Wedding I DOs for the SharpMan Guest

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Thursday 14th October 2010
In this article
  • Clothing tips for tricky, traditional weddings.
  • Decisive duds for destination I DOs.
  • Trendy threads for theme weddings.

At work, at home and even in the classroom, it seems as though traditions and customs have become a thing of the past. But rest assured there’s one place where customs and etiquette still reign supreme: the wedding. With wedding season upon us, SharpGrooming undertakes the task of helping to decipher what attire is appropriate for what type of wedding. Read on for the SharpMan skinny on wedding wear:

An invitation arrives in the mail. Cousin Irv is getting married. Great for Irv. But, then you remember the last event you attended at Irv’s — it involved tikki torches and a suckling pig. Naturally, your party-threads were appropriately "Aloha." Should you reprise this kit for the wedding? It’s a risk. After all, it's highly unlikely that Irv’s bride will share his appreciation for your threadbare, vintage Hawaiian shirt and well-worn sandals at her wedding.

So, what are you expected to wear? Never fear, SharpGrooming is here.

Before you head to the mall, you'll want to know what's regarded as the customary get-up for the kind of wedding Irv and his bride are planning.

The Invitation Holds the Clue

The wedding invitation is generally a peek into what type of wedding the bride has in mind. Often the invitation will actually specify what type of clothing guests are expected to wear. In fact, in this techno-age, wedding wear info is even easier to come by as some bridal couples put up a wedding Web site for more information about the event and what is expected. For example: see the free wedding Web sites offered at

Traditional Weddings

Think "wedding" and the image of a traditional one is probably what comes to mind. The formal ceremony might be held in a church, synagogue, a ritzy downtown hotel, or even the bride's backyard. Irv will wear a tuxedo, while his bride will undoubtedly choose a long white dress, train and veil. Guests are expected to dress accordingly. "Accordingly" depends on the season, the time of day and style of wedding planned. Expected wardrobe for a male guest could be anything from nice dress pants and a shirt to a formal tuxedo.

Look for a dress code indication at the bottom of the invitation, often across from the request for a reply. Generally, you’ll find the words "Informal," "Formal," "Fancy Dress," "Black Tie" or "White Tie." What do these mean?

Informal Daytime: The most casual of the traditional wedding ceremonies, dress for the male guest could be as simple as a dress shirt and pants topped by a sports jacket.

Informal Evening: Time to put on a suit, as the timing of this wedding calls for a touch more formality.

Semi-Formal Daytime: Ditto for the suit above.

Semi-Formal Evening: The suit still works, but you’ll make an even sharper impression if it’s in a dark color and includes a tie.

Formal Daytime: Once again, a dark suit and tie is the way to go.

Formal Evening (also known as "Black Tie"): If you don’t own a tuxedo, tux rental shops around the country make it a snap to rent the suit in your own town or in the town where the event takes place. In fact, most rental shops have a reciprocal agreement, where they will measure you for free so that you can call in your measurements to the tux shops at your destination, thereby ensuring that they will have your size. Because you won’t be traveling with the tux, you will save on rental days. Stay away from colorful bowties and cummerbunds; they make you look like the guy in the office who wears those Looney Tunes ties.

Ultra-formal Evening (better known as "White Tie"): This type of wedding requires you to pull out all the stops — tuxedo, white tie, vest, shirt and cummerbund.

If the invitation isn’t specific about the dress code, a dark suit is always a sharp choice. Add a dress shirt, conservative tie and polished (read: clean) dress shoes. This is a classic and enduring look guaranteed to work with whatever type of wedding Irv’s bride is planning.

Special Circumstances

The dark suit still works if Irv and his bride are planning a Conservative or Orthodox Jewish wedding. However, custom recommends that you add a yarmulke (skullcap). If it’s an Orthodox wedding, plan on wearing the yarmulke for both ceremony and reception. No yarmulke handy? No sweat. Most religious services provide a loaner or keepsake head coverings for male guests.

If you’re attending a Muslim wedding but are not Muslim, yourself, Islamic dress code doesn’t apply in the same way that it applies to Muslim members. But just because a Muslim man is forbidden to wear red, doesn’t mean you should dust off a bright red shirt. As a matter of courtesy to the hosts, keep it conservative. Yes, that suit and tie really will take you anywhere.

If you’re invited to a Hindu wedding, it’s alright to wear what you would wear to a non-Indian wedding. OK, OK, the suit again, but only if it’s comfortable. Tradition may have you sitting on the ground. You may also have to leave your shoes at the door when you enter the temple or the wedding canopy. Check your socks; you don’t want to be flashing a toe.

A Buddhist wedding typically takes place in a civil ceremony or the office of a Buddhist temple, but is usually followed by a blessing service in the temple. The bride, groom and guests are free to wear whatever they like — most likely a dress for her and a suit for him. And you (yes, that suit again). Non-Buddhist guests are expected to behave respectfully toward the Buddhist monks in the temple and remove their shoes before entering the shrine room.

If Irv is an active member of the armed forces and planning a military wedding, or a Scotsman planning to be married in his Kilt, that dark suit will work here, too.

Receptive Receptions

After the wedding ceremony comes the reception. To change or not to change clothes before the reception is generally a matter of observation. If the groom changes to sportswear, it's perfectly OK for the guests to do the same. Also, take cues from the other guests. If most do not wear their jackets at the reception, then you may remove yours. If the majority of the guests keep their jackets on, then you are prepared either way.

Above all, remember that the reception is the celebration, which often means dancing the night away. You'll likely enjoy yourself much more if your suit fits well enough to allow for movement. And, beware of tight shoes. Pinched toes and bad arch support will have you planning an early escape before the fun really gets going.

Destination Weddings

You open the invitation and sand falls out. Whoo-hoo. Irv and his bride are getting married in Cabo San Lucas. Or Tahiti. Hey, maybe you can wear that threadbare Hawaiian shirt and the well-worn sandals after all? Or not.

More and more couples are planning destination weddings where the bride and groom, attendants and their guests travel to a unique location for the wedding and honeymoon. Even though it may seem like a vacation, try to resist the temptation to dress down. A wedding is a special occasion and it’s important to dress in a way that honors the couple. Hawaiian shirts may be appropriate for a ceremony on the beach in Tahiti, but the shirt should be fresh and well-pressed. Same for the shorts. As for the worn-out sandals, this might be an occasion for a brand new pair.

Not that your old sandals and Hawaiian shirts won’t have a place at some point during the trip. Destination weddings are sometimes an opportunity for the wedding party and guests to let their hair down.

When it comes to weddings, "be prepared" is more than just a motto for the Boy Scouts. JUST IN CASE, your suitcase should ideally include a pair of dress slacks — or even a pair of nice khakis -- a nice shirt and tie. After all, upon arrival you may learn that Irv and his bride are planning a posh wedding dinner at a "tie-required" restaurant.

Theme Weddings

Another glance at the invitation and you see Irv and his bride are doing something out of the ordinary: a Renaissance-themed wedding. A theme wedding means all the details of the wedding: the decor, the food, the attire and the music will be built around the theme, be it Renaissance…western… or even Star Trek.

If the line: "Renaissance garb requested," printed at the bottom of the invitation has you spooked, relax. It doesn’t mean you have to show up wearing tights and an armor breastplate. Although Irv and his bride-to-be would love for you to fully participate in their renaissance nuptials, it’s never mandatory. If you do get the urge to join in the fun, be sure to visit the bride's Web site (Renaissance weddings always have a Web site). Or check out the newsletter she is likely to send. It should be filled with ideas on how to make your own costume or information on where and how to rent the appropriately-themed garb. Who knows, you just might win Best Dressed Guest.

This article last updated on Thursday 14th October 2010
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