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

 

 

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Anonymous

Thanks. I presume nothing to come on morning dress…. If not here are my tips for readers that might want them:

Black coat (peak lapels traditional, I think notch can be distinctive and cool), grey trousers. Little to no exceptions here (unless you are going racing in all grey).

Waistcoat should be grey if v formal, otherwise buff or pastel. Please don’t go brighter as it just screams too much.

If you want to stand out a bit, here are your options:

Detachable stiff “eton collar”. Possibly with coloured shirt. If shirt is coloured please make it PALE!

Trousers: Make sure they are High waisted. Go for cashmere stripe normally. If you want to change it up, spongebag. If you want to go really crazy go for a subtle PoW check. Don’t go tartan or bright colours (too much again).

Accessories: Simon I really believe you shouldn’t wear a buttoniere unless part of the wedding party. Normally only reserved for Bride-groom and ushers at a traditional wedding. Please be aware of this!

Pocket square – white hank is best, however you can have a complimentary pastel w/ waistcoat if you wish.

Tie: Grey is traditional. I like pale pastels again. One thing to remember – especially if you are the groom – don’t get too small a pattern! they can quite often strobe in flash photography of which there is a lot at weddings! Tie pin is acceptable and can look rather dapper, though don’t combine this with lots of other fun stuff!

Shoes: Not much room for maneuver sadly! As plain a shoe as possible, black oxford is best. High shine.

I hate to sound too prescriptive with all this but it is a bit of a uniform, less room to have fun with it than suits etc. But it does look smart and create a very dramatic silhouette! It is also more than possible to find great morning coats second hand and then make the rest of it up! As with all good things here on PS as well – know the rules first then you can break them!

Simon, please do let me know if you have any thoughts (or want any photos, I had some tails made recently at W&S and they are v nice!)

Martin

I was about to say the same thing about the buttonhole. If you’re not part of the wedding party then wearing a flower is a sure fire way of standing out.

Sam

That is a super helpful summary on morning dress. Much appreciated. I have to agree on buttonholes too – better to go without and if the wedding party would like you to wear one they’ll provide one on the day.

Tim

I love how there’s tons of beautiful vintage morning coats available, but I fear looking a tad anachronistic in one at a wedding. I’d love to wear one, but I wouldn’t want to put myself in the spotlight.

I actually bought a navy (wool cavalry twill, quite short as was the style then) morning coat from 1897 a little while ago just for fun, do you think it would be at all wearable? It looks quite stunning but I’m not sure I’ll ever get to wear it.

David

I like all the suggestions of the original anonymous poster.

As for Tim’s question, I think again it’s a question of checking about the dress code. The most elegant weddings I’ve been to have had a flexible approach to morning dress – if the guests have their own then feel free to wear it, but if you don’t then wear a smart suit.

George

Thanks! With name now. Definitely the way to go with suits. On a celebratory day you want people to feel comfortable, and if they aren’t in a morning suit then they can look smart another way!

Fabrizio Gatti

In the royal wedding of Meghan and Harry, American actor and bespoke aficionado (he never wears high-end names) George Clooney, who was not a member of the wedding party, wore a simple unpretentious light-grey suit. In this opportunity he stood out for the opposing reason illustrated in this thread, but he still managed to look sharp and comfortable.

Anonymous

Sorry but wearing morning dress to a wedding if it has not been specified on the invitation would be crass in the extreme.

Normally the only get out if it is, and you don’t have it, is your formal military dress.

If it is specified, and you don’t have either, get thee to a decent hire shop.

Always respect the wishes of those who are inviting you.

Anonymous

Simon,

Excellent article and timely. I’ve been one of the people bombarding you with wedding questions.

Another question if I may. Would you only ever wear black shoes to a wedding. Would you ever consider dark brown to be acceptable?

Fabrizio Gatti

…and only white shirt?

Anonymous

“pale blue shirt with a bronze satin tie”. This would go very nice with a grey suit.

Anonymous

You don’t think there’s anything wrong with a blue shirt for a wedding?

Anonymous

Oh! That is indeed a very nice outfit. But, with a lighter grey suit, I don’t think the silver tie would have worked. Which colour would you have gone for with a light grey suit?

Fabrizio Gatti

Thank you Simon. I’ve seen pictures of the British royals wearing morning suit with contrasting shirts (light blue shirts with white collar/cuffs). Would you approve this type of shirt for a happy day ceremony (wedding, baptism, confirmation) where instead one wears a light grey suit (d.b. or s.b)? Thank you.

Anonymous

White collar and cuffs on a shirt worn with a lounge suit?

Please no.

Fabrizio Gatti

That is true. There is such a risk. I’ll then go, as I always did, for the white shirt. Thank you.

Anonymous

Reasonable advice all. Regrettably many weddings give little notice of dress code (it’s a long time ago since I attended one with morning dress) so a grey suit is usually the option taken. I disagree slightly with your presumption: men don’t confuse elegance with flamboyance – it is simply the overriding fashion of the day (blue suits/brown shoes etc.). The mistake is confusing fashion for elegance. With regards to morning dress the watch chain is not anachronistic: a watch chain is, from a historical perspective, contemporaneous with morning dress; as such, if worn discreetly and with taste, it is perfectly normal and may be seen as part of a wedding or race day ensemble.
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44750000/jpg/_44750335_princecharles270.jpg
https://therake.com/stories/style/mastering-morning-dress/
Tie bars should clearly not be worn with morning dress but remain a part of the sartorial range of accessories for day wear. Though they many not be to your taste they continue to have a modern appeal especially in the U.S. Unwelcome with morning dress a tie bar is acceptable with a lounge suit, indeed it is one of the small expressions of character (along with shirt/tie/hank colour selection) that might mark an individual sense of dress.

Seun

Simon,
Very timely article, thanks! I have been thinking of commissioning my first bespoke suit (mostly inspired by your blog) to wear to functions such as weddings and birthdays but with versatility to wear its jacket with separate trousers – my default style. I’m thinking a mid-weight navy suit with some texture. Sounds like trying to kill all birds with one stone! Any pointers will be most appropriated. Kind regards

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

I think readers would appreciate an article where you detail your bespoke/general style mistakes. Regular readers would know to avoid flashy things and opt for muted versatility with shoes and tailoring, so what i’m suggesting is a more specific analysis.

Some of your opinions have changed since 2009 and you have learned a lot since then. It’d also be nice to see how you have learned to commission garments in the last 5 years, since you’ve really started to hone in on subtle details at this point.

You have an interview which touched on your rarely worn bespoke commissions, but what i’m suggesting is more of a “what have you learned” that would be less obvious and more specific, yet still useful for readers. Great!

Anonymous

Yes, different to the ‘Bespoke commissions – what I should and shouldn’t have’ post. Precisely — an article about subtle style points and lessons you learned so readers don’t make the same mistakes. It can be as specific as gorge height, cloth lessons, or something more general. Points that regular readers wouldn’t know unless they’ve had the same breadth of experience. Thanks–

Anonymous

You’re welcome. You can format it as a list (of 25 things+?) or something shorter, but has a bit of explanation to it. I’m sure you have a lot of great advice.

Seun

*appreciated

Anonymous

Whilst I agree with the sentiment that , by and large, the wedding is about the bride, you overlook the fact that women are very indecisive. This leaves men trying to guess what they will eventually settle on. I don’t mean to be sexist, but indecisiveness is a trait commonly associated with the fairer sex.

WES WP

In general, Simon, (beyond wedding attire), I would imagine your position on wearing bright blue or highly-saturated blue suits (even solid ones) is – don’t.

Is that fair to say?

Matthew

A very timely post, this morning I was researching “cocktail attire” which is prescribed for a wedding I’m attending in South Africa in December.

Not a dress code I’ve ever come across before for a wedding but it seems to be a close relative of our old friend “lounge suits”.

One added complication is the potential for extreme heat – would an entirely linen suit wrinkle too much?

Anonymous

Simon

Would you consider black tasseled loafers on a formal last inappropriate for a formal (grey suit) wedding?

Anonymous

But always black shoes for a formal ie navy or grey suit, wedding?

Richard Pratt

Unrelated but any updates on your eagerly awaited striped Oxford button downs? I was under the impression they would be ready to order by now.

Chris Finch

Hi Simon,

Well timed post. I’ve used the various links over the years as references points. Very helpful to have them all in one place – thanks!

Currently in the process of planning our wedding at the moment, and while I usually relish the chance to dress for the occasion, for my own it’s become an afterthought!

I am now thinking of getting something made, most likely M2M to keep costs down and like the idea of using something like the Classic option at W&S.

I love the grey’s, like your friends DB or your SB mid-grey. However, as you say, it’s not about me, and my future wife loves me in a blue suit, something about my eyes!

I’m aiming for this commission to become an occasion suit, weddings/christenings and the like. So that rules out a DB, and would like to make it more interesting through the cut and fabric.

It’s hard to tell from some of the pictures on the shade of blue you recommend in these situations. I’m struggling as navy is too businessy, too bright conjures images of tan shoes, tan belt…!

Do you have any recommendations on the shade and fabric?

Look forward to your thoughts.

Chris

Chris Finch

Plenty of time over a year to go. If those prices are bespoke, then that’s sold it!

DB for me would be hard to wear outside my own wedding. Sadly I’ve been to a few formal occasions recently in SB I found myself one of the most formally dressed.

Just found your Air Force blue W&B, that seems the right colour and weight for an October wedding.

Rich P

Sian at W&S cut me a lovely airforce blue flannel suit for my wedding last year. Holland and Sherry cloth. In particular, the pitch on the sleeves was a work of beauty. The tailors also deserve praise for their excellent work too. Very happy with the commission. The wedding was early June in the UK, so I chose relatively lightweight flannel. As an occasional piece I was comfortable with the risk of trousers losing shape longer term. I suggest a heavier weight if you plan lots of use.

H

My number one tip for people’s own weddings is not to wear new shoes. I’ve seen many grooms suffer from appalling blisters on their wedding day, because everything was worn brand new. Buy them 6 months before, break them in completely – and they will look and feel better. If needs be, have them professionally polished for the day itself.

I couldn’t agree more that the only tip for other people’s weddings is to listen to the bride and groom. I recently went to a wedding in the US where the dress code was Tuxedos, even though it was a day event. As a Brit, it did feel a bit odd to wear an evening suit during the day, but I still had a lovely time and it would have been far more odd to wear anything else.

JB

Great pointers in post and comments.
From my own experience, I’d say the two biggest mistakes I made at my own wedding was my choice of suit and what I put as dress code on the invitation.
I’m not too familiar with the English dress codes, but in Sweden we have one called “Jacket” which traditionally means you should put on a suit. This is a bit contradictory and knowing not a lot of people in my generation are familiar with classic dress codes, we decided to put “dark suit” which is one step more formal.
So what was the mistake? Dark suit apparently was quite different from Jacket in terms of womens wear, moving from cocktail dress to a fancy gown basically. So we had a lot of calls from the female guests asking what to wear, which dresses were acceptable etc. It never entered my mind that cocktail dresses wouldn’t be acceptable as I just thought dark suit = evening events such as cocktail. Not the end of the world, we ensured every caller cocktail dress was fine, but would’ve been better to think twice and fact check.

As for the suit, I ordered a suit in a lovely herringbone fabric, something like an air force blue. The swatch had a slight sheen to it which I didn’t pay much mind. In the end, while the suit fits well, it just came out a lot lighter than I had anticipated, making me essentially not following my own dress code. Now, a bit more experienced, I’ve learned that fabrics usually looks lighter in color when made up than what a swatch might suggest, but this was my first real mtm commission and I simply didn’t know about it.
Had I done it today, I would’ve opted for a dark navy weave, possibly hopsack.

Something to consider for whenever vows will be renewed.

Jesse Beamish

Love this article. One note, it is NOT in good taste to self-adorn flowers at a wedding. If you are part of the wedding party you may be given a boutonnière, even as a guest you may be GIVEN a boutonnière. You NEVER put flowers on yourself then attend a wedding. That is exceptionally crass.

Owen

Hi Simon,

How would you adapt the advice for a winter wedding? While I appreciate that most weddings take place in summer, I’m planning to get married around Christmas time in New England (potentially very cold and snowy).

What’s your advice on colour choices, materials etc.?

Owen

Chris

Hi Simon,

Good question posted by Owen.

Do you feel a heavier fabric such as your RAF W&S will still look just as good in a 3 piece? I love the idea of a 3 piece for a wedding (if SB) especially for later in the evening, where you may want to lose the jacket while retaining a sense of style and respect to the formality.

However concerned it may not carry the same sense of elegance and be close to dandiness.

I generally try to apply your sense of style to formal dressing and keen to hear your opinion?

Best,
Chris

Drew

Hi Simon,
What are your thoughts on a placket? Should it feature on any formal shirt, or should the fabric follow to the edge beyond the buttons and fold underneath, and is there a difference in formality? My office wears suits and black oxfords with no tie (typically white shirt). I’m not sure if the bunching of a placket when sitting is desirable.
Thanks,
Drew

Calvin

Hi Simon, I’m looking to cut a wedding suit / tux for my own wedding coming up at the end of next year in 2020. Any suggestions on style, material and cut? Thinking of a tuxedo potentially. I’m based in Asia so would need to commission a tailor in the region to ensure fittings are right etc. In your opinion is there a difference in tailor I should be looking for, over and above the business wear tailors? Thanks for your advice. Calvin

BespokeNYC

Any thoughts on attire for a beach wedding in a tropical climate (Mexico)? I have a linen shirt and a cotton suit but it’s supposed to be around 30 degrees there and I’m worried that will still be too warm. Just ditch the jacket? Or bite the bullet and indulge in a guayabera?

Malcolm

Hi, what is best place to find “The Wedding Tie” or Macclesfield Tie! I have checked Tom Ford. Are any other places you would recommend?

Anonymous

As most weddings and similar events outside take place when the weather is sunny and warm, wouldn’t a neapolitan cut suit be the best choice (a more conservative style like Ciardi)?

Anonymous

I know that the UK is a little bit more conservative and formal when it comes to tailoring (e.g. outside of the UK nearly no one wears morning coats these days) but I don’t think a neapolitan suit is viewed less formal in the rest of the world, especially when considering that with a bespoke suit one is usually the best dressed guest on a wedding anyway.

Fabrizio Gatti

Hi Simon.
I just noticed that, in the picture with your daughter, you are not wearing oxfords. This is also refreshing from my point of you, since you and the rest of the bride’s and groom’s relatives and friends are nor wearing morning coats. Again, as you often say, I am almost sure that no one noticed. However, to add a bit of formality, it seems that the pants don’t have turn-ups. Would you mind adding some thoughts or comments? Thank you. Fabrizio

Fabrizio Gatti

Thank you, Simon, for your thorough answer.

Chris

Hey Simon.

Thank you for continuing to push through some good content recently.

I had planned to get a Whitcomb & Shaftesbury bespoke for my October wedding this year. As that’s likely not going to be possible with the turnaround times, particularly the Indian model, I will probably have to go for other options maybe even RTW.

I know you haven’t bought RTW suits in a long while, but would you have any thoughts or brand recommendations e.g. G&H for people in this situation?

Many thanks
Chris

mark ledwards

Hi Simon,
Could you please tell what cloth was used in your DB navy suit in the article? I’m currently looking at a number of samples (from H&S) for a SB suit I’m having made, and I really love the look of yours.
Thanks,
Mark

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
This is a really useful post, thanks very much. I’m getting married in the autumn (covid permitting) and have bought navy three piece suits for me and the groomsmen. I also bought navy ties, but think they outfit may be too dark and sober. What colour tie would you recommend with a navy suit at a wedding?