Great style is hardly exclusive to brides. For grooms, figuring out what to wear to a wedding can be plenty of fun, encompassing lots of stylish options to choose from. First, you’ll have to decide what the dress code is, not only for your guests but for yourself. Then, you’ll need an understanding of what’s appropriate for each dress code. Spoiler: A tuxedo isn’t required for every event, nor is a tie. But formality should be honored in most wedding scenarios unless, of course, you’re taking part in super-casual “I do’s.”
According to Angel Ramos, creative director of men’s label, 18th Amendment, “Wedding style was once glorious, especially in the early 1900s. However, its sense of formality has taken a nosedive because many men avoid properly dressing for a wedding at all costs.” Although taste varies from groom to groom, he continues, “There was a long period where the groom’s wedding ensemble was left to a last-minute decision on where to rent a tuxedo or what suit [from the] closet one would wear. It’s been my goal to change that for years. I want to inspire gentlemen to put the same amount of effort into their wedding day as their spouse does."
Thus, for grooms embarking on their wedding fashion journey, and unsure of where to begin, we're here to help! Before jumping into a sea of endless options, one important key piece of advice comes from Stephan Detwiler, Brooks Brothers' VP of men’s merchandising. "You never want to be louder than the bride if you’re the groom." He adds, “[And] when in doubt, wear a white spread-collar shirt and a black or navy suit or tuxedo."
Looking for more style tips and advice? Ahead, keep reading for a detailed guide of what every groom should know when dressing for their wedding.
Meet the Expert
Groom's Attire by Dress Code
If you're unsure of what to wear for your own nuptials, Ramos and Detwiler help break down the key looks per dress code. From white-tie to cocktail and festive, we've got you covered!
“White tie is the epitome of formality," Ramos tells Brides. “One must go all out.” Detwiler adds, "This is the most formal of all dress codes. It’s about making sure it’s the best of the best in terms of the details. It’s often the little things: The cuff links, the other accessories. The quality really matters. It really is all in the details.”
For white-tie affairs, grooms should ensure their wedding day attire is top-notch. Looks featuring a tuxedo, tailcoat, a white pique vest, and white bow tie are standard when it comes to this specific style of dressing.
According to Detwiler, black-tie is still very classic but with the option for a little more fun. “A midnight blue tuxedo, for example, shows a level of confidence and sophistication,” he says. “There’s so much play in the fabric, as well—you can bring in textures and subtle details that make the groom pop in a way that doesn’t overshadow the bride.” And if blue doesn’t suit your taste, Ramos adds, “Black tie dress code calls for a beautifully well-tailored black tuxedo.”
As for accessories, if you're not sure whether to choose a bow tie or tie, Detwiler advises, “While long ties have become acceptable, true black-tie calls for a proper bow tie. We recommend one that you tie yourself, but do not wait until your actual wedding day to learn how to tie one.”
Formal or Black-Tie Optional
According to Ramos, dark-colored suits are the key to mastering a formal or black-tie optional dress code. “Formal, in regards to a wedding, is when a groom should wear an elegant, dark navy suit if he feels the aesthetic and vibe of the wedding is not suitable for black-tie attire,” he shares. “A midnight navy or charcoal grey suit will look very chic and elegant. Keep the shirt white, and wear a tie that matches the suit.”
Detwiler also speaks to the versatility of this dress code. “It can be a really fantastic suit that can be worn day-of and beyond. It’s a little dressier than your everyday suit and allows the groom to have more personality in what he wears. You can throw in a clean white sneaker—fun things like that can take it to the next level," he shares. "Don’t be afraid to thread in something that might seem otherwise casual. This can be the place to give a nod to the overall color scheme the bride has chosen. For example, with neckwear and a pocket square.”
One of the most casual dress code options, cocktail attire allows grooms to dress as they feel most comfortable. Detwiler tells Brides, grooms can have more flexibility and freedom of what to wear.
“It might be a cotton poplin suit, but it might not be a full suit at all. It could be a nice sport coat. This may be the place where you wear a pocket square and not a tie," shares the expert. "It’s a little more fluid, a little more casual—for a more whimsical type of environment. You want to be comfortable for mingling but still, look polished. Feel free to break the mold."
Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual
As Ramos points out, semi-formal or dressy attire is tricky, noting how differently it can be interpreted. His recommendation: “Think a more playful take on tailored attire. A beautiful sports jacket in a pattern, paired with a solid shirt, with solid trousers and no tie.”
Detwiler likens semi-formal to cocktail. “A non-traditional suit is a perfect approach to a semi-formal or dressy casual event,” he says. “The perfect bright navy suit, for example, or a three-piece linen suit. Here, form meets function in terms of seasonal fabrications. This is the perfect place to express yourself with a lighter-weight fabrication such as linen or madras in the spring or summer, and then, for fall, flannel could be more appropriate.”
Having a themed or holiday-timed wedding? This is when festive will be your go-to. “It’s a fun [dress code for] breaking traditional rules,” Detwiler says. “For a holiday wedding, you can have fun with tartan. Pair a tuxedo jacket with wool tartan pants and fun footwear, for example.”
If you're still a little lost, Ramos adds, “I would say to think fun cocktail attire, however, with non-traditional colors. A beautiful velvet blazer with trousers and a dress shirt with no tie would be really fun and chic.”
A casual wedding might be the biggest cause of confusion when it comes to a groom’s attire, but according to Detwiler, it doesn’t mean sloppy. “Don’t show up in a wrinkled T-shirt and jeans,” he advises. “You don’t want to be the most casually dressed person there,”
His top recommendations: A navy blazer, a non-iron shirt that’s not going to wrinkle (always tucked in, without a tie), or cotton-linen chinos. “Add a great pair of boat shoes, or even sneakers, depending on the setting. It’s casual with polish the whole way,” he adds.
For Ramos, the standard should always be elegant, even in a casual setting. “Wearing beautiful cashmere knitwear, whether it’s a polo or turtleneck with a well-fitting pair of denim jeans, works perfectly,” he says. Noting, “Lose the sweatpants.”
Tropical or Destination
For tropical or destination nuptials, it all depends on the setting. According to Detwiler, "For a tropical warm-weather beach wedding environment, blend form and function with appropriate-weight fabrics," he shares. "For me, it’s always a long-sleeve shirt with a really polished pair of shorts, such as cotton-linen shorts. Flip-flops, boat shoes, or a nice driving loafer are appropriate footwear. And always have a backup plan.”
“Here you want to have fun with beautiful tropical colors whether for blazers, trousers or suits. White dinner jackets for a tropical wedding are very chic," Ramos advises. "The great thing about destinations is creating a mood board around the location and hotel and create outfits around that.”
Groom's Attire by Season
Want to plan your wedding attire by season? Keep reading to see what the experts suggest.
Formal attire might sound stuffy in warm weather, but Detwiler says, “It’s all about seasonal fabrics.” Black-tie attire is a great option in more breathable materials or cocktail attire for less formal events. “As a groom, a beautiful navy blue suit or light grey suit would look fantastic,” says Ramos.
Color is another key component. “Always have a mind toward what the bride is wearing,” says Detwiler. “Lighter colors work well [for spring], but a black or a navy tuxedo is seasonless and always appropriate. When in doubt, go black or navy. Accessorize with a pocket square. Have a fun handkerchief at the ready. Tip: Have a backup shirt on hand, so you always look your best.”
Like spring, summer is a time to wear lighter colors in breathable fabrics, but black and white-tie is still an option. “If going for formal black-tie, this is the perfect season to wear an ivory dinner jacket—it’s personally my favorite summer wedding,” Ramos says. “However, cocktail attire is a great choice as well.”
For destination or beach weddings, Detwiler also suggests that “warm-weather fabrics such as linen add a little bit more texture and comfort.”
According to Detwiler, fall wedding attire is about richer fabrics, such as flannel suits or a nice brushed-cotton suit. “For a level of flair, a fine-wale corduroy suit is always a great polished and unique way of dressing", he shares. "And don’t forget a polished coat, like a classic polo coat. Make sure the coat is longer than your suit jacket. Accessorize with a nice cashmere scarf.”
Ramos says, “Winter gives such a vibe of more formality,” suggesting white-tie or black-tie attire is the way to go. Why? The cooler temperature allows for more layering and the ability to wear thicker fabrics, which formal suits and tuxedos provide.
What Grooms Should Avoid Wearing
Though style is all about personal interpretation, and your wedding is a time to be your most authentic self, there are a few fashion tips to keep in mind when dressing for your nuptials. “A groom should never, ever wear jeans or a t-shirt,” Detwiler says. “And nothing ripped or torn—you want to look your best.” Likewise, anything that looks like it’s been through the laundry a hundred times should also be off-limits.
However, no matter what you choose, the Brooks Brothers VP says, “Get it tailored, and make sure it fits. There’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting suit. The bride spends so much effort and energy on what she’s wearing. You should put in a similar amount of effort to make sure you look your best, as well.”
A final tip from Ramos: “The goal is to wed once, so do it properly. Plan in advance and put thought into it." Lastly, be sure to have fun! It's not every day you get to say "I do" to the one you love!