Navigating wedding season can be a minefield. First, there are the many save-the-dates to wade through. Then there’s a marathon run of stag weekends away (ouch)… and that’s all before you’ve even considered what to wear on the big day (uh-oh). With a bumper social schedule, it’s easy to fall into a fashion rut and adopt the Hugh Grant à la Four Weddings mindset that your workhorse suit will suffice for all occasions. Right? Wrong.
It’s not that we’re discouraging you from re-wearing a favourite, fitting two-piece – after all, quality tailoring is an investment that will last you for years. And, with the right shirts, shoes and accessories, a suit can be styled a multitude of ways. But as any seasoned wedding guest will attest, nailing the dress code is their single most important responsibility (besides getting there on time, telling the bride she looks beautiful, and adhering to the couple’s presents list. No toasters, please).
To ensure you look perfectly placed in the photos, and to avoid raised eyebrows, Harvey Nichols Birmingham have broken down wedding outfits into four versatile and adaptable looks.
BLACK TIE WEDDING
Where morning dress once held sway, eveningwear has increasingly become the urbane alternative for formal weddings. It’s a trend we wholeheartedly embrace: any excuse to don a tuxedo and do our best Bond impersonation. Monochrome is the preferred colour palette, though a midnight-blue suit with contrasting black trim is just as debonair, and the fabric is nearly always wool – something to consider if you’re planning to attend a warm-weather wedding. It goes without saying that your tux should be perfectly tailored and, for a timeless look, we recommend a one-button style with peaked lapels.
Shirts can also feature specialist detailing. Options include a cutaway or wing collar, bib front, and stud-button fastenings that are partially concealed to accommodate a cummerbund (optional). A bow tie is a must – we’ve gone for contrasting velvet – as are cufflinks and a pair of patent-leather Oxford shoes. Put it all together and you’ll cut a dashing figure on the big day.
Top tip: Always go by the invite. If it states traditional dress, then follow suit. There’s nothing worse than turning up in tux when everyone else is wearing tails.
An urban wedding is all about the suit – not so much city-boy style as a contemporary take on gentlemen’s tailoring. Our advice is to keep it simple and revel in the details. A plain navy, dark-blue or grey two-piece in a slim-fit is the sort of investment you’ll wear time and again. Stick to a classic two-button jacket with notched lapels and avoid embellishment that can fall out of favour from season to season. Any suitmaker worth their salt will leave trouser legs unaltered to allow for alterations, so there’s no excuse for bunched-up trouser cuffs.
In terms of shirting, white and light blue are best, with a twill cotton adding a subtle textural edge to the ensemble. Double cuffs are an option for those who like cufflinks; however, button cuffs are fine if you’re not a fan of jewellery. An important point to note is that your tie and pocket square should never be the same tone or design, but instead complement one another. In contrast, the colour of your belt, small leather goods and shoes definitely should match. We’ve gone for chocolate-brown suede loafers to give a more relaxed look that, despite the material, won’t leave you worrying about scuff marks.
Top tip: For winter weddings, upgrade from a two- to a three-piece by adding a waistcoat in matching fabric.
It may have the most in common with your everyday wardrobe, but smart casual still has the capacity to confuse wedding guests. More relaxed than traditional events, with this dress code it can be tricky to judge how dressed up, or down, you should go. A blend of tailoring and casualwear offers continuity, with a blazer a sartorial safe bet; stick to less structured jackets that are partially lined, and have soft shoulders and a shorter break. As a rule, we’d never wear jeans to a wedding, opting instead for navy, wool flat-front trousers or a pair of cotton chinos.
That said, the dress code for this type of event is less rigid, allowing more room to express your individual style. Mix it up with tailored separates in different colour combos, plus a denim shirt layered underneath – it’s tonal and textural, but not too in your face. On the issue of sneakers, we urge you to give them a go, provided you stick to clean, white minimalist designs by Common Projects or Axel Arigato. To keep your crepes box-fresh until the event, make sure you wear them with secret socks from Falke; otherwise you could be hobbling about all afternoon.
Top tip: Don’t be too flash. Remember that a wedding is all about the happy couple and, while everyone wants to look their best, you should never outshine the groom.
If the wedding invite entails a trip to warmer climes, a whole new set of fashion rules apply. A wool suit just won’t cut it in tropical temperatures. So how do you stop yourself from breaking into a sweat during the service? The trick is to look for lighter fabrics, such as linen and cotton blends, plus paler shades to reflect the heat. This is especially true if you are determined to wear a jacket.
Short sleeves and sandals may be sacrilege to traditional events, but when it comes to weddings abroad they are very much de rigueur. If it’s a beach wedding, you have license to embrace shirts and shorts co-ords, playful prints and, of course, sunglasses. If you’re not a fan of showing off your feet, then a pair of Tod’s driving shoes, or Gucci loafers with the fold-down back, are a great warm-weather alternative. And best of all, once the special occasion is over, you’ll have a dapper set of threads to style out the Indian summer back home.
Top tip: Do your research before you head abroad. Some tropical countries are prone to fluctuating weather conditions, so it’s always a good idea to have a back-up outfit.