Decoding Wedding Dress Codes With Men’s Wearhouse

We tapped chief creative director of Men’s Wearhouse, Joseph Abboud, to answer all your pressing style questions.
by Farah Prince

If I’m going to a wedding where the invite says black tie optional. Does that mean I should wear a tuxedo?
Invites that say, “black tie optional, festive attire, semiformal or creative black tie,” usually throw guys into a tizzy, but they don’t have to. If you’re not sure what a certain dress code means, an easy solve is to fall back to the traditional tuxedo—but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Personally, I love creative black tie. You can have fun with it as long as you keep within the spirit of the event you’re going to. For example, you could wear a beautiful tuxedo jacket with a black linen pant to a semiformal wedding. If you don’t want to wear a tuxedo and the invite says semiformal or black tie optional, a suit will work just as well. But there is one rule I always follow: When you’re attending a wedding, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. I would lean toward being more formal than casual with dress codes that have a gray area, because you’ll always feel like you’re well dressed for the occasion.

I have two weddings to attend this summer, one white tie and the other black tie. Can I get away with wearing the same tuxedo to both?
White tie is über formal and black tie is exactly what it says it is: It’s your traditional tuxedo. The hard-and-fast rules for white tie come down to wearing a black dress tailcoat over a white starched shirt, marcella waistcoat and white tie—but most men don’t wear dress tailcoats anymore. If you’d like to wear the same tuxedo for both events, you can get away with just changing the accessories. White tie tends to have the connotation of being dressier, so stick to classic accessories like a white bow tie, cuff links, patent leather oxfords and even a cummberbund.

What is too casual to wear to a wedding where the invite says “dress casually”? Are jeans ever appropriate to wear?
Dressing for a wedding where there is no specific dress code means it’s up to the guest to have a sense of propriety and good taste. I think it’s important to respect the wedding you’re attending. Choose your outfit in a way that says, “I respect this special day, and I want to dress appropriately.” Your attire shouldn’t be sloppy; it should have some sense of going to a special occasion. And unless the invitation says “denim required,” jeans are not appropriate to wear. For a more casual option, I’d opt for linen or khaki pants.

There’s no dress code specified on the invitation. What should I wear to be safe? 

You’ll never be overdressed with a suit and tie combo. It’s also a good idea to keep the time of the wedding in mind if you’re stumped on what to wear as well. Evening weddings tend to be more formal, so choose a darker suit. If it’s a morning or afternoon wedding, stick to lighter colors and get creative with accessories.

I’m attending a beach wedding in the middle of July and I know it’s going to be sweltering. Any tips for staying cool while wearing a suit?

Wear a suit in lighter colors, like an off-white or natural linen suit. Beach weddings tend to be more on the casual side, so you can skip the tie, wear a breezy linen shirt and add a pocket square—even sandals would be appropriate. More than just the fabric, the color of the suit also factors into keeping cool. The darker the suit, the more it will attract sunlight. Whether you go for wool, linen or cotton, pick a suit in a lighter shade.

The wedding invitation says it’s a rustic wedding with no particular dress code. I don’t know what rustic means. What should I wear?
I would delve into the dress code a little more if I received an invitation that said “rustic." First, check the location the wedding is going to take place—outdoors or in a barn? And don’t be afraid to reach out to the couple and ask for clarification about the dress code. No matter what, you should try your best to dress appropriately. You don’t want to show up in an outfit that looks more like a mountain man costume than a wedding guest. This could also be a great opportunity to get creative, like wearing a cashmere turtleneck and an unlined cashmere jacket in lieu of a more traditional suit.

What are your top tips for dressing stylishly for a wedding, regardless of the dress code?
First, understand where you’re going. The location of the wedding should indicate how to dress. If you aren’t sure, call a friend who’s also going to the wedding or a member of the wedding party and ask for more details. Never do anything to embarrass the couple. It’s their day so don’t wear anything too loud or outlandish. Guests have as much responsibility to dress appropriately for a wedding as the to-be-weds. If you’re privileged to be invited to someone’s wedding, you should always be respectful.

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