What To Wear To A Wedding

By now you probably have a stack of summer events you’ve RSVP’d to, from weddings to engagement parties, so now tough part begins, attempting to understanding that dress code and figuring out what the hell to wear. Unfortunately, we live in an age where dress codes have become more and more confusing and unnecessarily complex. But the good news is, I’m here to help you figure it all out and, more importantly, help you out with what to wear.

To begin unraveling what the hell “Beachy Vacation Casual Chic” or “Game Of Thrones-inspired forest semi-formal” really means, it’s important to think about the event and put it in context with four main types of dress code: black tie, formal, semi-formal, and casual. Once you do that, it’s as simple as can be. Stick to the four following examples and dress accordingly.

The Invite Says: Black Tie

The most formal code for obvious reasons, a black tie dress code means tuxedo only.

What To Wear: A tuxedo

This isn’t the place for a suit so embrace your James Bond moment. There are lots of tuxedo options these days, from navy to grey, but if you’re unsure, stick to the classic: black tux, white shirt, black bow tie, and white pocket square you can’t go wrong and provided everything fits properly, you’re going to look amazing.

The Invite Says: Black Tie Optional

Also Known As: Formal

This is the most common type of dress code for evening weddings and, similarly, formal events. You’ll see some people in tuxes but suits will be most common.

What To Wear: A tuxedo or dark suit

By all means, be the best-dressed man in the room and wear a tuxedo, I encourage it. But, a classic dark-colored suit, like charcoal or midnight navy, works equally well. Keep your shirt choice simple and go with white and keep the color in your tie to a minimum. Ideal combos include a white shirt with a simple black, silver, burgundy, or navy tie. I don’t really recommend a ton of patterns or colors here as it’s not really the place.

The Invite Says: Cocktail Attire, Evening Attire or Something with Formal

Also Known As: Semi-Formal

The most common type of dress code, especially for weddings and events in the afternoon or evening.

What To Wear: A suit or blazer with a tie

Depending on the time of the event (day or night) most suit and tie combinations will leave you looking like a sharp-dressed man. Charcoal, Navy, and patterned suits all work for this dress code. If it’s an afternoon or daytime event and outdoors, you could also wear a lightweight cotton suit or blazer combination, especially if it’s going to be hot. Feel free to add a pop of color or print as a personal touch if you’re feeling adventurous. A tie isn’t mandatory, but I always recommend one for events like this.

The Invite Says: Anything with “Resort”, “Beach”, “Garden Party”

Also Known As: Casual

Sure, it’s the broadest category but also potentially the biggest minefield. The most important consideration here is location and time of day. Daytime and beach events are pretty much an open field but I always say ‘dress to impress”.

What To Wear: Dressy Casual Shirts and Pants

Simple cotton, chambray, or linen shirts, chinos, and cotton dress pants work best. For a stylish touch, I recommend throwing on a silk knit tie. For an event that’s slightly more formal, say summer weddings and engagement parties or an evening event, dress up your chinos and shirt with a lightweight cotton or wool blazer and throw on a pair of loafers. You can also feel comfortable wearing all types of colors and patterns here, provided they’re appropriate for the event.

Don’t forget to check out my favorite picks from The Tie Bar to get you ready for wedding season!

Don’t forget to check out all my picks from the video!

Video Picks

Ties from The Tie Bar

Shirts from The Tie Bar

Now that you’ve got your wedding style game plan set to go, all that’s left is to brush up on a few dance moves.

The Gray Notch Lapel Suit

If you’re over the age of 15 and don’t own a 2 button Gray Notch Lapel Suit (sometimes called medium gray, grey or charcoal), we have to rectify this – immediately! It is the most important suit you’ll own and is the quintessential foundational piece that will work for you no matter your age or body type.

FashionBeans.com put my love for a gray notch lapel suit perfectly:

“It can take you from your first interview all the way to your final address to the board – including all those weddings, funerals and formal events in between. There is nothing it can’t do. Even if you’re only going to need your suit for weddings/funerals/special occasions, this is still the one suit you should always have in your wardrobe.”

The suit is a perfect blank canvas from which to experiment with. You can imbue your personality easily into an outfit via colorful shirting and accessories. If you’re going to play with shirt colors outside of white or light blue, keep the tie a basic/neutral color – black, blue or gray. Same goes for a colorful tie, keep the shirt neutral – white or light blue.

“But a Gray Suit is Boring”

A lot of my clients say this when I first start working with them and building their wardrobe. The reason we choose gray is because it is a neutral color and works with everything in virtually every occasion. If you want colors and/or to spice it up, it can easily be done with the colorful & patterned accessories and shirting. There’s a reason painters start with a white canvas and not a colored one, because you can make it your own!

The classic rookie mistake is thinking that suit colors = more fashionable or stylish. Menswear is all about the details. So leave the large pieces “boring” and spice up an outfit with subtle details and punches of color.

Trust me on this one.

What is a ‘notch lapel’?

It’s the style of lapel that has a little “notch” on each side of the lapel. See the below graphic for the different lapel types. You want a Notch lapel because a Peak lapel is very aggressive and doesn’t work on everybody and a Shawl lapel should never be part of a suit. A Notch lapel is as classic and timeless as it gets.

lapel types

How Many Buttons?

Two buttons, nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes you’ll see 3 button suits and 1 button suits, but trust me, you NEED a 2 button suit because it never goes out of style, every other variety will come and go as fashion dictates.

Vent Type?

Ideally, you’ll want to go with a double vent. This style of vent has been around for quite a while and is flattering on every body type. With that being said, a single vent is not a poor choice, but it’s definitely second in my book. Just make sure that, no matter what, you never go with a suit that has no vent.

suitvents

Can I Break This Suit Up Into Separates?

My suggestion for now, is to avoid breaking this suit up unless you really understand fabric weights and texture pairings.

I see a lot of sites saying that a gray suit is great because you can break it up – wearing the pants and jacket separately with other pieces – like jeans.

While this can work sometimes, in my experience, pairing suit items with other non-suit clothing, like jeans, looks great on camera, but really weird in-person if the fabric is too lightweight. You should really know what you’re doing to pull this off. If there’s any doubt, go without.

Fabric

Depending on how much you’ll be wearing this suit, I’d highly suggest getting a wool or wool-blended suit because it’ll last much longer than non-wool or polyester blends and just looks better and will be more comfortable.

It’s also important that your suit not have too much of a sheen or shine to it. You can tell a cheap (or really tacky) suit by how shiny it is. Don’t be afraid to compare suits while at a store to see which ones are more matte finished.

How Should My Suit Fit?

Fit is the most important part of a suit. Head over to my Suit Fit Guide and see how every suit you own should fit.

The Best 2 Button Gray Notch Lapel Suits

Budget Friendly

Topman Grey Twill Cotton Slim Fit Suit Jacket
J.Crew Ludlow Suit in Worsted Wool

If you’ll be wearing a suit less than a handful of times a year and/or are budget-conscious, I’d go with Topman’s Slim-Fit or Skinny-Fit suits or J.Crew’s Ludlow wool suit. Don’t let the horrible image of the Topman suit fool you, it looks much better in person. For the price, they’re constructed well and as long as you make sure the fit is spot on, it’ll look great.

Designer

Emporio Armani Single Breasted Suit in Worsted Wool
Z Zegna Gray Super 110 Wool Suit
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 

My preference, if you want high quality, is to go with Emporio Armani, Z Zegna, or Brooks Brothers wool suits. My clients have topped GQ and Esquire’s “Best Dressed” lists in these and I use them often because the construction, fabric, and overall quality is impeccable and well worth the investment.

3 Ways To Wear

Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Full-LengthAshley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Detail-Short-Edge-650

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
The Tie Bar Grenafaux Black Tie 
The Tie Bar Solid White Cotton Pocket Square 
IWC Portuguese Automatic
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe

Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Look-3-FullAshley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Look-3-Detail

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Armani Exchange Pima Crew Tee
IWC Portuguese Automatic
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe
Brooks Brothers Calfskin Belt

Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Full-Length-Look-2Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Look-2-Detail

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
The Tie Bar Grenafaux Satin Dot Tie
The Tie Bar Silver Shot Tie Bar
The Tie Bar Solid White Cotton Pocket Square  
IWC Portuguese Automatic
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe

Outfit Inspiration

Graphics: FashionBeans | Model: Michael Tribby