What to Wear to a Wedding Reception

PHOTO CREDIT: Best of NJ

Does it feel like everyone you know is getting married and you’ve got no idea what to wear to their wedding reception? Fear not, we’re here to guide you through this deceptively tricky task.

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As you get older, wedding receptions are an unavoidable necessity. As your friends and family begin to marry, they will expect you to make an effort for their special day. However, do you go all out and dress up, or do you tone it down? You don’t want to upstage the couple, after all.

Traditionally, wedding receptions have got a very specific and formal dress code. However, living in the 21st Century means that dress code rules are generally less strict nowadays. Depending on the type of wedding you’re going to, you can be slightly more experimental with your outfit.

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What to Wear to an Evening Wedding Reception

Black Tie Dress Code

Is the wedding you’re going to very traditional? If you’re looking for a more classic and formal wedding reception outfit, then stick to black tie dress. Although this may seem quite daunting, wearing black tie dress can actually be a blessing in disguise. Although it’s more formal, black tie dress doesn’t change much. This makes the decision of what to wear a whole lot easier.

Although you may think that black tie dress is the most formal out looks you can wear, white tie dress is actually the most formal. You will typically wear black tie dress for evening social events that take place after 6pm, which are usually more formal than your average party. Black tie should be more formal than business wear or casual clothes, but less formal than white tie dress.

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Black tie originates in 19th Century Britain as an alternative to the more formal white tie outfits that upper class men wore on a regular basis. In the first instance, many people saw black tie dress as being too informal. However, it has come a long way since then.

The central piece of the black tie look is the dinner jacket. Known as a tuxedo in America, a dinner jacket is a formal black blazer. However, different to your normal black blazer, a dinner jacket has contrasting material on the lapels to the rest of the jacket.

The rest of a black tie outfit consists of a white dress shirt, typically with a wing tip collar,  pair of black dress trousers, some black leather shoes, a waistcoat, and of course, a black bow tie. Although the majority of your outfit should be pretty standard in black and white, the waistcoat does offer you a chance to be a bit creative. Try wearing a waistcoat with some lace or trim if you’re feeling experimental. Or stick to plain black if not.

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What to Wear to A Wedding as a Guest for Men

Although black tie can look great, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. In today’s world we don’t have to stick to strict dress etiquette. Instead, wearing a smart suit can be a great alternative that is still formal and stylish, whilst not being quite so full on.

This also means that you have more options to experiment and play around with. For instance, instead of wearing a black suit, which can sometimes be a bit too depressing, you’re not going to a funeral after all. Why don’t you try wearing a navy or blue suit. Navy is great because it brings all of the formality and style that you get with a black suit, whilst also giving a lighter and more summery feel.

Why don’t you try combining a navy suit with a white dress shirt and a red tie. Blue and red are colours that contrast with each other nicely, they create a balance with any outfit and are great for when you’re looking for a tie to wear with a blue suit.

If you’re going to a wedding then there is going to be a lot of people dressing to impress. Therefore you need something to help you stand out from the crowd. Wear a blue waistcoat to add some extra detail to your outfit and to help you show off your style.

Finish the look off with a pair of brown oxford or brogue leather shoes. This will keep the outfit from becoming too formal and adds even more stylish detail that you wouldn’t get from black shoes.

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What to Wear to a Wedding Reception

Wearing a full suit to a wedding, particularly in the summer, can be hot and sometimes uncomfortable, especially after your seventh drink and dancing to Saturday Night with your Nan. In this situation it can be a good idea to try and dress down slightly. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be any less stylish or formal, but that you should wear lighter and more breathable clothing. 

Summer Wedding Reception

For a stylish summer outfit try wearing a white and blue pin striped sports jacket in a light material such as linen or cotton. Light materials are great for summer wedding outfits as they allow your skin to breath and stop you from getting too hot or sweaty whilst still looking formal and stylish. Combine this with a plain white dress shirt for a clean look that is subtle and unassuming whilst also helping you stand out.

Create a contrasting balance in colours by wearing a pair of navy blue chinos on your legs. The dark navy will contrast with the lighter white of your top half, whilst also creating uniformity with the blue pin stripe on your jacket. Finish the look off with a pair of dark brown leather loafers or boat shoes. As long as you don’t wear socks, wearing a pair of brown loafers or boat shoes is a great way to make your outfit summery and stylish, this is the perfect outfit for men’s wedding guest attire as it’s smart and you won’t upstage the groom!

When it comes to your shirt, avoid wearing a tie to keep yourself cool and to avoid your outfit becoming too formal. If you want to add an accessory to make up for the lack of a tie, then try finding a pocket square that will match the jacket’s colour.

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PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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Summer Short Suit for Men

Ever since Pharrell Williams took a stroll down the Oscars red carpet wearing a short suit he changed the world of men’s formal fashion forever. The short suit is a perfect example of the ever evolving nature of men’s fashion. It is the perfect combination of classic heritage style and modern fashion innovation.

If you really want to make a statement at the wedding you’re going to then a short suit may be the outfit for you. Although, be careful to not upstage the bride or groom. They may never forgive you. Short suits are perfect for summer weddings when a full bodied suit is too heavy duty but you still want to remain formal with a classic look.

As there aren’t that many short suit sets for you to buy, you may have to experiment a bit more with short suits. Why don’t you try wearing a summery sports jacket made from a light and breathable material such as linen or cotton. Combine this with a pair of formal shorts and you’ll have a perfect short suit look, ready for any outdoor wedding reception in summer.

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Short Suit Outfit

Short suits can often look better when they’re in a lighter and more summery colour. Why don’t you try wearing a light cream coloured sports jacket with a pair of matching chino shorts for a stylish look that isn’t too loud or over the top. The short suit is enough a statement piece on its own, you don’t need to wear any loud colours to stand out.

To create a bit of contrast and balance within the outfit wear a black or dark grey shirt underneath your jacket. If you’re looking for a more formal look then wear a oxford or dress shirt and a tie. However, short suits are perfect for a smart causal look and can go well with a plain T-shirt.

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What to Wear Instead of a Suit

For some guys, the thought of having to wear a suit, even for a wedding, is their idea of Hell. To be honest, who can blame you? They can be restrictive, expensive and uncomfortable. Plus, there are so many ways that a man can look smart and fashionable without having to wear a suit. This is the joy of fashion, there’s never one right answer.

Keeping it simple and toned down could be the way forward for you if a suit is going a stretch too far. Wearing a waistcoat on its own is a great way to do this. With this outfit you get a formal centre piece that can carry the look on its own, whilst still remaining free from the restraints of wearing a full suit. 

Waistcoat for Men

As the hipster style has become more popular, with bands like Mumford and Sons looking like farmers most of the time, wearing a waistcoat without a jacket has never been more stylish. Try wearing a tweed waistcoat with a blue oxford shirt. The brown and the blue will contrast against each other nicely whilst creating a rustic and autumnal look.

If you’re feeling brave, and you know that the bride and groom won’t mind, then you can wear this with a pair of dark navy selvedge denim jeans or navy chinos. Selvedge denim is perfect for a smart casual look that is stylishly rural.

However, be careful as jeans are generally seen as being a bit too informal for a wedding reception. Especially if it’s a more traditional occasion. If this is the case, then simply change the jeans for a pair of dark navy or black formal chinos.

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Wedding Reception Outfits

With these ideas you can build an outfit that would work best for you at that special day. Whether you’re keeping it casual or going for a more formal affair, you can easily make an outfit for a wedding to dance the night away. However, if you’re still struggling to find inspiration, then here’s a few outfit combinations that you can use to help get an idea of what you can wear to a wedding reception. 

Look 1

If you’re looking for a smart wedding outfit that is light and summery whilst still retaining an element of classic formality, then a grey suit is perfect. Grey is arguably the most versatile colour a man can get a suit in. If you’re going for a more formal look then you can wear a dark tie and some black leather shoes to appear more professional.

Whereas, if you’re trying to relax in a grey suit then you can quite easily pair it with some casual brown shoes and less formal button down shirt. Grey is also perfect for combining different shirt and tie combinations. If you want to go for a more monochrome look then wear it with a white dress shirt. Or, if you want to mix it up a bit, try wearing it with a blue or pink shirt.

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Look 2

After the wedding service, the reception may be a much more casual event. You may be able to get away with a much more chilled out and casual look. If you want to go for a great hipster look, then try wearing a light coloured oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

Add a bow tie and some braces for a touch of formality and class. Combine this with a pair of dark navy or black chinos. If these are a bit too informal then you can always wear some suit trousers to smarten it up a bit. Finally, wear a pair of black boots to finish off the look. These are formal but also rustic and fashionable.

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What to Wear to a Wedding Reception

  • Before you buy anything, find out what the dress code is. If it’s black tie, stick to a neutral colour palette.
  • If you’re not sure what to wear, keep things simple and classic. You can’t beat a suit and shirt combo.
  • Try wearing more unusual fabrics like tweed to tone things down and mix it up. Waistcoats are a great way to accessorise.
mens black suit white shirt street style
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

On That Note

Although weddings are great occasions that are generally a lot of fun, choosing the wedding outfits for guests can be an extremely stressful ordeal. Therefore, its important to take a bit of time and effort to plan your outfit in advance. As long as you know the type of wedding you’re going to, what you wear shouldn’t be that hard to decide. Just follow all the tips and tricks in this style guide and you’ll be styling it down the isle in no time.

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