How to Be the (Second) Best-Dressed Gent at a Wedding

what to wear to a wedding
Though men have been attending weddings for eons, many still struggle to find the appropriate garb. You don’t want to be disrespectful with cargo shorts and a backwards Kansas City Chiefs cap, and you don’t want to steal the spotlight with a heartbreakingly stylish ensemble. For help discovering what to wear to a wedding, we’ve enlisted the help of Brian Hathaway from Mario’s in Downtown Portland, Oregon. During his 18 years with Mario’s, Hathaway has outfitted his fair share of grooms, groomsmen, and wedding guests. Here’s his best advice:


Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet (or silver suit, rather) that will be appropriate for all weddings. The suit you wear to Stavros and Ainsley’s yacht wedding off the Amalfi Coast may not be appropriate for Big Bob and Bertha’s wedding and all-you-can-eat BBQ rib feed. The invitation probably has the greatest number of clues for what you should wear. Scour the invitation for words like “black tie optional,” “formal,” or “cocktail attire.” If there is no dress code indicator, look for other hints hidden in the invitation.

Font and Style

The style of the invitation itself should provide plenty of insight into the kind of event you’ll be attending. If the invitation is filled with fancy cursive script and gems like “Saturday, the 22nd day of August, year of Our Lord two thousand and fifteen,” then you’re probably looking at an uber-formal affair. If the invitation is flyer stapled to a telephone pole, those cargo shorts might work after all.


The location can have a significant bearing on what you wear. Say the bride and groom are planning a destination wedding on a warm beach. “I’ve outfitted men for that,” says Brian Hathaway. “Sometimes they might go with a linen trouser and a great-looking cotton or linen sport shirt, untucked, white, with a tan linen pant. You can’t beat it.” As for more traditional church weddings, a standard black, navy, or charcoal suit is the way to go. More on that later.


Be sure to take note of the wedding date. Generally speaking, darker suits are ideal for the cold months. If it’s an outdoor summer or spring wedding, you might switch up the color a bit. “In the spring and summertime, we do a lot in the way of light grey for wedding suits,” says Hathaway. “It seems more appropriate; it’s more seasonal-looking, a more seasonal color.” Hathaway also recommends a cotton, khaki-colored suit for the summer months or a linen jacket and trouser for better breathability. You probably have at least one wedding to go to this summer, so listen up.


Though you won’t find a suit that works for all weddings, it’s possible to find something appropriate for about 80% of the weddings you’ll attend in your life. “Pick a great black or charcoal-gray suit,” says Hathaway. That, plus a white shirt and a simple tie should cover most traditional weddings. Hathaway recommends a plain black suit from Prada, a blue and silver striped tie from Prada, and a white dress shirt from Eton.

Navy suits have made an extraordinary comeback in recent years. According to Tony Spear of Este’s Men’s Clothing (also in Portland, OR), a navy suit can cover you for weddings, funerals, job interviews, and any other event that requires a formal touch. “It’s more approachable. You don’t come off as harsh; you seem more likable, more accessible,” says Spear. Also, navy is much friendlier than black when it comes to spring and summer weddings.


If you’re a Manual man, then you probably aren’t the sort of fellow who would settle for traditional wedding garb. Brian Hathaway puts it best: “You can have your own style and wear a great-looking suit — just be appropriate. If you are more comfortable wearing, for instance, a gray suit with a purple shirt, you shouldn’t have to feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to show up with a white shirt and a black suit.’ We never want anyone to forsake their individual style.”

Tuxedos for Guests

If you want to roll up to a wedding like James Bond to a baccarat table, you’re out of luck. Unless the invite has the words “black tie,” Hathaway says it’s “almost never” appropriate to wear a tuxedo as a wedding guest. “If the groom and groomsmen are in tuxedos, the father of the bride or the groom might wear a tuxedo.” says Hathaway. “But if you are a guest, a nice suit would be the right thing to do.”


Now that you have the basics, it’s time to spice up your suit with a few stylish accents. Don’t go overboard — just sport two or three subtle accessories that help bring the ensemble together. If you plan to wear a black suit, you should probably leave your black tie at home. “Black on black looks a little too serious,” says Hathaway. “You could do a solid, kind of silvery gray with a black suit—that would be very elegant.” Hathaway also recommends a white linen pocket square with a flat fold to finish off the look. “Avoid the tips sticking four inches above your pocket,” he says. “You’re not a magician.”


As for shoes, normal suit rules apply. “Black with black is usually good, but we also love gray with burnished black, paired with a black suit,” says Hathaway. He also says that a lace-up shoe is always going to be dressier than a slip-on shoe. As for brands, Hathaway strongly recommends Bontoni, which does a limited production every year; and Scarpe di Bianco, which has a fourth-generation shoe-making factory outside of Naples, Italy.

If you’re struggling with what to wear to a wedding, simply ask the bride and groom what’s appropriate, or have your wedding date ask. You probably aren’t the only one puzzling over this matter. If you need an infusion of new attire, consider speaking with a men’s fashion expert like Brian Hathaway or Tony Spear. These guys can help you find your style while honoring the bride- and groom-to-be.

We’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: wear nice underwear; if the wedding reception goes well, you might just have the opportunity to show it off.

Mario’s has two locations in the Portland area and one in Downtown Seattle. You can also browse and purchase their items on their online shop.

Este’s Men’s Clothing is based in Portland, OR. Visit their website to see their products and services.


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