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Lori’s question from last week (about what to wear with bridesmaid dresses) started Katharine’s and my wheels turning about all of the different options out there for wedding day attire.

In this day and age (which makes me sound like a grandmother, but oh well!), there are SO many options, from super formal to just-rolled-out-of-bed casual.

With all these options, we thought it might be nice to do a brief overview of the many possibilities. (Okay, we won’t be covering just-rolled-out-of-bed. But you know what I mean!) You can use our guide to heed sartorial etiquette, or to gain general awareness of which rules you’re breaking :) Let’s begin!

The most formal option for daytime wear (anytime before 6pm) is a black or Oxford gray cutaway coat, black or gray striped trousers, a pearl gray waistcoat, stiff white shirt, stiff fold-down collar with gray-and-black striped four-in-hand tie or wing collar with ascot, gray gloves, black silk socks, and black kid shoes. Whew! This is NOT a common look for weddings today, but we did manage to turn up a few examples:

Image credit: Jen Huang. See more from this wedding here!

The most formal option for traditional evening attire consists of a black tailcoat and trousers, a white pique waistcoat, a starched-front shirt with a wing collar, a white bow tie, white gloves, black silk socks, black patent-leather shoes or pumps or black kid smooth-toed shoes. Tuxedos are also acceptable. Not as elusive as the formal daytime option, and more popular in the South than other regions of the country, but still fairly rare.

For a semiformal daytime wedding, the groom might wear a suit-style dark gray or black sack (straight-backed) coat, matching trousers, a soft or white pleated shirt, a four-in-hand tie, and black smooth-toed shoes. For all of you non-menswear experts, that’s basically your standard “nice suit.” A dove gray waistcoat was the traditional pairing with this look, but grooms are switching things up left and right these days. A very popular option!

For a semiformal evening wedding, the attire options are split by seasons. For a winter wedding, a black or midnight blue tuxedo is most appropriate. Here, Katharine’s groom Kyle models the look with aplomb:

In the summer, a white dinner jacket and black cummerbund can be substituted.

Either can be paired with a pleated or pique soft shirt with attached collar, a black cummerbund and black bow tie, and a pair of black patent-leather or kid shoes. No gloves.

For informal day or evening weddings, it really starts to get loose. Lighter-weight suits or jackets and trousers, white suits, seersucker suits, khaki suits, khakis and navy blazers, trousers and suspenders… the sartorial options are almost limitless. Just remember to keep whatever you do choose in good taste and in keeping with the ceremony and reception location and time of year.

So, ladies: what will your men be wearing on the big day? Leave us a note in the comments!

Lastly, let’s have a big round of applause for Mr. Bryan Johnson! I turned to A Bryan Photo for the lion’s share of these images. If you’re ever looking for wedding inspiration (and great photography, of course), look no further than their galleries!

emily Written with love by Emily
23 Comments
  1. avatar Elizabeth reply

    I went to a 6:00 wedding once in the fall and the groomsmen wore black, but their shirts were off-white. It looked really handsome! I was thinking of doing the same for our fall wedding because my dress is more of an off-white too. It seems like an ok move, but I’ve only seen it that one time. Is that strange?

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Hi Elizabeth! If your dress is more ivory than true white, an off-white shirt for your groom could be a really nice complement, especially if you already love the look! Warmer tones are also a nice touch for a fall wedding. Just make sure the groomsmen also wear off-white shirts and that there aren’t too many other white-white details in the ceremony or reception. (Your pictures could look a little funny if there are different shades of white floating around.) Congratulations and happy planning!

  2. avatar Tweets that mention Southern Etiquette: What to Wear When? « Southern Weddings Magazine — Topsy.com reply

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marissa Kloess and Katharine Waterman, Southern Weddings . Southern Weddings said: @EmilyAyer discusses what to wear and when in this week's Southern Etiquette + a special thanks to @ABryanPhoto! http://su.pr/22exSr [...]

  3. avatar Natalie reply

    My fiancee and I are getting married in a barn but we are still traditionalists and he wants to wear a tuxedo with the standard black tie. He chose his look and said he likes the classic look. Thank goodness I got a man who knows how to dress appropriately, ha. But I believe there is a lot of play with your attire on your big day because lets be honest it is YOUR day. You make the rules!

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Amen, Natalie! Tradition and formal etiquette are nice guidelines, especially if you’re undecided and looking for suggestions as you plan, but in the end the only rules you follow should be your own.

  4. avatar Erin reply

    My fiance said he definitely wants to wear a tuxedo to our 5:30/6 (still undecided!) wedding in September 2012. Originally he was interested in a white tux jacket, but I said he’d look like a waiter…but now I’m changing my mind as it does look extremely handsome. My only concern is that our wedding is September 22, the first day of fall that year (but usually it’s still hot around that time in Northern Virginia)–does this mean a white tux jacket is out since it’s technically fall??

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi, Erin! As Natalie said, it’s your wedding, so you make the rules! BUT, if you’re looking for etiquette guidance, I just checked Emily Post and she says tuxedos for winter and white jackets for summer. However, she doesn’t specify either for fall or spring. I’d take that to mean that you can use your discretion in choosing, which means that if you like the look of the white jacket, go for that! I can pretty much guarantee that your guests will NOT be horrified by the possible faux pas :)

    • avatar Erin reply

      Emily: Thanks so much for the response! It’s tough to find etiquette rules for seemingly ambiguous days/seasons/dates!

  5. avatar Lori reply

    We are STILL deciding… Thanks for sharing more etiquette and options!

  6. avatar Jess reply

    My fiance has requested to wear a collared, printed shirt, tie, gray vest, and nice designer jeans. We’re getting married on a deck in the woods with a picnic reception, so I think it’ll tie in perfectly with our wedding atmosphere.

  7. avatar Lindsey Richards reply

    Thanks so much for this post! My fiance and I are still deciding whether to go with the classic black tux or khakis with navy blazers. We’re having a traditional church wedding, but our reception is at a horse stable in VA. I feel like the navy blazer is more “him”, but at the same time this is the one day where he feels like he should definitely go all out in a formal tux. Our colors are navy, persimmon, and pewter, so navy blazers would look great in the big scheme of things. Too many options! What do you think?

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Lindsey! Katharine and I agree that the khaki and blazer combo sounds like the winner given your reception location and color palette. However, he’s the groom, so if he’s always wanted to wear a tux, he should go for it! And remember: as the groom in a tux, he’ll never stick out in a bad way.

  8. avatar Jennifer reply

    We are getting married outside in May at the home of the groom’s parents which sits on a small lake in Perry, Georgia. We want to have the guys wear gray seersucker, but our problem is we can’t figure out the right shoes. White bucks would be traditional, but they are pricey and not everyone owns a pair.

  9. avatar erin reply

    Hi, thanks for the post on men’s wedding attire! Our wedding is coming up very soon… it’s in the beginning of April, eeks!! It will be just outside of Chapel Hill , NC, with an outside ceremony (weather permitting) and barn reception. The groomsmen are all wearing charcoal gray suits. My fiance bought monogrammed light blue shirts as a gift for each of the groomsmen and we also picked them each out a different patterned tie in the same shade of green. My fiance will be wearing a charcoal gray suit with chalk stripes, a white shirt and another different green tie. I do have a question for y’all though… My dad is wearing a navy suit but he would really like to wear a bow tie. I think it’s a great idea and offered to find it for him… but now I can’t find one! Anyone have any ideas about where to find nice bow ties, preferably online? I am looking for a patterned bow tie in a moss green shade. Thank you!!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Erin! Of course I have a few suggestions! :) For patterned bowties, I love Forage (http://www.forage.bigcartel.com/). The Tie Bar (www.thetiebar.com) has lots of nice simple patterns in a nice price range. Southern Proper or Vineyard Vines are great for a preppy look. And lastly, Pierrepont Hicks has some AMAZING styles right now — LOVE! (http://www.pierreponthicks-shop.com/category/bows). I hope that helps!!

  10. avatar Kyla reply

    I am curious about a patchwork madras sports coat. I am from SC and it can be incredibly hot sometimes into October. My fiance asked if he could wear his favorite patchwork madras sports coat to our wedding. I think it looks quite nice on him and would work with a navy and yellow theme but I was planning on an October wedding. I hate being restrictive about what choices he has to make in the wedding but also don’t wanna change everything because his outfit of choice isn’t seasonally appropriate. I can’t really find any material online stating that at some point madras is not allowed but I have always thought of it like seersucker and wouldn’t think you could wear it after Labor Day. Any thoughts? Our wedding is going to be outside so summer would be unbearable! :) Thanks!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Kyla! If there is a rule about madras (which I’m not entirely sure there is…), you’re right, it’s probably a “faux pas” to wear it after Labor Day. But I think the sportscoat option sounds lovely, and if it’s what your fiance wants to wear and you’re okay with it, then go for it! It’s so much hotter in the South than other parts of the country, anyway, that it almost seems like the Labor Day rule should become the Columbus Day rule :) Congratulations and happy planning!

  11. avatar Caroline Davidson reply

    Hi Emily!
    My fiance will be wearing a black tux (with a bow tie and suspenders) to our wedding and I want to wear my old boots with my formal dress. The ceremony will be in my hometown church.Is it appropriate for me and my bridesmaids to wear our boots or should we change into them for the reception? I also wonder if that would mean the men would have to wear black boots to match us? Thanks in advance! Your etiquette posts are just lovely!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Caroline! Love that look! (That’s what John is wearing, as well!) Between the tux and the church, I would say you should change into your boots post-ceremony. I do not, however, think that the men need to wear black boots to match! Best of luck with your plans!

  12. avatar Jennifer reply

    How faux pas it it to wear seersucker in late Feb on the beach as the groom?

  13. avatar charlotte reply

    Is it appropriate to for men to wear tux with white dinner jacket for a 6 pm wedding in March?

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