Wedding Dress Codes – Explained!

Wedding Dress Codes – Explained!

As the possible pile of invitations in your post-box might confirm, wedding season is in full swing for the next few months. And this means you’re going to have pay attention to the not so insignificant matter of the dress code for the big day.

Granted, us men have it easier than the fairer sex – but that’s not to suggest that we should pay any less care to how we’re kitted out on the day, whether we have a starring role (check out our Groom's Guide) or are one of the supporting cast (guest).

Thankfully, whatever the dress code, looking your best come wedding day can be a cinch once you get the basics right and don’t stray too far from convention. And here’s how:

DRESS CODE: Formal (black tie optional)

HOW TO WEAR IT: Treat this dress code like a job interview or important business meeting and you’re along the right lines, sartorially speaking. Ideally, look to a grey or navy suit (no black, please) and team it with an ultra-crisp, plain shirt (white is always best). If you want to add some personality, look to your tie or pocket square, but always keep it discreet rather than daring. Choose solid colours or subtle patterns over the more statement-making designs to keep things really elegant.


HOW TO WEAR IT: Sorry, gents, there’s little margin for diversification here: black tie involves a dinner jacket (aka tuxedo), white shirt, bow-tie and patent leather shoes or a pair of evening slippers.

Where you do have room to personalise the outfit, however, is with the details. While it may be called black tie, your outfit doesn’t necessarily have to be black; you can opt for a dark navy or charcoal without flouting convention. Look, too, to accessories to add a personal touch – a silk pocket square, for instance, will inject a pop of colour.


HOW TO WEAR IT: Unless you’re titled, white tie is extremely rare. The most formal and fanciest of dress codes calls for a tuxedo with tails, patent leather shoes and white gloves. The wearing of a top hat is optional.

DRESS CODE: Semi-formal

HOW TO WEAR IT: While semi-formal spares the formality of black tie, it’s still a dress code that calls for elegance and sophistication, given the occasion. A dark suit and tie are expected for semi-formal events in the evening. During daytime, however, there’s more leeway to opt for a lighter suit. Footwear should remain classy, though, so look to leather lace-ups (wingtips or Oxfords are always a good bet) to ensure you – literally - put your best foot forward.

DRESS CODE: Cocktail attire

HOW TO WEAR IT: Not too dissimilar to semi-formal, cocktail attire allows for some degree of personalisation – a velvet blazer for instance, would be a stylish choice that is perfectly in keeping with the dress code. The rules in general, though, are somewhat looser here: gingham, for instance, is a nice alternative to a plain white shirt, while some sharp loafers are a fashionable choice instead of lace-ups.

DRESS CODE: Beach formal

SUGGESTED ATTIRE: Beachside weddings obviously call for less formality than more traditional church weddings, but that’s not to say you should forego any sense of decorum. Stick with a suit, certainly, but opt for one with a relaxed style. Natural fabrics such as cotton or linen are ideal (light and breathable), while typically summer hues, such as cream, khaki or beige) will underline your style credentials. Feel free to go open neck and even experiment with a coloured shirt, but keep your footwear relatively formal for an elegant look.

A final word of caution: If you don’t give sufficient time (at least a week or two in advance), you might end up in 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. And, if finances permit, consider buying something new; whether you’re the groom (if so, congratulations!) or a guest, weddings aren’t exactly run-of-the-mill occasions, so there are few better times to treat yourself to something a little special.