Key Highlights

With wedding season in full swing, understanding dress codes ensures you're impeccably dressed for every occasion.

  • Formal (Black Tie Optional): Choose a grey or navy suit with a plain white shirt. Keep tie and pocket square subtle for elegance.

  • Black Tie: Stick to a dinner jacket, white shirt, black bow tie, and patent leather shoes. Dark navy or charcoal tuxedos work too.

  • White Tie: For the most formal events, opt for a tuxedo with tails, white bow tie, and patent leather shoes. White gloves and a top hat are optional.

  • Semi-Formal: Dark suit and tie for evenings, lighter suits for daytime. Polished leather lace-ups maintain elegance.

  • Cocktail Attire: Personalize with options like a velvet blazer or gingham shirt. Loafers offer flexibility in footwear.

  • Beach Formal: Relaxed suit in cotton or linen with summer hues. Maintain elegance with relatively formal footwear.

  • Word of Caution: Allow time for a well-fitting suit. Consider investing in something new for the occasion.

May 25, 2022

Deciphering Wedding Dress Codes: What to Wear and When

As the growing stack of invitations in your mailbox might suggest, wedding season is in full swing. This means paying close attention to the dress code for each event is crucial.

While men may have a simpler time with wedding attire compared to women, it's still essential to ensure we look our best, whether playing a starring role (check out our Groom's Guide) or attending as a guest.

Thankfully, no matter the dress code, looking sharp on the big day can be straightforward. Stick to the basics and avoid straying too far from convention. Here’s how:

Formal (Black Tie Optional)

Approach this dress code as you would a job interview or important business meeting. Opt for a grey or navy suit (avoid black) and pair it with an ultra-crisp, plain white shirt. To add a touch of personality, focus on your tie or pocket square, ensuring they remain discreet rather than bold. Choose solid colors or subtle patterns over more statement-making designs to maintain an elegant and polished look.

Black Tie

Black tie leaves little room for variation, adhering strictly to a dress code that demands a dinner jacket (tuxedo), a crisp white dress shirt, a black bow tie, and patent leather shoes or elegant evening slippers. However, within these boundaries, there is still some room for personal expression through subtle details. While the term "black tie" suggests a monochromatic look, your attire doesn't necessarily have to be black. Dark navy or charcoal tuxedos are perfectly acceptable alternatives and can offer a refreshing yet still formal twist on the classic black ensemble. Use accessories like a silk pocket square to add a pop of color and express your personal style.

White Tie

White tie is the epitome of formality and is extremely rare unless you find yourself in the most prestigious circles or attending a particularly grand event. This dress code calls for the most formal attire: a tuxedo with tails, a white bow tie, a white formal shirt, and patent leather shoes. White gloves are also a standard part of the ensemble, adding an extra touch of sophistication and formality. The look is completed with an optional top hat, which, while not necessary, can add a distinguished flair to your outfit. This dress code leaves no room for deviation, ensuring that every gentleman presents himself with the utmost elegance and decorum.


While semi-formal spares the rigidity of black tie, it still demands elegance and sophistication. For evening events, a dark suit and tie are essential. During the daytime, however, you have the flexibility to opt for lighter suits in shades like gray or beige. Regardless of the time of day, footwear should remain polished and classy. Leather lace-ups, such as wingtips or Oxfords, are always a reliable choice to ensure you literally put your best foot forward. This approach balances formal requirements with personal style, ensuring you look your best for the occasion.

Cocktail Attire

Not too dissimilar to semi-formal, cocktail attire allows for a greater degree of personalization. A velvet blazer, for instance, would be a stylish choice that perfectly aligns with the dress code. The rules here are generally looser: a gingham shirt can serve as a refreshing alternative to a plain white one, adding a touch of flair. Footwear offers more flexibility as well, with sharp loafers standing in as a fashionable substitute for traditional lace-ups. This dress code invites you to inject some personality and creativity into your outfit while maintaining an elegant appearance.

Beach Formal

Beachside weddings naturally call for less formality than traditional church weddings, but that doesn't mean you should forego a sense of decorum. Stick with a suit, but choose one with a relaxed style. Opt for natural fabrics like cotton or linen, which are light and breathable. Summer hues such as cream, khaki, or beige will enhance your style credentials. Feel free to go open-neck and experiment with a colored shirt, but ensure your footwear remains relatively formal to maintain an elegant look.

A Word of Caution

If you don't allow sufficient time—at least a week or two in advance—you might end up with an ill-fitting suit that has seen better days. Take the time to ensure you wear something that looks and feels good and, of course, fits beautifully. If finances permit, consider buying something new. Whether you're the groom (congratulations!) or a guest, weddings are special occasions, and there's no better time to treat yourself to something a little special.