That invitation you have hanging on your refrigerator door is likely going to be put to use soon.
Ergo, you’re probably panicking about what to wear. Well, don’t panic — we’re here to help. We’ll translate the invitation’s instructions for you, with the help of longtime butler Charles MacPherson’s etiquette guide “The Pocket Butler”.
Black tie is often considered the pinnacle of modern formality (aside from white tie, which has been completely forgotten about, and is almost never worn aside from royal weddings). Attendees of evening weddings are, however, sometimes requested to wear black tie.
If that's the case, here's what you need to wear:
- A completely black tuxedo with a white formal shirt featuring a wing collar, finished with a black satin bow tie. Sometimes a black satin cummerbund is added, but that is becoming less and less common.
- Black socks and black patent leather shoes are non-negotiable for footwear here.
If you see 'black-tie optional' on a wedding invite, know that wearing a tuxedo is not required, but whoever sent the invitation will most likely be wearing one.
A wedding with a formal dress code means it's just slightly less formal than a black-tie wedding. It's up to you how closely you'd like to fit in.
- An appropriate black-tie optional outfit could include a navy suit with a formal dress shirt and a dark-coloured tie (does not have to be a bow tie).
- Yes, you can wear a tuxedo if you'd like, and if the wedding is at night.
Cocktail is another step down from formal, which allows an injection of personality into what you're wearing.
We recommend you err on the side of caution and wear a suit here, but you don't have to. You could also get away with wearing a blazer and dress pants. Keeping it dark and seasonally appropriate will go a long way.
This is also what you should wear if there's no stated dress code on the invitation.
Things get a little more confusing the further down we go. No, casual does not mean you can wear jeans and a T-shirt.
Instead, you should read casual as: 'I don't have to wear a suit.' You should:
- Wear some type of jacket, like a blazer, over a collared shirt.
- Leave the tie at home.
- We also recommend avoiding jeans.
Anything goes here. If the bride and groom don't care enough to be specific, you shouldn't go out of your way to try and please them.
Attempt to dress for the stated theme or latch on to a word like 'casual' in the phrase, and dress for that. If you're confused, don't worry too much about it. It's likely everyone else will be too.
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