Cracking the Wedding Dress Code What to wear to different kinds of weddings

So you’ve reached a “certain age” and you find yourself flooded with wedding invitations. If you find yourself at a loss when you get to the dress code, look no further. 

Our comprehensive guide breaks down exactly what to wear, no matter the formality of the event.

Dress Codes

Casual

casual-wedding-guest-men-look

What it means

While this dress code is the easiest to dress for, it can also be the easiest to take too far. Jeans are still an absolute no. Instead, think along the lines of your business casual attire. This dress code is likely if the venue is outdoors or at the beach. Maintain more formal wares but wear it in a lighter fabric like seersucker or linen. 

What to wear

For a casual wedding light colored suits, button-ups, chinos, brown dress shoes or derby shoes are all fair game.

Dress it up

Add formality in the shoes and add a tie. Go with a darker leather in the shoe and go with a silk tie over cotton. These two touches will go a long way in making you look more put together.

Dress it down

Proceed with caution, as this is already the least formal attire. A linen suit with no tie is your best bet for looking dapper but still feeling comfortable. Loafers are also a great go-to for a less formal event.

Semi-formal or Dressy Casual

semiformal-wedding-guest-men-look

What it means

This is by far the most confusing (and most common) dress code. Before we get into the details, we’ll be upfront with our opinion — it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, especially at weddings. A nice suit and shoes will get you compliments, while khakis and a standard button-up might attract some side-eye stares. 

What to wear

Put the emphasis on formal with a dark or light suit, standard tie, and black or brown shoes.

Dress it up

Keep it more formal with a dark suit (black, navy, bottle green, etc.) and black shoes. With this getup, you’ll definitely be on the “Best Dressed” list at the end of the night.

Dress it down

If the event is during the day or at a less formal venue, go ahead and go with a lighter fabric or a colored suit with your brown dress shoes. We suggest sticking with the three-piece if you’re going with a lighter color. If you get too warm on the dance floor, you’ll still look put together with a light vest on.

Formal or Black Tie “Optional”

formal-wedding-guest-men-look

What this means

With this attire, there’s some ambiguity, but not a lot. You should be in a three-piece suit and wearing conservative colors such as black, charcoal, or gray. This attire will likely be called for if you’re attending a ceremony at a nicer venue, and still requires a more dapper ensemble than what you would wear to your 9-to-5. 

What to wear

Keep it classic with a dark suit, bow tie, standard tie or bow tie, and black dress shoes.

Dress it up

This is probably the most formal dress code you’ll have to dress for. Want to look your best? Go with the bow tie instead of the standard. It will up your style game in the most subtle way.

Dress it down

If you feel more comfortable with formal than black tie, try an unconventional suit color like bottle green or burgundy to get away from the penguin look. If you’re wearing a three-piece suit (and you should be wearing a three-piece suit), taking the jacket off can also dress down your look. 

Black Tie

black-tie-wedding-guest-men-look

What this means

The most standard for a formal affair, black tie is a step up from your usual wedding garb. Expect to see this for evening ceremonies or at particularly nice venues. Your clothing should be well taken care of and well fitting. If it seems likely you’ll get invited to quite a few ceremonies with this dress code, and you aren’t up for a tuxedo, we suggest investing in a bespoke suit

What to wear

Stick with the classics. You should be in a tuxedo or dark suit, a bow tie, and black dress shoes.

Dress it up

Go with the tuxedo instead of the suit. Yes, you’ll be committed to being one of the more dressed-up people in the room, but the invite specifically called for formality.

Dress it down

One way to go a little less dressy is swapping out the bow tie for something standard. If you know the couple well and think they would approve of it, you can lessen the formality with a navy suit as opposed to traditional black.

White Tie

white-tie-wedding-guest-men-look

What this means

This is the most formal of dress codes, so unless you’re friends with royalty it’s pretty unlikely you’ll see this attire on any invites. This is also the most structured dress code, with specific rules on what is and is not appropriate for a man to be wearing. 

What to wear

A tuxedo, a black jacket with tails, white vest, bow tie, black dress shoes

Dress it up

The only way to dress up this look is with a monocle.

Dress it down

Dressing it down isn’t really an option with white tie attire. If you do find yourself at a royal wedding, stick to our recommendation. 

Keep In Mind

Avoid the colors on the invitation

The last thing you want to do is show up to the ceremony looking like a member of the wedding party. If the font on the invite is lavender, this may not be the day to pull out your matching tie.

Mind the venue

This is the biggest give away of how formal you should go on those messy labels like semi-formal or dressy casual. If it’s held at a country club with a two-year waiting list, you probably need to be in a three-piece suit. On the other hand, if it’s held in an arts district or another up-and-coming area, there’s some room for creativity in your dress.

Mind the couple

You’ve been invited to this wedding because you probably know these people pretty well. If your buddy’s fiancée will have a meltdown because you’re wearing navy instead of black, step up your style game. If the couple is more laid back, your wedding wardrobe can be as well

Married to Style

Don’t let the dress code get you down. Err on the dressy side and you won’t have anything to worry about. This is the big day — dress for it.

Still not sure what to wear? Shop our picks.