Understanding standard dress codes will get you through the majority of weddings. But how do you do a wedding theme and look fantastic doing it?
The answer is mostly “just go along with it.” The requests made of guests aren’t usually too demanding, since the planners behind a theme know everyone needs to be able to put together an outfit reasonably easily. So if they ask you to wear a cowboy hat, go borrow one or buy a cheap costume version (or take it as an excuse to add a really nice one to your wardrobe!).
Sometimes the theme will be less an issue of a specific costume (like a cowboy hat) and more a function of the location (like a beach or a rugged campsite). In those cases, you usually end up wearing the variation on male business or business-casual dress adapted for the situation, such as a tweed jacket at a farmhouse wedding.
A few of the more common themed weddings include:
- Non-western traditions
- Beach weddings
- Boat weddings
- Rustic weddings
- Cowboy or country weddings
- Costume weddings
This is typical when either the bride or groom (or both) come from non-Western family heritages. It can be anything from sherwanis to kimonos to kilts, depending on the tradition in question. As a guest, you’re usually not expected to participate. If you wear a good business suit, it’s understood to be your culture’s equivalent, and appropriate to the situation. If you’re in the wedding party, you may be gifted with (or occasionally expected to buy) the relevant garb.
Dress standards can vary at these, but you’re usually best off with a light linen suit or jacket and leather sandals or boaters. Ties are almost never required and look quite out-of-place on the beach. Light colors throughout the ensemble is traditional for beach weddings; you rarely see black suits or tuxedoes on the beach.
Weddings on a luxury yacht are usually formal or semi-formal events. In the event that they’re not, khakis and a navy blazer with brass buttons are traditional, paired with quality boat shoes or “topsiders”.
Campsites and farmhouses are the place for heavier wools, particularly the thick tweeds traditional in British country clothing. Wear a suit or unmatched trousers and jacket depending on the formality, paired with dress boots or sturdy leather shoes (rubber soles are acceptable in an outdoor setting).
Cowboy Or Country Weddings
We're now talking about a grand American tradition and one that's usually a lot of fun. Wear blue jeans, a western-style shirt (a fancy one with decorative embroidery is perfectly appropriate at a wedding) and quality men's cowboy boots if you have them. If you don’t, any leather dress shoe is fine. Pointed toes and brogued or stamped patterns are ideal because of their resemblance to Western boot styles. Don’t forget the cowboy or cavalryman’s hat.
How do you do a wedding theme related to a favorite film, TV show or historical period of the happy couple? Colorful costumes! These can be anything from renaissance fair garb to zombie makeup to Star Wars masks, depending on your hosts. . Play along and have fun with it. If cost is really an issue, talk privately to the hosts. You’ll usually end up working out some sort of compromise (a suit you already owned plus a cardboard crown in the place of medieval garb, for example). Most people who plan something this esoteric are prepared to help their guests out.
The rule of thumb for all themed weddings is basically the same. Understand the general aesthetic they’re looking for, and do your best to achieve it. Look as sharp as you can within the context of the theme. If you can wear a jacket without looking out of place, do it. Just don’t be the stuffy guy who insists on wearing his business suit and tie to a hoe-down.
Want to know more about what guys should wear to a wedding? Click here to discover my ultimate guide to wedding attire for men.