If getting married only involved the wedding ceremony, wedding planners wouldn’t have quite such a full-time job.
As big as the ceremony is — and it’s certainly the centerpiece of almost every wedding — it’s not the whole event. There are usually at least two or three other events to plan and dress for. At the extreme end of things, you could be looking at a whole week of meals and entertainment; for most men it’s more like a weekend. That begs the question, how to dress for wedding events besides the ceremony itself?
A traditional “wedding weekend” schedule, with the ceremony itself taking place on Saturday, might look something like this:
- Earlier in the Week: Bridal shower (if it hasn’t taken place earlier)
- Friday – Informal receptions (as guests arrive)
- Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
- Bachelor/Bachelorette parties
- Saturday – Family breakfasts (usually separate for bride/groom)
- Wedding photos (before ceremony)
- Wedding ceremony
- Reception dinner
- Reception or post-reception dancing, drinks, etc.
- Sunday – Post-wedding brunch
It can get intimidating if you stay at a hotel and don’t have access to your full wardrobe. That's why we'll cover the idea of the interchangeable groom: how to pack one bag for a dozen events.
But don’t panic. Whether you're the groom himself or just a guest, a little forethought and a few flexible, interchangeable items can give you a wardrobe you need to last a busy weekend. That's even if you’re carrying everything in one suitcase.
How To Dress For Bridal Showers
Traditionally, bridal showers are limited to the bride and her female relatives and friends. If you are the groom you don’t normally have to be directly involved.
However, keep it on your radar is if it’s taking place near your home, or near where you’re staying. You might find yourself likely to cross paths with the shower guests as they arrive.
In the event that you’re going to be seen by shower guests, you should look nice for them. Dress casually but well. Think slacks rather than jeans, and a jacket or dressy sweater on top of a collared shirt or turtleneck.
This is largely for your bride’s benefit. Looking sharp in passing leaves a good impression on the guests she has to deal with all day. Wear messy around-the-house clothes there’s a chance that she’ll end up fielding criticism (veiled or direct) of her husband-to-be. Why put this on her along with all the other stress of the shower?
If there’s no chance of you and the bridal shower intersecting, of course, you don’t need to worry. But your wife will still probably enjoy it if you look nice when she comes home. Why not smarten up anyway?
How To Dress For Informal Receptions And Welcoming Guests
How involved you are with welcoming guests arrive will depend on the situation. In some cases the groom won’t be involved at all. You can delegate the task to other members of your family or wedding party. In other cases you'll be on the ride to and from the airport.
If you are personally welcoming guests, regardless where it is, remember they’re expecting to see a bridegroom.
It’s not time to break out the wedding suit just yet. But, you also shouldn’t look like you do every other day. Understand the difference between a blazer and sports jacket but either with a tie is ideal in this situation. Although, if you and your guests are very low-formality you could get away with a sports jacket and open collar.
Welcoming guests sets the tone for the rest of the wedding. The better you look, the more gracious and “groomly” they’re going to remember you as being. Put in a strong first impression and look great in any pictures being taken!
How To Dress For Rehearsal Dinners
Grooms are in an interesting place for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
There’s no tradition keeping you from being seen in your groom attire the way that there is with the bride. But if you wear something very fancy and she’s in a more casual attire, you risk making her look underdressed. Plus, you won’t have anything more impressive to wear for her the next day.
In general, that makes a nice suit that isn’t your wedding suit an ideal outfit for the rehearsal dinner.
That’s not always going to be an option, of course. A groom who’s traveling may not have room for both a wedding suit and a second suit. Or, a groom may find a full suit is too formal. This is particularly the case if the rehearsal dinner is a relaxed family affair rather than a miniature ceremony.
But even among close friends, this is the prelude to the big event. Rehearsal dinners tend to be the time for private toasts. Gifts are given to the bride and groom’s parties and other semi-ceremonial gestures. You should look dapper.
A business suit and tie in a classic necktie color are things every man should own and they are your best bet here. A relaxed suit (something with a lighter color, or a pattern, or both) is an acceptable alternative for relaxed situations. At the most casual, you should still wear slacks and a blazer rather than jeans and no jacket at all.
As with all of these, there’ll always be a few weddings where the advice doesn’t hold. Maybe what you’re trying for just doesn’t work with dressy clothing. But unless you’re very sure that it’s too formal, go for the suit. Be confident and comfortable with being the best-dressed man in the room. You should be.
How To Dress For Bachelor Parties
The venue of a bachelor party determines the attire. In most cases, it’s going to be casual.
In some cases the groomsmen (or other party guests) may have an outfit picked out for you. It will probably be a stupid one. Wear it with a grin, unless there’s a strong reason not to — you’re supposed to be goofing off during your bachelor party. Indulge everyone’s taste for excess and novelty.
Some venues (including high-end “gentlemen’s clubs”) may have dress codes, usually “no jeans” and “no sneakers,” and in some cases “jacket required” as well.
Apart from those requirements and whatever your party planners have picked out for you, you’re free to wear pretty much anything for your bachelor party.
Something festive is probably a good choice. Be as loud, party-themed, and tasteless as you want. Keep in mind that the pictures are almost certain to end up on Facebook, though!
A man who wants to resist the novelty side of things will always do fine in dark jeans, a casual shirt, and an unstructured sports jacket of some kind (corduroy, patterned cotton, and so forth), with casual dress shoes and a decent belt. It’s always a safe default for casual occasions.
How To Dress For Family Breakfasts
You may or may not be subjected to this one. At a lot of weddings, everyone’s left to fend for themselves on the morning of the big day.
If you do have a breakfast appearance, light colors and dress-casual attire are traditional. A khaki or light gray suit works well, as do slacks and a navy blazer. Wear a collared shirt and a necktie in either case.
No matter how convenient it seems, don’t wear any of your wedding outfit pieces to pre-wedding meals or events! Even if you manage not to spill on them (and Murphy’s Law says you will, no matter how careful you are), you’re sending the balloon up too early. You want your wedding clothes to be striking when you walk down the aisle in them, and that’s hard to do if everyone’s been staring at them for hours.
As with many things, it is good male etiquette if you are well-attired (and not in your wedding clothes) for these family breakfasts and similar events. Having you look relaxed and elegant will help get her in a positive mindset for the upcoming arrangement of her dress. The last thing you want is to seem flustered or imperfect in your own attire — that sort of thing is contagious, and she’s going to be under a lot of dress-related pressure already.
Excuse yourself as early as needed to make the change from morning/breakfast clothes to your wedding outfit. These are usually light, short meals to accommodate scheduling anyway, and everyone expects you to be busy on the wedding day.
How To Dress For Wedding Photos
Currently, it’s typical for photographers to take various staged photos of the bride and groom, and often of their wedding parties as well.
The most convenient time to do this is generally before the wedding. The only problem there is that the bride and groom end up seeing each other in their full wedding attire before the ceremony itself — a breach with tradition, and the sacrifice of one of those “remember it for the rest of my life” moments when the bride starts her walk to the altar.
If you’re planning on doing a photo shoot, either before or after the ceremony, it’s generally done in full wedding attire. The only change you might make is that shoes are sometimes removed (especially for the women, but men can as well) if you’re staging shots on potentially muddy grass, or near water.
Rather than focusing on what you’re wearing (it’s already determined), focus on how you’re wearing it during the photoshoots — make sure everything is crisp and neat before the camera starts clicking, and if the ceremony hasn’t happened yet, resist any suggested arrangements or poses that could conceivably rip, stain, or otherwise damage your clothes before the wedding.
In the event that you and the bride are taking photos before the wedding but not in your wedding clothes, something simple, dressy, and easy to change in and out of quickly will make you look good in photos. Talk to your bride-to-be about the look she wants for the photo, but be thinking about easy on-and-off options like loafers instead of lace-up shoes, turtleneck or crewneck knits instead of button-fronted shirts, and so on. It’ll make the swap between the photos and the ceremony that much easier at a time when your brain is getting overloaded.
How To Dress For A Wedding Ceremony
Most of this guide was devoted to what you can wear to your wedding ceremony.
Hopefully, you’ve already got it figured out by now — just be sure you know when you’re changing into it, and where, and how all the relevant pieces are getting there.
Assume that you’ll be in less than your peak mental form by the time you don your wedding suit and make sure your best man or some other helper has a complete checklist of what you need to look like before you start walking down the aisle. You’ll examine yourself in the mirror, of course, but it’s anybody’s guess what thoughts — if any — will be in your head as you do it.
How To Dress For A Reception Dinner
Like most of these events, the reception dinner can vary widely in levels of formality.
Grooms typically attend in the clothes they were married in, but it’s not required. If you and your bride want to change before the reception, outfits that seem similar to the wedding outfits but a little more dressed down are good choices: a dark business suit instead of a tuxedo, for example.
Be sure that your outfit includes a jacket, whatever form that takes. This is both basic good dressing (you should be mustering at least that minimum of formality on your wedding day), and a useful signal to your guests — the groom removing his jacket is a traditional sign that others can do the same, usually done after the first dance or two.
How To Dress For Reception Dancing
Unless you’re determined to slip out and change, plan on dancing in the same clothes you got married in, or the same clothes you attended the reception dinner in if you changed.
Only one real item of note here: have a change of shoes waiting for you. Delegate it to a groomsman, a relative; someone — you’ll want them. A lot of brides and female guests will simply abandon their shoes altogether, but you probably don’t want to do the same. Socks are treacherous on dance floors, and you’ll be leading.
If there’s a complete change of venue, of course, you can make the appropriate wardrobe changes in the car (or other transportation) along the way. In that case, be guided by the venue and the entertainment, just like with other events. There’s no special expectation of formality on your part once the ceremony and the immediate reception are over and done with.
What To Wear In The Honeymoon Suite
We won’t tell you how to behave in the bedroom with your new bride, but put some thought into making it a little classy.
If it’s something you can arrange, have some bathrobes waiting for both of you. Make them as sexy or as plush or as vintagey as your (and your bride’s) taste dictates, but having something special to slip into when you’re done with real clothes is a luxurious touch. Make it extra special — and extra relieving for your tired feet — with some his and hers matching slippers.
And to be blunt with our advice here: wear some good-looking underwear. It’s not exactly the most important thing on your mind when you’re getting married, no doubt, but the honeymoon suite (or other location) deserves better than the same old pair of boxers she’s seen before, or something with holes and stains.
You don’t have to run out and buy a Chippendale’s thong, but a nice, closely-fitted pair of boxer briefs or something along those lines will help keep her from wondering what she’s gotten herself into by marrying you…
How To Dress For Post-Wedding Brunches
Brunch the morning after the wedding is traditionally a family affair, although lately it’s become common for the full wedding party and sometimes even the wedding guests to attend.
Happily, your attendance is usually optional. It’s assumed that the bride and groom may have already departed on a honeymoon — or may still be in bed together — the morning after their wedding.
If you do attend, treat it rather like you would any other traditional, churchy sort of brunch. Consider a light-colored suit and shirt with a necktie. Or, a pair of slacks and a blazer, again with a collared shirt and tie.
In the unhappy event that you got nailed with breakfast/brunch events both the day of the wedding and the day after, it’s acceptable to wear the same suit. But, vary the shirt and tie, and if possible the shoes, to keep from looking repetitive.
The Interchangeable Groom: How To Dress For Wedding Events With One Bag
Looking back over the list, there’s almost a dozen different sorts of event that a groom can find himself hosting during a wedding weekend.
You probably won’t have every single one on this list, of course. But even if you do fill out most of the bingo card, you can do it all in the space of one suitcase or hanger bag. (Resign yourself to checking luggage, though. Unless your wedding and all associated events are very casual, you’re going to need two or three jackets, and you really shouldn’t be crushing those down into a carry-on.) So what should you have that you can swap in and out to make the outfits you need?
How to dress for wedding events with an interchangeable wardrobe
- The Wedding Outfit – Whatever it is, it obviously goes in there. Don’t plan on using items from it for anything else — there’s too much risk of pre-ceremony damage. Pack it, hang it neatly in a zippered bag when you get wherever you’re going, and leave it alone until it’s time to get dressed for the wedding.
- One Dark Navy or Charcoal Suit – This is your suit for the nicest occasions. It’s also a pair of dark slacks and a dark “blazer” for more casual ones. You could wear the suit at the rehearsal dinner, for example. Then, wear the jacket with a pair of kahkis for a breakfast/brunch style event. The trousers will be great with a shirt for casual greetings and pre-wedding receptions.
- One Plain White Dress Shirt – For wearing with your suit or jackets at the most formal events. It’s never going to not be appropriate.
- Two Light-Colored Dress Shirts – Suitable for everything from brunches (paired with a light suit or a blazer/slacks combo) to a rowdy bachelor party (untucked and sleeves rolled up).
- One Pair Light-Colored Trousers (Or Light-Colored Suit) – You’ll need themfor the morning events. Khakis are perfectly fine. But, if you’ve got a tan, light gray, or other casual suit, and you have room for it, it makes a nice addition.
- One Pair Black Lace-up Dress Shoes – Goes with all of the above, so long as you’ve got a black belt. Throw in a second pair of more casual shoes in brown leather (and a belt to go with them) if you’ve got room, but you can get by on just black.
The finishing touches
- Five Neckties, Varying Colors – Five ties for three days? Yes. This is part of how you make one or two jackets into a number of different outfits. Get a good range of colors and patterns.
- Five Pocket Squares, Varying Colors – They can complement the neckties, but avoid matched sets. At least one pocket square should be plain white, pressed neatly, for your dressiest outfits.
- Sundries – All the socks, underwear, belts, suspenders, cufflinks, and other minor pieces your specific outfits need.
By packing a couple of basic staples that can be swapped in and out and worn with different things, you save yourself a ton of space (and thought) without sacrificing looks.
Swap jackets and trousers in and out, mix the variety of colors you have. This includes everything from your shirts and pocket squares to your belts and neckties. Suddenly, your one bag’s worth of clothing covers every event you could ever find yourself attending.
Want to know more about how to make a wedding a day to remember? Click here to discover my ultimate guide to wedding attire for men.