Wedding Dress Codes 101: What to Wear for Grooms, Groomsmen and Guests

We cracked all the codes for guys, from basic black tie to coastal chic.
by Jennifer Tzeses


With couples more and more focused on personalization these days, choosing a dress code for your own wedding (or following it if you’re a guest) has only gotten more complicated. Creative black tie, black tie optional, rustic formal—the verbiage is enough to make your head spin. The fact is, formal dressing is nuanced, and rocking the right attire is an important part of wedding etiquette. So make sure to put your dress-pectations on the invitation or wedding website, or ask around if you’re invited to a wedding that doesn’t explicitly spell it out. Then, take some inspo from these shoppable looks from Men’s Wearhouse for every wedding dress code, from the straightforward to the slightly more creative.

black tie dress code


The Code: Black Tie

The most common formal level of dressing (only white tie is fancier), this usually translates to “tuxedo required.” It also means the wedding is being held somewhere super swanky and likely happening at night. Team your tux with a black bow tie, vest and patent leather shoes for a classy look that’s always right.

Get the look: BLACK By Vera Wang black notch lapel tuxedo, $199.99 for a complete rental package with Perfect Fit rewards; Joseph Abboud black pre-tied bow tie; Men's Wearhouse sterling silver pocket square; Pronto Uomo silver and black cuff links; Calvin Klein Brodie black tuxedo shoes; all available at Men's Wearhouse

The Twist: Creative Black Tie

This is basically black tie but with a little more personality. Think: an evening wedding at a chic gallery. While you should still wear a tuxedo, you can have some fun with your accessories. Trade the white shirt for black or another color, punch up the look with a patterned bow tie and pocket square, add a more interesting pair of cuff links, and ditch the patent shoes for ones with a subtle motif. Now’s the time to show your style swag.  

Get the look: BLACK By Vera Wang black notch lapel tuxedo, $199.99 for a complete rental package with Perfect Fit rewards; Tommy Hilfiger red dot bow tie and pocket square set; Pronto Uomo silver and mother-of-pearl cuff links; Kenneth Cole silver and blue watch; Tallia Enrico brown and blue medallion textile loafers; all available at Men's Wearhouse

men's wearhouse formal

The Code: Formal (aka Black Tie Optional)

To tuxedo, or not to tuxedo—that is the question. And the answer is either: It really is optional. You can never go wrong with a tux, particularly if it’s a nighttime event, but a formal suit and tie, (something you’d wear to an important office meeting) is also appropriate. Just keep it on the dark side—black or navy—and pair it with a tonal tie and elegant accessories for a timeless statement.  

Get the look: Lauren by Ralph Laureblack modern fit suit; Egara white extreme slim fit French cuff dress shirt; Awearness Kenneth Cole gray skinny tie; Joseph Abboud black and gray medallion pocket square; Awearness Kenneth Cole gold and black leather watch; all available at Men's Wearhouse

The Twist: Rustic Formal

Corral your best country-chic accessories: While still formal (aka a black or dark-hued suit), this look is dictated by the event’s more rustic locale at a vineyard, barn or ranch. Trade your white shirt for plaid, wear a coordinating patterned tie or pocket square, or even bust out a pair of wing tips—or cowboy boots. Adding a little down-home charm is all in the details.

Get the look: Lauren by Ralph Lauren black modern fit suit; Esquire purple plaid slim fit dress shirt; Tommy Hilfiger purple and blue check bow tie; Pronto Uomo purple pocket silk; Awearness Kenneth Cole rose gold and brown leather watch; all available at Men's Wearhouse

men's wearhouse semiformal


The Code: Semiformal

For this dress code, let the time of day help dictate your look. A dark (but non-black) suit and tie for an evening wedding and a lighter color for a daytime event are your best bets. A white shirt always looks classic, and burgundy oxfords step up your footwear game. For best-dressed status, try a patterned tie in complementary hues to pull it all together.

Get the look: Calvin Klein Infinite Stretch blue skinny fit suit; Calvin Klein Infinite non-iron white slim fit dress shirt; Joseph Abboud blue paisley narrow tie; Pronto Uomo silver and blue cuff links; J. Murphy by Johnston & Murphy Harvey burgundy cap toe oxfords; all available at Men's Wearhouse

The Twist: Festive Semiformal

Here, “festive” means fun, so feel free to get a little playful. Now’s the time to add some personal style, since the couple is basically asking you to get creative. Trade a standard white shirt for a gray one with a dotted motif, add a colorful tie and pocket square, and a whimsical floral lapel pin for the win.

Get the look: Calvin Klein Infinite Stretch blue skinny fit suit; James Tattersall Kings Cross charcoal dot dress shirt; Tommy Hilfiger orange paisley tie; Men’s Wearhouse blue plaid pocket square; Pronto Uomo white lapel pin; Stefano Cisso Rome tan monk strap shoes; all available at Men's Wearhouse

men's wearhouse beach formal

The Code: Beach Formal

Lucky you, a wedding on the beach. While the invite says “formal,” formal by beach standards means a more comfortable lightweight cotton or linen summer suit in colors like khaki or off-white. Add a white breathable shirt, coordinating cuff links, a plaid tie in a summery hue, and slip-on shoes. Don’t forget your shades!

Get the look: Pronto Uomo Platinum modern fit linen suit separates, coat, pants; Calvin Klein Infinite non-iron white slim fit dress shirt; Tommy Hilfiger pink plaid narrow tie; Pronto Uomo silver and gunmetal cuff links; Joseph Abboud taupe sunglasses; Joseph Abboud Softee tan boat shoes; all available at Men's Wearhouse

The Twist: Beach Chic

This more casual beachside bash calls for a less-buttoned-up look. Dress down a light-hued suit by pairing it with a colorful ironed T-shirt. Bonus: No ties are required, but you still need to wear shoes—so why not make them crisp white kicks for the ultimate cool factor?
 
Get the look: Pronto Uomo Platinum modern fit linen suit separates, coat, pants; Joseph Abboud lavender modern fit T-shirt; Men's Wearhouse brown leather stitch edged belt; Joseph Abboud black sunglasses; Calvin Klein Berke white sneakers; all available at Men's Wearhouse

men's wearhouse casual

The Code: Casual 

The fine print says “casual,” but that doesn’t mean you can show up in jeans (sorry!). However, the good news is, you don’t need to wear a suit. A sport coat and khakis is just swanky enough for a daytime fete. Skip the tie for a colorful shirt and patterned pocket square.    

Get the look: Joseph Abboud brown plaid modern fit sport coat; Joseph Abboud tan modern fit essential chino; Calvin Klein Infinite non-iron light blue stripe slim fit dress shirt; Joseph Abboud navy and gold paisley pocket square; Todd Welsh tan bike toe oxford; all available at Men's Wearhouse

The Twist: California Casual

Grounded in Cali’s breezy culture, this look has an effortless feel to match. For a wedding at a low-key seaside restaurant or on the beach, you can ditch the full suit in favor of chinos and a blazer with a white T-shirt underneath. Linen-like sneaks lend an equal parts laid-back-meets-trendy touch.    

Get the look: Joseph Abboud brown plaid modern fit sport coat; Joseph Abboud tan modern fit essential chino; Joseph Abboud white T-shirt; Tulliani cognac leather belt; Joseph Abboud navy blue beaded bracelet; Ben Sherman Connall tan sneakers; all available at Men's Wearhouse


The Knot and Men’s Wearhouse Present Groom Style—a sponsored series full of inspiration and advice for putting together the perfect look for your wedding events. To check out more of the latest styles, visit MensWearhouse.com.

Up Next
A Complete Guide to Online Tuxedo Rentals
Not sold on splurging on a tux for your wedding day? These five companies will change the way you think about rentals—and won't break the bank.
by The Knot10 min read