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Weddings are back people. If you’re like me and in your mid-late 20’s and/or early 30’s, chances are you’re getting invited to a ton of weddings at the moment. Not only is it the ideal time of the year to get married (nice weather, lower temperatures, fewer rogue storms), but all of the COVID weddings that got pushed by a year are happening now. That means it’s time to book your hotels, choose your gift from the registry and, most importantly, figure out what you’re wearing.
Choosing a proper outfit for a wedding can be tricky. Sure you’re got a great suit jacket, a snazzy looking dress shirt and a great pair of fancy shoes — but what’s the dress code? Does the couple want you to be comfortable or classy? Or both? Now that we’re all a tad out of practice dressing ourselves, we need a guide.
Wedding dress codes have become almost like a new texting language. There are so many phrases with slightly different meanings, and nobody is entirely sure what the definition is of any of them. Cocktail, semi-formal, formal, dressy casual, black-tie optional, black-tie admired, black-tie — what’s next? “Formal required or you’ll be shunned?!” “Black-tie inspired only if you care if the couple makes it?!” To help you decipher the coded messages on your wedding invite and avoid the dreaded social embarrassment of showing up under or overdressed — we’ve created the official SPY guide to men’s wedding attire.
In this guide, we’re going to walk you through each of the main dress codes, what they mean and a few pieces we recommend for pulling off the look. That way, you can avoid stressing about what to wear and focus on the happy couple instead.
A Note About Tuxedos
Our advice? Unless you’re sure your body is going to stay the exact same size for the entirely of your life’s “wedding season” — don’t buy one, rent one. We’ve got some great tuxes below for purchase if you’re set on owning one, but renting one is easier, cheaper and gives you the flexibility to get the exact size you want and need every time. There are some excellent tux rental services out there that’ll make the process smooth and easy. Here are the ones we recommend:
Daytime/ Casual Wedding Attire For Men
If the wedding is during the day and the couple wants casual attire, you can dress comfortably, but still formally, as a wedding is a formal affair regardless of dress code. Casual wedding attire for men means no shorts, fitness gear or tennis shoes allowed. Khaki pants or slacks are your friend, in addition to colored or plain button-down shirts. Some sort of blazer or sportcoat is optional. You can also play with colors and patterns like houndstooth, plaid or something floral.
J.Crew 484 Slim-fit Tech Pant
These formal pants from J.Crew are a solid wardrobe staple whether you’re headed to a wedding or not, as they work with a button-down shirt, a sweater, and even a nice t-shirt. They sit right below the waist and are slim through the hip and thigh with a narrow, flattering fit on the leg.
Bonobos Jetsetter Stretch Dress Shirt
This fun dress shirt pattern is perfect for a festive getup for a more casual wedding. It’s made with a French placket, two back shoulder pleats and double-button cuffs that are easy to roll up. It comes in a bunch of other unique patterns and is made to stretch comfortably so you can still crush it on the dance floor.
Men’s Shop Tech-Smart Sport Coat
A simple sport coat like this one is great to have around for looking sharp at a casual wedding. It’s also built to be breathable and wrinkle-resistant for travel. It’s made with wool woven with stretch for comfort, is slim-fitting and great for layering on top of a button-up.
Semi-Formal Wedding Attire For Men
Semi-formal is more of a grey area, which can definitely make picking an outfit more difficult. If it’s a nighttime event, go for more muted, formal colors. If the ceremony is happening in the morning or afternoon, lighter fabrics and colors are acceptable. Wear a dress shirt, slacks and a tie to play it safe, a suit jacket, blazer or sportcoat is not necessary.
Dressy Casual Wedding Attire For Men
This dress code is relatively new and very similar to semi-formal attire. Think business casual with a fancy twist — so wear a slightly fancier version of what you’d wear to the office. The bride and groom are sending a message that they want their guests to be comfortable, but don’t dress too casually.
Everlane The Slim Fit Japanese Oxford Shirt
This 100% cotton dress shirt is from Everlane’s Uniform collection and is made durable with a 365-day guarantee. It’s perfect for a semi-formal, dressy casual attire where you want to look nice but be comfortable at the same time. It comes in a bunch of basic, neutral colors and has a slimming box pleat on the back of the shirt for a flattering construction.
Calvin Klein Men’s Slim Fit Dress Pant
These super affordable Calvin Klein dress pants come with a finished hem to avoid extra tailoring, and they’re made to be tailored around your body’s natural silhouette. They’re tailored with a tapered leg out of a stretchy fabric for easy movement and comfort. The fabric is engineered to be wrinkle-resistant and is versatile enough to wear to a wedding, during your 9-5 workweek or to a date night out.
Bonobos Premium Necktie
This premium necktie from Bonobos is a great accessory for dressing up a button-down shirt for a semi-formal wedding. It comes in a bunch of bright, elegant colors and is handmade from English fabric.
Beach Formal Wedding Attire For Men
Things get a little less formal for a beach wedding, since you’re tasked with dressing for the elements. Think lightweight fabrics — linen shirts and pants and comfortable, airy shoes you can walk on the beach in. Huarache sandals, anyone?
Nordstrom Trim Fit Linen Button-Down Shirt
This linen shirt from Nordstrom comes in a bunch of light, neutral colors that would be perfect for a beach wedding. It’s made of breathable linen, has a versatile cut and fits true to size.
Madewell Men’s Easy Linen Short Sleeve Shirt
This shirt is more appropriate for a daytime beach wedding, one where the dress code is clearly more casual. It’s designed to be worn untucked and is slightly oversized for a relaxed fit. It also comes in three different simple patterns, this frosted sage would pair well with light linen pants and Huarache sandals.
Tommy Bahama Mahalo Bay IslandZone Flat-Front Pants
These linen blend dress pants are beach-y and formal at the same time, without an exorbitant price tag. They’ve got body-cooling technology built in for temperature regulation and sit right below the waist for a flattering look. They fall straight through the hip, thigh and leg, and pair well with a short or long sleeve button down.
Deer Stags Men’s Classic Huarache Sandal
These Huarache sandals are a breathable, nice shoe option for a beach wedding where you certainly can’t be barefoot, but don’t necessarily want to be in closed toed shoes either. They’re made of 100% rich buffalo leather that can be dressed up or down easily, and the hook and loop closure provides a personalized fit.
Cocktail Wedding Attire For Men
The next step up on the formal ladder from semi-formal and dressy casual is cocktail, a wedding dress code invented in the 1950’s that’s midway between elegant and comfortable. Cocktail wedding attire for men isn’t as formal as black tie optional or formal, but you should still look elegant and polished. Men should wear a suit and tie and not overthink it.
Bonobos Italian Stretch Wool Flannel Suit
This wool flannel suit from Bonobos is a great way to shake up classic cocktail attire, and comes in a bunch of colors and patterns including black & white houndstooth pictured below. It’s perfect for fall and winter weddings where the temperature is cooler outside, and is constructed lightly so you can dress it up or down. It’s got a notch lapel and pick stitching at the collar, as well as a chest pocket and back vents for airflow.
Todd Snyder Sutton Italian Linen Suit Jacket
This fun linen suit is perfect for a cocktail wedding. It’s comfortable, but is polished enough for a spread collar and necktie. The Sutton Suit is a modern take on the classic two-button suit silhouette, with a slightly tucked waist and high-end detailing for a little polish. The trousers have a moderate rise, lay straight through the hips and have a modern slim fit through the thigh and knee.
Ted Baker LS Slim Fit Shirt
This button-down shirt from Ted Baker is perfect for layering underneath a suit with a tie for a polished look. It’s a great wedding season staple to have around because, due to the neutral color, it can be paired with a wide variety of suit colors. It’s got patterned detailing on the cuff and collar and is made of 100% cotton.
David Donahue Microdot Silk Tie
A nice tie makes an outfit, and this one from David Donahue is basic, bright and comes in a few different colors. The microdot grid pattern is beautifully detailed and the textured Italian silk will help round out your polished look from the ceremony to the after party.
Formal Wedding Attire For Men
Formal is probably one of the most popular wedding dress codes and for good reason – a wedding is a formal affair after all, and should be treated as such. Formal wedding attire for men means one step down from black tie, but just one! Men are not required to wear tuxedos, but if you’d like to you wouldn’t necessarily be out of place. When it doubt, go with a dark suit that’s been well-tailored. You can also experiment with a nice colorful suit jacket and a bold pocket square. You’ll also want to go with some nice formal or oxford shoes.
BLACK by Vera Wang Black Notch Lapel Tux
This classic tux would fit right in at a nighttime formal wedding. It’s got a grosgrain notched lapel, a two-button closure and is made of luxurious, premium lightweight 130s wool. The coat is available in both a slim and modern fit and the flat-front matching pants are offered in an extreme slim fit. It’s also available to rent for less than $200 at Men’s Wearhouse, and can be delivered exactly when you need it.
Bonobos Italian Stretch Cotton Suit
If you’d rather not wear a full tux unless you have to, we get it! This stretch cotton suit from Bonobos is ultra-soft, breathable and is made from cotton milled in Italy for a polished AF effect. It’s got added stretch so you can really bust a move on the dancefloor, and the light khaki color is alternative without being too outlandish.
David Donahue Paisley Silk Tie
This fun, brightly patterned tie is great for spicing up a conventional formal wedding outfit. Pair it with a classic suit, white button-down and neutral pants and you’ve got a little flair. Or go even further and mix up your suit and/or shirt color. It’s got bright jewel tones and the subtly printed Italian silk is built to last.
Floral Medallion Silk Tie
This is another beautifully patterned tie made with a uniform floral medallion print. It’s made from Italian silk and would match a navy or blue suit perfectly.
Panel Silk Pocket Square
A pocket square is another great way to dress up a suit or add a decorative splash of color to a classic getup. This one is made with bold color blocking so you can lead with a darker or lighter color depending on your preference. It’s made of pure silk and comes in other bright colors like yellow, red, orange, green and yellow.
Black Tie Optional
Black tie optional means what it says, optional! If you want to wear a tux — great! You can also opt for a dark, well-fitted suit with matching pants and a tie and call it a day. Follow the same “time of day” rule of thumb with this one, if the wedding is later in the evening consider it more formal, if it’s in the early afternoon you can swap out the tux for the less formal end of the spectrum.
Bonobos Italian Stretch Wool Flannel Suit
This suit is perfect for formal occasions in the winter months. It’s made of soft flannel and is lightly constructed so you can dress it up or down. Pair it with a button down shirt and tie, a bow tie or a pocket square for a fashionable look that’s not a tux. They said optional, after all…
Bonobos Premium Italian Wool Suit
This is another great, darkly-colored formal suit option if you’re invited to a black-tie optional event and want to avoid the tux. It’s the finest suit Bonobos makes and is made with premium Italian wool for a comfortable, structured, formal fit. This suit is a lifetime investment with pick stitch detailing, real horn buttons and a notch lapel. It can be paired with a variety of button downs, ties, bow ties and even cufflinks for a polished look.
Brooks Brothers Three-Button Madison Fit Tuxedo Jacket
This tuxedo from Brooks Brothers is not out-of-this-world expensive, and comes tailored in pure wool for a luxurious fit. The satin-covered buttons add a fine touch and it’s fully lined. It’s also on sale for more than 50% off at the moment, so you might want to splurge ahead of wedding season.
Black Tie Attire
Black-tie attire is one of the strictest wedding dress codes out there which makes your outfit decision-making process super easy! It requires a tuxedo no matter what, you can’t get away with a dark suit or suit separates with this one. You don’t have to wear full tails or a cummerbund, but if you want to go all out nobody will blame you. Black-tie weddings typically take place after 5:30 or 6:00pm, and are the second most formal behind white-tie weddings.
David Donahue Classic Fit Loro Piana Lapel Tuxedo
This tuxedo is available to purchase, not rent, at Nordstrom and is made of rich Italian Loro Piana wool that’s been tailored into a fine tuxedo frame. It’s got satin notched lapels for a handsome shine, and fits true to size. Pair it with some shiny shoes and a bow tie and you’re in business.
Brooks Brothers Regent Fit One-Button 1818 Tuxedo
This is another fine-looking, albeit expensive, tuxedo from Brooks Brothers that’s available for purchase. It’s made in the USA from fabrics woven in Italy, and has the classic 1818 design that won’t disappoint at your next black-tie affair. The pure wool has a touch of neutral stretch for dancing, and the one-button, fully-lined jacket has a center vent for comfort. The flat-front trousers have a flattering fit and the hand-sewn armholes add more flexibility and movement.
Brooks Brothers Four-Pleat Cummerbund
If you’re going full black-tie getup, a cummerbund like this one is traditionally a part of it. It’s worn along the waist and completes the evening ensemble with silky finish. It comes in black, burgundy and grey for an elegant touch. If you’re gonna go for it you might as well go all the way, right?
Bonobos Satin Diamond Point Bowtie
A tuxedo needs a bowtie, and this one is made of rich satin with pointed ends for a polished finish. It’s black, it’s made of premium materials and is guaranteed to help you pull off the tuxedo look all night long.
White Tie Attire
White-tie weddings aren’t as common today, as this dress code is typically reserved for very fancy affairs like royal banquets and such, but if you are invited to one you should go all out. Seriously, if it says “white-tie” on the invitation it means the couple is going all in, so you should too. This means a long and dark tuxedo tailcoat with fabric extensions that reach the back of the knee. You’ll feel like you’re wearing a costume, but also you’ll probably look awesome. A white piqué button-down shirt underneath a white vest with a bow tie and cummerbund is appropriate. Pants should match the jacket, and white trousers should have a satin or grosgrain stripe along the outer seams.
Ralph Lauren Gregory Handmade Tailcoat Tuxedo
This tuxedo is definitely a luxe purchase, but if you’re headed to a royal banquet you might as well look the part. Ralph has really outdone himself here. It’s got lightweight canvassing, a modern silhouette and is handcrafted by the experts at Purple Label for a superb look that’s right out of a Jane Austen novel. The detailing on this getup is also impressive — it’s got hand-sewn buttonholes, satin stripes on each leg and tails at the back.
White Cotton Pique Tuxedo Vest
A pique tuxedo vest is a part of white tie attire for men, but a good one is hard to find. This one from Brooks Brothers is low in stock, so jump on it if you’re headed to a formal event. It looks great layered on top of a piqued shirt with a bow tie.
Nordstrom Silk Pre-Tied Bow Tie
This pre-tied bow tie makes a sleek look even easier with rich, pure silk that’ll add that dapper touch to your white tie getup. It looks formal from the front, but clips in the back, so you don’t have to worry about tying a bow tie on top of all the other details.