If you haven’t noticed, wedding season is back with a vengeance. Last year, gatherings were considered potential superspreader events, spurring lovebirds to put their celebratory nuptials on the backburner and reschedule for a later date. (Love can wait when Grandma’s life is on the line.) But thanks to the efficacy of vaccines, that later date is…now. So you’ve found yourself here because you don’t know what to wear to all these weddings.
We hear you. We feel you. All our collective calendars are locked and loaded with more wedding obligations we’d care to partake in. But you’re a gentleman, and truth be told it’s fun to dress up—be it a destination wedding to Hawaii or a black-tie affair in a big city.
With our definitive, stylist-approved guide, we hope to demystify dress codes. Confusion will dissipate, soon to be replaced with confidence on your abilities to suit up for every kind of occasion.
What to Wear to the 5,000 Weddings You Have This Year
How to dress for a black tie wedding
Black tie is about as formal as it gets (other than white tie, which is pretty rare these days), so you’d better dress the part. And that, gentlemen, means a tuxedo. Don’t fret if you don’t own one. Enlisting a suit rental service is a solid game plan when you don’t want to shell out coin for something you’ll wear once, maybe twice a year. (We dig The Black Tux for its stellar inventory and customer service.)
But if you’re in the market for a tux that’s dapper yet timeless, stick to an all-black peak lapel that works for literally any ultra-formal event. Weddings, fundraisers, the Met Gala—you name it. Variations on color and tailoring might work for celebrities strutting down the red carpet, but do you really want to be that guy at your buddy’s wedding?
Accessorize with a classic bow tie and a cumberbund, and pair with a dark polished dress shoe. Here are some of our current favorites.
Indochino Hampton Black Tuxedo
Theory Chambers Slim Fit Tuxedo Jacket
Hickey Freeman Men’s Two-Piece Tasmanian Wool Tuxedo Suit with Satin Notch Lapel
What menswear falls under cocktail attire
If you see “cocktail attire” on a wedding invite, that doubles as an invitation to introduce some personality to your soirée look. Cocktail strikes a balance between buttoned-up formalwear and casual everyday dress—in other words, this is the time to lean into your style ambitions and fashion-forward fantasies.
Punches of eccentricity are certainly welcome, whether it’s the bold hue of your suit (you can even embrace a mix-and-match situation if you dare), the pattern or print of your shirt, or a flashy shoe. The general rule of thumb is to default to darker, more subdued colors on the spectrum. You can’t go wrong with these.
Tommy Hilfiger Essential Regular Fit Charcoal Check Suit
Paul Smith The Kensington Men’s Slim-Fit Teal Cerruti Wool-Stretch Suit
Etro Tailored Check Suit
How to dress for semiformal or dressy casual weddings
This dress code is aptly named. Your approach should be just that: semi formal. Think polished but not stiff or ceremonial. Time and setting are good guardrails to use for your look.
For a daytime, warm-weather event—especially if it’s outdoors—lighter colors and fabrics are generally acceptable, like a light grey wool suit or a blue chambray number.
A darker suit is definitely more appropriate for an evening wedding or one that takes place in the colder months.
Pack a few different ties, belts, and shoes to try on while you’re getting ready. Just make sure the last two items match. If the wedding is dressy casual, consider yourself released from even more sartorial rigidity and skip the tie.
BrooksGate Milano-Fit Windowpane Wool Suit Jacket and Milano-Fit Windowpane Wool Suit Pants
[Jacket, $360, Pants, $140; brooksbrothers.com]
Club Monaco Grant Wool Blazer and Grant Wool Suit Pants
[Blazer, $450, clubmonaco.com and Pants, $225, clubmonaco.com]
Reiss Extra Wool Slim Fit Blazer Airforce Blue and Extra Wool Slim Fit Pants
[Blazer, $545, reiss.com and Pants, $275, reiss.com]
What to wear to a beach or destination wedding
No, a beach wedding does not give you permission to wear flip-flops. If the dress code is “beach formal,” you’re still wearing a suit and tie, though it’s totally fine to go for a lighter color and breezier material like flaxen linen. A tie or pocket square is a good idea, too. If the word “formal” is nowhere to be found, go ahead and pack your tropical White Lotus resort wear—just step it up.
After all, you’re traveling miles to celebrate someone’s precious nuptials. For shoes, wearing a pair of slick leather loafers sans socks is a good place to start. Only if or when you see others going barefoot in the sand can you throw your shoes off.
Orlebar Brown 007 Bond Matchstick Linen Blazer and Matchstick Tailored Fit Linen Trousers
[Blazer, $525, orlebarbrown.com and Trousers, $375, orlebarbrown.com]
Ted Baker—Linen Band Collar Blazer and Linen Pleated Herringbone Trousers
[Blazer, $575, bloomingdales.com and Trousers, $195; bloomingdales.com]
Polo Ralph Lauren Soft Striped Seersucker Suit Jacket and Striped Seersucker Suit Trouser
[Jacket, $300, ralphlauren.com and Trouser, $150; ralphlauren.com]
What to wear to an outdoor wedding in the summer
When there’s no official dress code for a general outdoor summer wedding, just take it down a notch from what you’d wear to a destination wedding. You still want to read the situation: What will the weather like? Are you going to be in someone’s backyard? A botanical garden? The rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum? From there, you’ll get a sense of what you can pull off—though we can guarantee that shorts and a tank top won’t be it. Opt for a lightweight wool or linen suit that won’t make you schvitz under the sun.
Faherty Reserve Knit Summer Blazer and Movement 5-Pocket Pant
[Blazer, $400, fahertybrand.com and Pant, $150, fahertybrand.com]
Sene Studio Soho FlexTech Suit
Polo Ralph Lauren Polo Soft Slub Linen Suit Jacket and Polo Soft Slub Linen Suit Trouser
[Jacket, $280, ralphlauren.com and Trouser, $180; ralphlauren.com]
Tombolo ‘Black Tie Optional’ Cabana (Champagne) and Traveler Pants (Natural Linen)
[Cabana Top, $130, tombolocompany.com and Pants, $140, tombolocompany.com]
What to wear to an indoor winter wedding
Take the above advice, but flip it to the cold-weather months. For an indoor winter wedding, anything that could be interpreted as “business casual” will serve you well. Essentially any wool suit could work here, and you likely already have one in your closet. You could even pair khaki slacks with a tailored blazer, since, let’s be honest, you’re probably going to throw off that jacket before you hit the dance floor.
Perhaps most important is having a crisp, collared button-down shirt ready to go, ideally something white or a muted blue depending on the color of your suit. A tie is nice to have, but totally optional. And if wearing a pink polka dot sock will make you giddy, you have our blessing.
Todd Snyder Italian Houndstooth Madison Suit
Banana Republic Slim Italian Sharkskin Suit Jacket
Alex Mill Blazer in Rugged Cord