It happens at a certain point in your late twenties: wedding invites. Lots of them. From close friends, distant cousins, old roommates, siblings, in-laws... everyone, really.
This is a good thing. Sure, some can be inconvenient to get to, etiquette requires that you spend some money on a gift, and you may not know many other people there. But at the end of the day, weddings are just parties that pull out all the stops – excuses to dress up, reconnect with people, and have a whole lot of fun.
The "dress up" part, though, does require a little bit of thought. The simplest piece of advice for wedding style, assuming you're just a guest rather than a groom or groomsman, is to dress sharply but simply. Beyond that, things get a little more detailed.
What To Do
This is not a time to slack off. Your outfit should be on point from head to toe, your hair should be neat, and you should have a general air of put-togetherness suitable for when you're captured in the background of the couple's wedding photos. Again, this is a celebration. No matter how close or distant to the wedding party you are, showing up in a proper suit, tie, and polished shoes is the least you could do.
Bring Some Personality
Want to try wearing a bow tie? A pair of bright socks? A handsome pocket square? Pick one or two and then go right ahead. Weddings are happy, often boozy affairs that encourage a little bit of levity. The big caveat here, though, is to practice moderation with whatever wardrobe tweaks you want to attempt. More on that below.
Make Sure Everything Fits
This is rule number one for almost anything style-related, but it bears repeating here. If you haven't worn your suit since last wedding season, try it on and make sure it still fits properly. If not, head to the tailor. Same goes for whatever dress shirt you plan on wearing – it should be slim enough that it doesn't billow out when tucked in, and snug (but not uncomfortably so) in the collar.
What Not To Do
Bring Too Much Personality
This is important: do not, under any circumstances, try to upstage the bride or groom. Your outfit should look good, but not in an overtly attention-grabbing way. This is not the place to test-drive your new bright blue, double-breasted, extra-slim suit. Or your wildly printed tie, plus an eye-catching pocket square, plus a boutonniere, plus double monk strap shoes.
Leave anything too flashy at home and stick with a dark two-button suit, a white shirt, and simple shoes. Like we said above, you can have fun with your accent pieces beyond that – a bow tie and a pocket square, for example – but don't go overboard.
Take Your Jacket Off
There's an old wedding rule that says a guest should never remove his suit jacket at the reception before the groom has removed his own – the idea being that it's rude to lower the formality level of the party until the man of the hour has given the OK. We're not usually big fans of old, rigid style rules, but this one still rings true. It's more polite to keep your jacket on and your suit complete until everyone else, the groom included, has decided it's time to take the party into overdrive.
Go Off Book
If the invitation specifies a formal dress code, now is not the time to try out the sneakers-with-a-suit look, or forego a tie because you think it makes you look a little more rakish, or wear that new seersucker jacket you just got back from the tailor.
Your outfit should roughly match everyone else's, so figure out what exactly the dress code is and stick to it. When in doubt, err on the side of formality – better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Once you've got that down, you can get to the fun part: hitting the open bar.