The Style Blog

DOs and DONTs for Men’s Wedding Guest Attire

Written by Courtney Baldwin April 23, 2019

Receiving a wedding invitation comes with the excitement to share in a couple’s big day and even sometimes a bit of anxiety of what to wear for the festivities! In this post we are going to provide some tips for wedding guest attire.  Fashion DOs and DONTs when it’s not your big day but you want to look stylish and appropriate for the occasion. Below we discuss Black-Tie, Formal, Cocktail (Semi-Formal) and Casual wedding dress codes as they are the most common categories of wedding affairs.

Black-Tie Wedding Guest Attire

If the wedding invitation indicates Black-Tie dress, there really is little room for interpretation or deviation in your wedding guest attire. You must wear a tuxedo. While there is some opportunity to show your personal style while wearing Black-Tie attire, it is most appropriate to stick with tradition.  Meaning you must wear a tuxedo jacket, tuxedo pants, and a bow tie.  To show off your style a bit for the occasion, consider doing that through your dress shirt, bow tie, lapel pin, and shoe selections.

DO
  • Wear a black or midnight blue tuxedo. For a Black-Tie wedding, black and midnight blue tuxes are most appropriate.  If you must wear another color, try to keep it as dark as possible.

  • Wear black patent leather, leather, or velvet oxford or loafer shoes. Unless indicated in the invitation, sneakers or any other casual shoe are considered inappropriate for the occasion.  

  • Wear a collared dress shirt. T-shirts, polo shirts, and banded collar shirts are not acceptable for a black-tie dress code.  If appropriate for the wedding venue and theme, consider a tuxedo shirtin a different color, texture, or pattern (ex. pastel, denim, pinstripe)

DON'T
  • Wear a white or ivory dinner jacket. Feature looks and dinner jackets, especially white/ivory dinner jackets should be strictly reserved for the groom and his attendants

  • Wear a floral boutonniere - these are typically reserved for groom and wedding attendants.  Instead, consider adorning your tuxedo lapel with a stylish lapel pin.

  • Intentionally intend on upstaging the groom or his attendants with your apparel. Keep your look clean, classic, and free from too many details that may appear that you are trying to upstage the Man of the Hour.

Dress codes for men’s wedding guest attire
If the wedding invitation indicates Black-Tie dress, there really is little room for interpretation or deviation in your wedding guest attire.

Formal Men's Wedding Attire

If the wedding dress code calls for Formal, many of the Black-Tie attire rules apply.  The largest difference is that a tuxedo is not required for Formal attire but it is often optional.  Instead of wearing a black or midnight tuxedo, consider wearing a black or dark colored suit.

DO
  • Wear a dark suit or tuxedo. For a Formal wedding, dark suits (ex. black, charcoal grey, midnight blue) are most appropriate.

  • Wear a bow tie or necktie. Different than Black-Tie attire, a bow tie is not required.  You may wear a bow tie or necktie.

  • Wear a collared dress shirt- T-shirts, polo shirts, and banded collar shirts are not acceptable for a formal dress code.  If appropriate for the wedding venue and theme, consider a dress shirt in a different color, texture, or pattern (ex. pastel, denim, pinstripe) to show off a bit of your personal style.

DON'T
  • Wear casual shoes – Although black patent leather shoes are not required, dress shoes are a must for formal attire.

  • Mix and Match Suiting Separates – A full suit with matching jacket and trousers should be worn.  Resist the urge to mix suiting separates in different colors for Formal wedding attire.

  • Wear a floral boutonniere - these are typically reserved for groom and wedding attendants.  Instead, consider adorning your tuxedo lapel with a stylish lapel pin.

  • Intentionally intend on upstaging the groom or his attendants with your apparel – Keep your look clean, classic, and free from too many details that may appear that you are trying to upstage the Man of the Hour.

Dress codes for men’s wedding guest attire
Dress codes for men’s wedding guest attire
Formal (left) vs. semi-formal or cocktail (right) attire for a wedding.

Cocktail (Semi-Formal) Wedding Attire for Guests

An invitation with Cocktail attire indicated, provides more freedom in look styling than Black-Tie and Formal dress codes.  With Cocktail dress you can loosen the neck-tie a bit, literally and figuratively, and relax into chic and modern fashions for the event.  Now remember to keep it classy because it’s still a wedding!

DO
  • Wear a suit. For a wedding with Cocktail Attire, suits or suit separates are most acceptable for men’s wedding guest attire.  Navy blazers and sport coats are often popular for cocktail events because as the evening moves on and the dancing begins, you can lose the jacket and get more comfortable.

  • Wear a necktie. You should consider wearing a necktie with your suit to the event initially and if you see that other guests are not in neckties, feel free to slip it off and put it in your jacket pocket.

  • Accessorize your look. Feel free to adorn your look with sophisticated jewelry (wooden or beaded bracelets), lapel pin, tie bar or patterned pocket square to really show your personal style

DON'T
  • Wear a tuxedo. Cocktail attire requires a certain level of formality but definitely not a tuxedo.  A suit and trousers will suffice.

  • Wear Jeans. Jeans are not typically considered acceptable for a cocktail attire wedding even with a blazer.   Save this look for another time and place.

  • Wear clothing with rips, holes, tears. Cocktail attire is still considered dress-to-impress so clothing with rips and holes will not make the cut.  Keep your look sophisticated and classy unless otherwise indicated by the couple.

Casual Wedding Guest Attire

The designation of Casual Attire is probably the most broad and confusing of the attire designations discussed in this post.  It’s the most confusing because everyone’s description of casual wedding guest attire may be different. First and foremost when deciding what you will wear to a wedding indicated as “Casual Attire”, try to take some clues from the invitation, venue and time of day that the wedding will take place.

DO
  • Wear chinos or suit pants. Chinos or khakis are a great option for casual weddings especially those that take place in the summer.  If it is an especially warm climate, you may even consider wearing khaki or chino shorts. In cooler climates, opt for a nice pair of lightweight wool trousers.

  • Wear a printed shirt. A printed shirt in plaid, stripes, or all-over pattern is a great option for a casual wedding  

  • Add color to your look .Different than black-tie and formal weddings where dark colors are encouraged, a casual attire wedding is often a good time to add a little color to your look.

DON’T
  • Wear a t-shirt. Unless specifically indicated by the couple to be a super casual wedding, a t-shirt is probably not your best bet for a wedding.  Opt for a polo or short sleeve poplin shirt if you are looking to wear short sleeves.

  • Wear a necktie. For Casual Attire, you can likely skip the bow tie and necktie.  If you are not comfortable wearing your shirt open and unbuttoned at the top, consider wearing a banded collar shirt with all buttons fastened.

  • Wear open toe shoes or flip flops. Unless specifically indicated as a beach wedding, you should still wear a closed toe, oxford or loafer shoe, even if you go without socks.

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About the Author

Courtney Baldwin - The Groomsman Suit

Courtney Arrington-Baldwin is the co-author of GROOMS: A Professional Stylist’s Guide to Wedding Planning for Every Budget. She has a seasoned background in menswear styling and provides style advice and wardrobe planning for TGS couples and their wedding attendants. Living in one of the fashion capitals of the world, New York City, she has a sophisticated understanding of wedding style, fit, and budget.