The Wedding Style Guide: It’s not about you

Friday, June 28th 2019
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One of the lovely things about the questions and comments we get on Permanent Style is the trends they highlight.

In the past two weeks there have been dozens of questions on old posts about wedding attire. So I know everyone is thinking about what to wear to that summer wedding.

Here, therefore, is a post setting out my key advice - and linking to all the archive articles on Permanent Style that contain specifics, and illustrated examples.

We have also created a ‘Wedding Style’ guide for this, which sits within the ‘Style’ section of the navigation, above.

When you go through to each suggested post, do also read the comments. There are a lot of questions from readers in there asking about particular scenarios.


Pick your choice. None of them look like a business suit.

1. Dress up

Weddings are a great opportunity to dress up. As business clothing becomes more casual, events like weddings are one of the few times you can dress formally.

Three-piece suits, double-breasted jackets, pocket handkerchiefs, boutonnieres: this is the greatest opportunity to wear them.

Indeed, formal day events and dinners may become the natural home of the suit over time, with standard office wear becoming jacket and trousers.

So take advantage of it. Don’t worry about whether you will be comfortable in the suit, or can dance in it.

If it’s in a hot country, keep the tie but wear linen. Wear a hat, rather than flip-flops.

This is a rare chance for elegance.

Suggested post: ‘Two questions on wedding attire

An article from 2010 answering the concerns of two readers, and suggesting personal but subtle takes on morning dress and black tie.


The wedding tie. Such variation!

2. Not loud

Unfortunately today, many men conflate elegance with dandyism.

A brightly coloured or brightly patterned suit is not elegant. Neither is a loud tie or loud socks. Avoid both bright-blue suits and tan shoes.

Elegant menswear appears simple, but is not. The colours and the patterns are restrained, but the beauty is in cut and texture, in the sweep of a lapel and the razor-sharp line of a trouser.

So wear a non-business but non-loud suit like light grey, or a double-breasted. Take the opportunity to have it made bespoke, so the fit looks amazing.

Don’t wear anything anachronistic like a tie bar or a pocket watch, but do wear a pocket handkerchief and flower in your buttonhole.

And use those latter two for colour - rather than the tie or the socks.

Suggested post: ‘The perfect wedding suit

An oft-cited article where a friend shows off the elegance of simplicity in a double-breasted, pale-grey bespoke suit


Dressy, elegant, simple

3. Ask the host, not me

The hardest thing about giving readers advice on wedding attire is that weddings are so inconsistent.

There is no longer any broad, socially dictated sense of what is appropriate at a formal day event, such as a wedding.

Some traditional families take the opportunity to be particularly formal, and require a morning suit. Others want to be particularly casual and relaxed, thinking this is more suited to their outlook on life and what they are celebrating.

As a result, I can give readers advice on how formal their suggested outfit is, but it is up to them to work out the formality of the wedding. Based on the invitation, their knowledge of the hosts, or a subtle inquiry to someone close to them.

I would only say, if in doubt, dress smartly.

Suggested post: ‘Clothes for a wedding

An outfit of my own in grey herringbone and a grey silk tie. Plus a pink cocktail stirrer.


Suits, handkerchiefs, flowers

4. The elegance of consideration

This consideration of what the bridal party wants gets to the heart of dressing well at a wedding. The most important thing to remember is: it’s not about you.

Your job is to dress appropriately. To thank the host for the invitation by investing time, and probably money, in what you wear. Not to look fabulous.

If you stand out, you’ve done something wrong. It’s amazing how many men never consider this, even though most women would be conscious of not outshining the bride.

That also means that if the dress code is black tie (despite it being a day event, and therefore an historical oddity) you wear black tie. If it’s a shirt, shorts and bare feet on the beach, then that’s what you wear. It’s not about you.

Indeed, this is something men should bear in mind generally at events, particularly if accompanying a woman. You are there to be her elegant foil, her arm and her support. Not to show off your new alligator loafers.

Elegance is more a way of behaving, than a way of dressing.

Suggested post: 'Reader question - a suit for my wedding'

This reader back in 2009 wanted to know if the outfit he was considering was over the top. It was. But it was easily fixed.


An elegant foil to the bride

Other suggested archive posts:

The contradiction of wedding dress

In this 2008 post, I present alternatives to renting morning dress, incorporating items from your own wardrobe.

A flamboyant wedding

That’s the dress code. So what do you wear?

'Wedding outfit, by popular request'

How to make a navy suit not look like a business suit. Double-breasted, herringbone, light rather than bright.

'Was that tie on purpose?'

The way you find out how traditions live and were exercised: by looking at your elders.

'A nice, small boutonniere'

The virtues and pleasures of wearing a little flower in the lapel