Invited to a wedding and not sure what to wear?
First things first: reach out to the bride and groom to just simply ask—don't take the risk—pick up the phone, and ask them what to wear.
If not that easy, and you don't know the bride or groom well enough to ask. The second best thing applies, ask someone in the wedding party to find out how the attendees are expected to dress. If you can't go straight to the source, go straight to the friends of the source for a good answer.
Okay, okay, we get it. You’re the plus-one of a plus one, reaching out is just not an option. Even a distant co-worker from a five year back seminair on "water cooler ethics and the workplace" would be better acquainted than you are. Okay, here at the Perfect Tux, we understand your social catch-22. In that case—I really hope you're a fan of CSI because we have some detective work to do.
Examine the invitation. Does the design look friendly and casual, or is the script something that looks like one of Shakespeare's lost manuscripts? This would be your first tell-tell sign as to what level of formality the bridge and groom are expecting from you. If the invite includes an address for a wedding website, get on and google-fu away to see if you can find anything even remotely related to the dress code.
Still no information? Let’s look at the other clues. Here’s what you do know: the date, time, and location of the wedding.
Summer weddings tend to be more dressed down than winter weddings. And by “dressed down,” we don’t mean muscle shirt and ripped jeans. It’s someone's wedding day—your outfit should reflect some care and consideration because of it. No matter the season, you can't go wrong if you play it safe and wear some form of a suit—but during the summer you’re more likely to be able to get away with a minimalist look; sans tie, socks, and brighter colored shirt and accessories, or fabrics that are more easily breathable. For winter weddings, more traditional rules apply—sport a bow tie or tie, classic footwear (with socks, Yep! there's a post about it), and a dark-colored wool suit.
The venue can dictate a lot about what you should expect for the general look and attire. Is the venue classy and elegant? Is there a rustic sensibility? Or, are you using the community wing of your local YMCA? All of this will help you unravel the mystery of just what you're supposed to wear for the wedding. It would be safe to assume that anything really fancy and/or indoors is going to slant towards a more formal attire, while an outdoors wedding will usually be more chilled and laid back.
As we've discussed on this blog to near eye-crossing-ly absurd amounts, time of day is very important in determining a suitable color palette. Daytime weddings usually are for more lighter-colored suits—like your medium grays, blues, or teals— darker shades like black, navy, or charcoal are better suited for evening events. You still want to leave an impression even though you're not quite sure who you're making it too at the wedding? Just remember: bright for day, and richer, more jewel tones for night.
After careful examination and cross-examination of the clues provided, we can only hope that you’ve at least deduced somewhat of a broad sense as to your dress attire for the day. But if you’re having a hard time putting all the clues together, we leave you with these parting words of wisdom: When in doubt, class it out. A no dress code situation is not the time to rediscover your grunge rock phase. Approach dressing for the wedding with the same mentality that you would to snag your dream job—tasteful, but with just enough panache to not put the hiring manager to sleep—you do this and you'll be just fine.
As always, stay dapper!