Dress up for it. Forget the blazer or sport coat and nice jeans, or the polo shirt and khakis. This is an event that people special to your life took the time and effort and spent money to invite you to. The least you could do is to look sharp for it. Show some respect for the event and get dressed up with a fine suit. One caveat to this rule - if the invite does specifically say "casual," there may be a whole other set of dress codes in play. Try to avoid jeans as much as possible, but "casual" does mean you can relax quite a bit. That means those blazers, sport coats, slacks, and polo shirts are back in play.
Pay attention to the dress code. This "Brides" magazine article has an excellent outline of the dress code for weddings. If it's specified on the invitation, on their wedding website, or in a rushed email days before, pay attention to the dress code when you see it. A general rule of thumb is that it's better to be overdressed than under-dressed but always ensure you're not outshining the two most important people (the bride and groom). If it's a casual wedding, don't show up in a suit and tie, as the groom is likely wearing khakis and button down. Here's a brief guide to what the different codes mean:
Black Tie - Was senior prom the last time you wore a tux? Well, congrats - you get to wear one again. Black tie means a tuxedo, a bow tie, and polished shoes. Enjoy it. You'll look great for the pictures.
Formal - You can go for a tuxedo here, but you don't have to. However, a dark suit is an absolute must, and a tie is recommended. Think of how you'd dress for a very big and very serious business function.
Cocktail - One step down from the style above. Stick with a suit, but you've got a little more room to add some color into the mixture (depending on the season). Feel free to go for a light gray or a light blue suit if the wedding is in a warmer summer month and consider leaving the tie at home. Adding in a pocket square is a good way to class it up without the tie.
Semi-formal - A dark suit or a light suit is best for this specification on the wedding invitation. The weather and the time of day will play into your choice here. A night-time wedding or something in the colder months will call for something darker and a little heavier (such as wool or tweed); for a summertime or day time wedding, go for something lighter and more breathable such as linen.
Festive - Go nuts - within reason, of course. You shouldn't dress like Don Cherry, but a "festive" designation is your excuse to be creative. Go for your snazziest, most creative, boldest suits and ties. Have fun with this — festive permits you to be as epic as possible for the occasion.
Don't forget about the accessories - and the socks. Take special care in choosing the trademark accessories that go along with your outfit. Go for a tie that complements your choice of suit. A pocket square is a great choice to add a splash of color to the outfit while not appearing too flashy.
- Same with the socks. Don't overlook this crucial part of the outfit. The right choice of socks can deliver just the right amount of style to a wedding outfit without appearing too tacky, loud, and attention seeking. Before you put together that outfit for your sister's ceremony on the golf course or your fraternity brother's nuptials out on a cliffside, be sure to check out our guide for pairing socks to your outfit, and keep our socks in mind.
Here's a guideline for what socks you should wear to the different types of weddings:
- For Black Tie weddings, wear solid or near-solid socks that match the color of your tux.
- For Formal weddings, forget the brighter tones and go for a sock that complements the color of your suit, tie, or pocket square.
- For Cocktail weddings, you can go ahead and have a bit more fun with your socks and accessories. Get creative, but stick away from goofy "novelty" looks. The "Penmen" sock from Southern Scholar could be a good choice here.
- For Semi-Formal weddings, go ahead and break out the brighter tones if it's in the warmer months and you go for a lighter suit. The B.B. Kings socks from Southern scholar could work with this style.
- Finally, for Festive weddings, go ahead and go nuts. Anything goes. It's a free-range free-for-all with your socks. Try something bold like the Southern Scholar Crimson Kings.