This post is intended to provide some guidance to guys who have the opportunity to share in a friend’s wedding day as well as guys who will be getting married this year but who have to decide how to instruct their guests on their wedding invitations.
This is one of the biggest questions that arises in the wedding industry.
My solution is to follow the KISS formula…keep it simple Sam…
First…for grooms-to-be…discuss with your fiancee and those paying for the wedding how everyone would like to see guests dressed. Tailor your invitation to include simple-to-understand rules for dress.
Second, don’t get caught up in “traditional” definitions…such as “formal”, “semi-formal”, “creative black tie”, et.al.
There are numerous interpretations of what each term means, but the preponderance of literature would surprise many when it comes to what “formal” traditionally means.
There are really four types of attire for most of today’s male wedding guests:
- Dark Suit
- Sport Coat
- Dress pants/shirt
If you are having a wedding that is considered an “evening” wedding, tuxedos can be called for the male guests. This is traditionally called “black tie” or “formal”. Again, it is my recommendation to stay away from terms such as these which are oft-times misinterpreted and simply instruct “Tuxedos requested”. (Traditionally, guests are not to wear tuxedos for day-time weddings…but if that is what your vision is for your special day, I say ask your male guests to wear Tuxedos!)
A slight variation and one that is very popular since it gives guys the option of not having to run out and buy or rent a tuxedo is “Tuxedo or dark suit requested”. This is traditionally referred to as “Black Tie Optional or Formal”. (The reader of the invitation is expected to know what “Formal” means if the wedding is scheduled to be at 2, 3, 5, 6, or 7…and when the sun is supposed to set that time of the year! Isn’t that too complicated?)
Once again, I recommend being very clear and simple…”tuxedo or dark suit requested” works. If you don’t care if a guest has a dark suit on…simply instruct “tuxedo or suit requested”.
When we are recommending tuxedos herein, we are considering a regular length black tuxedo jacket with matching pants, white shirt, and black bow tie or tie. Here is a link to a previous blog post on “Tuxedo Basics”: Link to Tuxedo Basics Blog
(I reluctantly mention for clarification, that traditionally, “black tie” for a wedding in the morning meant the groom wears black or gray morning coats…cutaway…think of tails.
If you want a very formal wedding, do some research on your alternatives. One great link for traditional, European “formal” attire guidance can be found at: Link to Ask Andy
Not much needs to be said here, hopefully. A “dark suit” would be any black, navy, charcoal suit…preferably solid, but realizing the world in which we live, and the fact that many guys don’t need to wear suits to work, any dark suit would be acceptable…i.e. with or without a pattern. For the guest…remember your goal as a guest at a wedding…You are not to upstage the groom…this is his day…so choose a tie that is not too bold. Solid or small patterns are preferred for your tie. White shirts are preferred…but a color is acceptable…not neon! (If the wedding is after 5PM, I’d recommend a white shirt.)
Again…this shouldn’t require much discussion. A “sport coat” is any jacket worn with a pair of pants that aren’t of the same fabric.
Although I could have said “No jacket”, I prefer what I’ve chosen as it allows those guests who would prefer to wear a jacket to the ceremony to do so. They can always take the jacket off at the reception for the remainder of the day. If you really don’t want jackets, you are clearly having a more casual wedding and might consider having some fun on your invitations…”Dress Pants/Shirt…no jackets allowed!” might be a lighter suggestion.
This post was not intended to cover women’s wedding attire. As I see it, however, these are a women’s choice for her guests:
- 3/4 or floor-length Gowns (wear when tuxedo is requested)
- Fancy or Cocktail dresses (where suit is requested or afternoon tuxedos)
- Knee-length dress (where sport coat is requested)
- Sun dress (where no jacket is requested)
Finally…if you receive an invitation and the instructions are not crystal clear to you…contact the groom-to-be, the bride-to-be or the parents of the wedding party and get a clarification.
Feel free to send me your questions.
Vinnie Rua- Founder, Christopher’s Custom and President, Suits For The Cause, Inc.