What to wear to every wedding this summer

Keep on top of all those invites you have this summer with our easy guide to mastering every wedding dress code possible this year

Wedding season, that fifth and most dreaded of all, is nearly upon us and with the flood of invites that find their way into your inbox and onto your doormat you might be overwhelmed with the difference and complexity of dress codes. But luckily we’re here to help guide you through these murky waters of this clothing conundrum.

We know that it can seem like all of your friends are getting married in the same year and they all want a slightly different dress codes (or God forbid a theme) but there is an easy way to combat this stress. Knowing what you can get away with is vital to your choice of attire. But to do that you need to know exactly what they mean by those two words printed in italics on the eggshell invite.

Black tie

What to wear to a black tie wedding 

This is a fairly straightforward one to start off with. Keep it classic with a dinner suit, plain white shirt (pleated if you prefer) and a crisp black bow tie. But don’t let these seemingly rigid restrictions stop you from showing a small amount of personality in your get up.

What not to wear to a black tie wedding 

Stay away from colour. You might be tempted by coloured or patterned bow ties but these can make you look like you’re about to present a 1970s game show. We recommend making a statement though your tailoring instead of outlandish colour and texture choices. There’s a reason this dress code has lasted for such a long time almost untouched.

What you can get away with at a black tie wedding

If you still want to add some colour to the outfit then you can avoid the penguin suit look and go for a midnight blue evening suit that will still have a conservative feel. Or a fashion from the seventies that’s come back is the more full bow tie and if you really want to commit to that vintage look a frilled shirt can work well, as long as you have the confidence the pull it off.

Black tie optional

What to wear to a black tie optional wedding

Don’t worry if you break out into a cold sweat when you see this on the invite, you’re not the only one panicking. But all this means is you can get away with a suit that isn’t a tuxedo. Something dark and formal is best here. Keep the accessories muted as well with a solid tie and a matching pocket square.

What not to wear to a black tie optional wedding

This is still not the right time to go for that baby blue suit you’ve been keeping for the summer months. Nor should you be going too crazy with the shirt and accessory choices. Plain white shirts and subtle pocket squares are going to be the order of the day. And make sure you’re not going to outshine the grooms party. You may end up with less invites next year if you do.

What can you get away with at a black tie optional wedding

You can pull out your tux if you really want to here, but feel free to be a bit more loose than before. Perhaps reach for a pair of velvet loafers or even the smoking jacket you knew you’d have a reason to wear one day. But as always, keep it simple and understated where possible.

Morning dress

What to wear to a morning dress wedding

The rules are pretty clear on this one. Tails and a double breasted waistcoat are your staples. You’ll likely recognise the look from the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot. But if you’re not one for the ponies and you don’t get invites to many high society weddings it can be best to hire — and we love the service offered by Oliver Brown.

What not to wear to a morning dress wedding

Any jacket that stops at the waist is a general no-no. This is a traditional British attire and has been around for centuries so it’s probably best not to try and trailblaze your way to changing it at your cousin’s wedding. You’ll look far smarter by blending in with this dress code.

What you can get away with at a morning dress wedding

Traditionally morning dress has always been worn with black and grey striped trousers but a trend recently for dogs tooth has really caught our eye and we think it’s a great way to modernise your look while sticking to the invite.

Cocktail attire

What to wear to cocktail attire wedding

If you’re not exactly sure what cocktail attire is, think of your office suit with some added personality or, if you’re not in a suited-up workspace, the kind of thing you’d wear to meet friends at the Coburg Bar at The Connaught. A well-fitted navy suit and a white or pale coloured shirt with a bold block or patterned tie, perhaps, with a pair of black leather brogues or a pair of monks.

What not to wear to a cocktail attire wedding 

We would stay away from pastel and more colourful suit choices, it might be sunny outside during the ceremony but once that reception rolls round that baby blue suit will look a bit out of place.

What you can get away with at a cocktail attire wedding

The thing that separates cocktail attire from what you’d wear to the office is that added element of after-hours opulence that cocktail hour has built in – it’s all about being smart but bringing your personality into play in whatever way you feel comfortable. On your suit, the lapels can be wider, your tie can be zingier, your shoes can be bolder, you can wear a bit of jewellery. In short, sex your suit up a bit.

Smart casual

What to wear to a smart casual wedding 

Tailored separates will never disappoint for these occasions –  a blazer and a pair of trousers with a shirt and tie. It’s still best to err on the side of smart (it is a wedding after all), so be sure to keep a pair of formal shoes on as this will instantly elevate your outfit.

What not to wear to a smart casual wedding 

No denim. Let’s get that out of the way now just so there’s no confusion. It’s also probably best to stay away from trainers for this as well. A place for Nike swooshes, this is not.

What you can get away with at a smart casual wedding

If you have a smart-casual dress code, you know that the couple will not want people feeling too formal – however, probably the most ‘informal’ you could get is a pair of chinos (not slim-fit, obviously) rather than tailored trousers. Arguably, this is a dress code where you could get away with wearing a suit with a smart, plain T-shirt rather than a shirt and tie – but it’s a high stakes move that you need to be confident that the couple will approve of.


What to wear to a casual wedding

Your hosts have probably put this to make you feel comfortable in whatever you arrive in but it can leave some stressing that they’re going to be either over- or under-dressed. The best bet is to grab a light summer suit – or separates – that has some relaxed tailoring nods such as patch pockets. Tailored separates are also a great option here and, in contrast to all the other dress codes above, this is probably the first where you can legitimately wear a T-shirt (plain) or pair of trainers (sleek, minimal) and not be the only man in the room doing so. If in doubt, wear what you would to a dressy brunch with your in-laws on a Saturday afternoon.

What not to wear to a casual wedding 

Stay away from the super formal attire, you don’t want to over dress the groom in this situation – no dinner suits, no patent shoes. Arguably, you could get away with a smoking jacker if it’s an evening wedding (and not in the middle of a field), but dress it down as much as you can – perhaps with a chambray shirt, black T-shirt or Chelsea boots. 

What you can get away with at a casual wedding 

Nothing is really off-limits here so you can push the envelope as much as you want. If you know the wedding party won’t be too dressy then we’d suggest an open collar, especially if you know the mercury’s going to be high. We’d say the limit of casual-ness is a tracksuit. Avoid one of these – unless specified, of course.

Header image courtesy of Brunello Cucinelli.