Q And Answer: What To Wear As A Wedding Guest

January 18, 2010

Q and Answer: What to Wear as a Wedding Guest

Philip writes: Dug your post about groom and groomsmen attire. Could we get a complimentary article on what to wear to a wedding as a guest?

As a wedding guest, your job is to dress in a manner that shows you care, without upstaging the wedding party or, particularly, the bride.  After all, she’s a princess for a day and wears a tiara and all that bullshit.

  • If a dress code is provided, follow it.  This even applies to black tie events during the day.  It’s not your wedding.
  • “Black Tie Optional” means wear black tie unless you for some reason cannot.  Like you sincerely can’t afford to rent or buy a tuxedo.  If the dress code is truly indecipherable (I once went to a wedding event with a “Calypso Casual” dress code), it’s appropriate to ask whichever member of the wedding party you’re close with, but do so well in advance of the wedding.  Don’t bother them in the last couple of weeks, they’ve got bigger fish to fry.
  • For most American weddings, a man should wear a suit.  Follow the rules for lounge suits we set out in our article about dressing as a groom (no striped suits, peak lapels more formal than notch, solid colors best, no black suits) and you’ll be fine.
  • A wedding tie is not a requirement, but it does add a bit of class to your ensemble.
  • Outdoor weddings are generally slightly less formal than indoor.
  • During the summer, linen is fine, cotton is fine, and if you live somewhere (like the Southeast) where seersucker is normal-ish, seersucker is fine.
  • A suit without a tie or a sport coat will work well for a more casual wedding.
  • Stick with black shoes for all but the most casual ceremonies.
  • A carnation in your lapel will make all the difference.  Stop by a florist on the way and spend a dollar.
  • Under no circumstances are you to wear a tie without a jacket, unless the wedding is taking place behind the counter of a bank.