Summer breeze, makes me feel fine…
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I’m an 18 year old male and have been invited to a wedding in a few months. I’m having trouble deciding what to wear as I’ve only been to one wedding before when I was much younger. I’ve got a navy blazer but fear this won’t be formal enough, yet I’m concerned that if I wear a suit I’ll look like a child trying to play dress up as an adult.
Do you have any suggestions on what to wear?
Good question, and a great way to kick off the summer wedding season. For better or for worse, there is no longer a standard when it comes to wedding attire. This is probably because weddings are no longer a one-size-fits-all affair. If you’ve gotten married in the last five years, or you’ve attended enough weddings yourself, you know that the push is to be as unique and original as possible in your wedding planning. Writing your own vows, giving favors that represent you as a couple, visiting your ten favorite bars/parks/stationary stores/pawn shops for your engagement photos. What is expected of wedding guests also changes with each wedding. There is nothing wrong with asking the bride or groom or their families, what should I wear? Guests tend to be afraid to look dumb by asking, but there’s no shame is wanting to know what the dress code is so that you can show up appropriately attired. In the event that you can’t or won’t ask, here are some common wedding scenarios.
This includes destination weddings, and sometimes outdoor weddings in other settings, like in the forest or in a field with a barn (yep, went to that wedding three years ago). This setting almost always means casual-er wear. You’re not going to find many black tuxes in a crowd that’s sitting in folding chairs on the sand, with saltwater lapping nearby. Often you can get away with chinos and a button-down shirt, maybe a tie, in this setting. A jacket or full suit would not be required, though if you want to wear one, you can. Go with paler colors like light gray, and pick fabrics like linen or seersucker blends so that you’re not sweating through them.
Black tie means WEAR A TUX OR ELSE. For women, it means floor-length ball gowns, not shorter cocktail dresses. This should be noted on the invitation–never assume black tie unless you’re regularly being invited to events held by the Rockefellers. It’s pretty rare in our increasingly casual society, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this one.
Another rare event is the morning wedding. This is usually for small, intimate groups, maybe 20 or 30 people, and a brunch or lunch might follow it. The wedding is typically wrapped up by early afternoon. This tends to be a more casual affair. Usually the bride is not wearing a normal extravagant wedding gown, but instead has opted for a simple dress from a department store. Thus the guests can follow suit (ha! pun definitely intended). Men should wear nice pants and a button down shirt, perhaps a tie, perhaps a jacket. Like the beach wedding, avoid very dark colors (same goes for women).
The most common of weddings these days. The standard is a suit and tie for men, a cocktail dress for women. Color is up to you, though if you want to dress seasonally, do darker colors in the fall and winter, lighter colors in the spring and summer. I personally have been seeing more and more men attend weddings without jackets and without ties, so it’s not unheard of. But if you want my opinion (and you’re writing to me, so hello? what do you think is going to happen?) I think a full suit with tie (or a combination of dress pants, blazer, and tie) is appropriate, attractive, and preferred. You can take the jacket off at the reception. You can loosen the tie a bit. But show up with your best foot forward.
Daniel, I get what you’re saying about looking like a kid playing dress up. I want to point out, though, that you feel this way because you were recently a kid, and you’re straddling the awkward transition from childhood into adulthood. You will probably feel like a big weirdo wearing your suit and tie. That’s fine, you’re not accustomed to it. Figuring out how to be an adult is kind of a mind fuck. You feel too old for some things, too young for others. Eventually you’ll come to terms with the land of adulthood, and it won’t be as confusing. Actually, it will still be confusing, but for other reasons–why am I hungover after having just three drinks? Why did the IRS tell me I still owe $139.72? Why won’t the dog stop digging holes in the backyard? Why didn’t someone tell me I was supposed to get the air ducts in my house regularly cleaned out?
See what you have to look forward to?
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