: What does the day entail?
For more formal weddings a dress code will be given if this isn’t the case spend a few moments researching the venue and plans for the day. A city church wedding followed by a formal wedding breakfast and a country church wedding with a barn dance will call for two very different looks and dressing appropriately will make you enjoy the day even more.
- Rule 3: Location, location, location!
Jetting off to a beach in Bali? Marquee in the Cotswolds? Take into account the climate and likely weather conditions on the day.
Dress Codes Types
What to wear to a Black Tie event:
This consists of a tuxedo, dress trousers, a double cuffed classic collared white shirt, bow tie and potentially a cummerbund. It is often required for more than just weddings, so if you don’t already have them, it is worth investing in a good tuxedo and dress trousers. Avoid readily tied bow ties and make sure the fit of the jacket is spot on; you are looking for a neat silhouette, with the correct sleeve and body length. Confusingly they don’t actually have to be black in colour (they were originally a deep dark blue) – but if you are making an investment purchase it is often best to stick to black as this is never out of style. You can add a touch of discreet individuality with your choice of cufflinks and socks. Cummerbunds were originally worn to accentuate the top of the outfit and move the eye away from the waist if you decide to wear one; black will always look smart and will have the desired effect, don’t be tempted by dazzling colours or patterns.
What to wear for White Tie:
By far the most formal wedding dress code. Often referred to as white tie and tails, the outfit consists of a black single-breasted tailcoat, worn with a winged collar shirt, white Marcella waistcoat and black trousers with two lines of braid on the outside leg side seam. Bow ties are white (and hand tied) and shoes are a patent dress (immaculately polished). If you are lucky enough to be invited to white tie events on a regular basis, invest in your own, but for the majority of people, it is worth hiring this outfit from a reputable firm, who will be able to help you ensure you have the correct fit.
Lounge Suits: What is a lounge suit?
Perhaps the most commonly worn form of attire for weddings, even if it isn’t specified on the invitation. This refers to a dark suit (or smart jacket and trousers), worn with a shirt, tie and suitably formal shoes. The scope for self-expression here is greater, and depending on the nature of the wedding you can bring more of your own personality to the day. Cordings offer a range of city suits, and choosing one of these in a deep blue, navy or charcoal will fit the bill on the day nicely. Plain shirts or discreet checks are perfect, and a smart silk tie with matching pocket square will complete the outfit.
No Dress Code:
This will in some ways mean a little more planning and thought on your part. As discussed, research the venue and day, and if you are still at a loss a quick conversation with the Best Man should give you some pointers. Lounge Suits are an easy fallback, but if the day calls for it you can be more creative (see below).
Beach Weddings, Summer weddings:
If the wedding is on some exotic beach or in the summer months, then a linen suit will be perfect. Keep the colours light and team with a linen shirt for a cool and effortlessly smart look. Ties may not be appropriate but a silk pocket square and smart fine cotton socks will add a touch of colour.
Informal country weddings:
These give you the chance to don a tweed suit (which incidentally have become increasingly popular for grooms in recent years). Our Elland and House Check tweed suits are perfect for this occasion. In lighter weight tweeds, they will retain their smartness all day. Team with a tattersall shirt and country motif tie, with perhaps a bold coloured merino waistcoat. Brogue shoes will look perfect with this outfit.
Informal town weddings:
Match a smart, tweed jacket with trousers and a gingham shirt. You may choose to forgo a tie, but it gives you the chance to add a splash of celebratory colour, especially when teamed with a harmonising silk pocket square.
Finally, whatever the wedding, the basic rules of style always apply:
- Make sure your clothes fit correctly.
Pay attention to sleeve lengths and trouser lengths: nothing lets an outfit down more than trousers billowing at the ankle or over long jacket cuffs.
Accessories should never be forgotten. They complete your outfit; make sure they are not hastily chosen last minute. Often you can invest in these more readily as they can be worn on numerous occasions.
Shoes must be clean and neatly turned out – even for the most casual affairs. Scuffed, tired looking shoes will let the rest of your outfit down, however much time and money you have spent on it.