By now, you’ve glanced through or at least bookmarked our guides to dressing for a wedding. Because – seriously – it is about to be wedding season once more, and every year we see the same mistakes. Mistakes that are not just ‘mistakes’ in a pedantic sense, but mistakes that are to be avoided no matter the nature of the wedding or the occasion. Mistakes that you, whether bride or groom or guest, will probably look back on in horror. Life goes on, of course, but these are wedding style mistakes you really should avoid if you’re over the age of 13.
1. Wearing a vest with no jacket
I have never understood why men insist on doing this. It is, in my mind, the most egregious of all the mistakes on this list, and it accomplishes exactly nothing outside of making the wearer look like a buffoon. Even seeing pictures of this disaster fills me with visceral revulsion. What’s worse is that I read constant affirmations on the internet – “Embrace personal style!”, or “I do this all the time and it looks great!” – and it is absolutely mind-boggling. Just this morning, I read a recommendation that a wedding guest wear a vest, no jacket, a tie with the shirt un-tucked and the top button un-buttoned, and a fedora. I felt like I was dying.
Please, please don’t do this. It won’t make you look “sharp but casual.” It won’t channel “relaxed elegance.” It is not “casual formalwear.” It will look as though you forgot to put on the rest of your clothing, or like you’re a creepy misogynistic pick up artist. There are other, historical reasons for the rise of the waistcoat – a King’s whimsy, the ability to flatter a larger physique, even the existence of pocket watches – but those are stories for another time. If you are wearing a vest, you are wearing a jacket. Period.
2. Wearing a tie with no jacket
In the same vein, there’s no reason to wear a tie if you’re not wearing a jacket. Worse still is wearing a tie with no jacket and leaving your shirt untucked. This is an excellent way to look as though you’re off to high school prom, with no clue how to dress yourself. You’ll appear slovenly and juvenile, neither of which is a good thing to be at a wedding.
Of course, depending on the type of wedding, you may find yourself removing your jacket once the hands of the clock pass a certain hour and the music has gotten louder. While you’ll certainly look better with a jacket on, we understand the impetus. As you will (unless it’s black tie).
3. Wearing a visible crewneck underneath your unbuttoned shirt
Are you noticing a theme here? These are the kind of ‘touches’ you’d expect from an adolescent, not a grown man. It’s fine to wear an undershirt, but keep it hidden. If you don’t, you risk looking like you just came from the gym and didn’t change, and guests will be wondering if you’re also sporting some hidden Cheeto stains.
4. Never buttoning the top button of your shirt when wearing a tie
Again, this will only serve to make you look juvenile. Buy a shirt that fits you properly, and keep it buttoned. You’re not a teenager rebelling against a school dress code, and you’re probably not the lead singer of a punk band (if you are, you should still keep your shirt buttoned at a wedding). As @Butler once told me (while he was wearing a 3-piece bespoke suit and a cape inside an Irish Pub in Florence), “What’s the point of wearing a shirt and tie otherwise?”
5. Wearing a matching tie and pocket square
We understand that many men don’t have much call to wear tie or pocket square these days, and that the temptation to buy an all-in-one kit can be attractive both for its convenience and because you actually get the opportunity to dress up. However, wearing a matching tie-and-square set looks tacky, and should be avoided. Instead, learn how to choose a pocket square on your own, and if the wedding dress code is anything other than “casual,” just wear a white linen square and enjoy the occasion.
6. Renting an ill-fitting suit or tuxedo
Look, we get it. Why should you have to buy a suit just because someone wants you to come to their wedding? Not everyone has the money, or wants to spend it. You can just rent one, and it’s basically the same thing. Right?
First of all, the chances that your rented suit will actually fit you are miniscule. The places that offer these rentals don’t have a clue what they’re doing, and they don’t care to learn. You are going to look terrible – I guarantee it. Besides, most suit rental packages start around a hundred bucks. If you know what you’re doing, that’s anywhere from half to a quarter of what you’d spend to get a thrifty but well-fitting suit that you can keep, thereby avoiding paying for a crappy rental the next six times you go to a wedding. Besides, a staple suit in charcoal or navy has plenty of utility outside the one wedding you’ve been invited to this year – it will be appropriate for just about any event and any occasion, so once again, you’re getting your money’s worth. You’ll look better, and you’ll be happier in the long run.
7. Bathing in cologne
I’m all for fragrances, but there’s almost no easier way to be “That Guy” than to show up for an event smelling as though you just smashed several bottles of “Man Scent” on the floor and then rolled around in the destruction. Consider your fellow guests: the people sitting next to you during the ceremony (if there’s a ceremony) will be miserable, and they will also be wondering who was rude enough to inflict themselves on the entire wedding party. If it’s an outdoor wedding in the summer heat, you might find that you’ve had a few drinks “accidentally” spilled on you by the end of the day.
Instead, a delicate application is all that’s required. And please – wear something deserving of wearing. You are absolutely forbidden to wear any kind of body spray that comes in an aerosol can.
8. Dressing like blogger bait
Here’s the thing – the thing that an unfortunate number of wedding guests struggle to recognize. You are not the star of the show, even if you read Styleforum. Unless you’re one of the people getting married, your job is not to stand out as much as possible. Your job is to celebrate the love shared between the people who have invited you and the love they have for you, and to accordingly make the proceedings as smooth and elegant as possible out of respect for the event and the company present.
A wedding is not an occasion to wear the loudest colors you can find, leopard-print suits, or cover yourself in absurd accessories (unless, of course, that is the kind of wedding you’re attending). Don’t wear a hat at the dinner table. Don’t wear your favorite basketball jersey. Don’t wear pink plaid trousers and crimson shoes. Wearing extravagant pieces or colors that detract from the attention due to the couple being married is rude and boorish, and I’m certain you’re neither.
9. Constantly bothering the couple about the dress code
Did you read number 8? Did you see the part about the wedding not being about you? How many other things do you think the couple have to consider aside from your questions about whether you can wear your favorite Converse sneakers with your tuxedo, and will they really mind?
If you are genuinely confused by the dress code, it is entirely appropriate to ask for clarification. It is not appropriate to badger the couple about what you want to wear. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman: you may not throw a fit about wardrobe choices, and it is better still to show up to a wedding overdressed than underdressed. Respect the occasion. Respect that you’ve been invited. Don’t make the organizers regret it.
10. Acting like an ass
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, style is about more than the clothing on your body. If you’re going to a wedding, be a gracious guest. The event is not about you. That means that you should, to the best of your ability, follow the dress code; that you should not arrive at the wedding for groomsman and refuse to wear the boutonnière because you don’t like it or think you know better; that you should be friendly and outgoing; that you should congratulate the happy couple on their marriage; that you should not throw a fit; that you should not get too drunk; and that you need to understand that, if it’s the wedding of a friend, there are some stories you don’t share in public.
To recap: a wedding is one of the few times when we really, really recommend dialing back your inner wild child out of respect for the event and the couple. If you are going to a wedding, wear a jacket, shirt, tie, trousers, and respectable shoes. It is better to arrive overdressed than underdressed. Don’t behave or smell like a pig, and you’ll make it out just fine. You might even remember to have a good time along the way.