How to Dress Like a Gentleman This Wedding Season


Image Source: GQ.com

At school, we learn that there are four seasons. Soon, we learn to redraft this natural calendar, adding one or two more: football or the cricket season, say.

This seems to suit us perfectly well, until adulthood. Then, one day, from nowhere, maturity picks up a red marker and scribbles the words WEDDING SEASON across six blank squares, marked April through to September.

Around the age of thirty, this unsolicited hand returns to double-underline those words, emphasising that, for the next few years, this is probably a season that requires some attention. To help you through this season we have assembled a handy wedding guide in which we cover:

So now, when the blossom is pink and perfumed and trees are encircled by ranks of daffodils, we not only sigh in relief at the coming of spring but, perhaps, emit a droplet of sweat, knowing there’s a wedding or three soon to be attended.

Maybe the wedding is your own. If so, multiply the droplet tenfold. Or, maybe, avoid the panic-induced saturation and read our guide to dressing gentlemanlike for the one, three, or six weddings whose invites beckon attendance.

Common Dress Codes

Below we outline the most common dress codes for weddings and our recommendations about how to look your best.

Morning Suit

Top hat/tails/waistcoat/white shirt/flower or pocket square

If you’re a soon-to-be wedding guest sat reading this, wondering if the morning suit is for you, then I can report, confidently, that it isn’t.

If there is one golden rule for wedding dress, it’s this: unless you have been explicitly asked to do so, do not arrive on The Big Day in a morning suit, the most formal suit of all.

Avoid being the person in that photo shared on social media a few years back who, on some dreamy beach location, stood in top hat and tie amidst guests that looked like an army of open-shirted, sandalled Matthew McConaughey lookalikes.

Instruction for morning suits must come directly from the bride and groom. If you are, in fact, a groom deciding on whether to commit to this look, we recommend firstly considering one important detail, namely the choice between the pocket square or boutonnière.

For us, the pocket square offers a contemporary feel, diminishing rigidity and stiff formality while softly aligning all guests with the groom.

boutonnière in the buttonhole of guests can seem incongruous in comparison to the dress of those who you invited, but do not require to adorn, the morning suit.

And if you are wondering, yes you can wear both a pocket square and boutonnière, but the catchword here is balance. Ideally, either the pocket square or boutonnière should be white and therefore understated. If both are brightly coloured you will look quite the sight, and not in a good way...

Black Tie
Black, midnight blue or white tuxedo/black tie or bowtie/cufflinks/white shirt/pocket square

Tuxedo Pocket Square

A wise option for guests and groom alike and not only because everybody gets to play James Bond.

Aside from indulging 007 fantasies, it’s a highly practical option since sourcing a decent tuxedo is simple enough and not beyond the means of most.

For black-tie weddings, bow ties are your only option, with the most popular choices coming down silk, satin, and velvet. This is choice comes down to personal preference but we particularly like the look and texture of a velvet bow tie.

To the question of tied vs pre-tied, we personally love the romance of a bowtie fastened by hand. Both for the skill required that makes the tier feel that little bit better about themselves, and dare we admit it, late into the evening having it untied and draped over the neck for further spy fantasies.

However, that being said, a good quality pre-tied bowtie will look totally convincing and from experience, the majority of people do tend to plump for this option. 

Grooms are advised to choose between the classic black or midnight blue tuxedo, or can also go for white should they choose, whilst leather shoes with a high-gloss finish is a must.

The alternative footwear options are limited to loafers, but we’d always favour the patent leather shoe.

A neat and simple way of personalising the black tie is with a pocket square. What we must consider here is how far too push convention. It is more than acceptable to add a touch of colour and pattern, in fact, we would encourage it, as this is the one area with black tie that you can demonstrate a bit of personality. When everyone is dressed the same, it is always nice to be the one demonstrating that little extra touch of flair. 

Casual/No Stated Dress Code
Non-black suit/coloured or patterned shirt/optional tie/pocket square

Casual Wedding Outfits
Wedding Guest
Casual Wedding

How bold dare you be, groom, to write the words ‘casual dress’ onto your invites? And how loosely, guest, will you interpret that seemingly nonchalant code?

We will all, before we die, witness a wedding attendee in trainers, I am certain of it. And perhaps this is ok; the bride, groom and guests happy that anyone can wear anything and feel comfortable enough to frolic and be free.

Unlikely though. Rather than risk drawing out tears from mothers and mothers-in-law and raging uncles and frothing cousins, there can be no Air Max 95’s. Forget the Reebok Classics. And yes, the line between streetwear or ath-leisure and high-end dressing continues to narrow but even those astonishingly expensive, very on-brand trainers Shall Not Pass.

Let’s stick to a brown shoe; leather, suede, velvet - as you see it. But a brown shoe will match well with almost any reasonably smart non-black suit. Not too casual. Not too stiff. Perfect.

Aside from this, feel free to find light, fun, spring/summer colours - light pinks and blues work well below the waist. When paired with darker blues and lighter brown, checked or blocked, such trousers are practically failsafe, even for conservative dressers.

In this setting, a combination of blazer/sports coat and crisp pair of new chino's will always win the day. A look that is the quintessential definition of smart casual, and if you get the colour and pattern combinations just right, you will give off an aura of effortless cool. 

Our recommendation would be to go for a tie, it might be 'casual' but after all, you are still attending a wedding. If the jacket is patterned, keep the tie muted, however, if the jacket is a light block colour, feel free to push the boundaries and select a tie with a bit more life. 

Navy polo shirts are a great option for those less than enthused by 9-5 in a shirt and the best part of a weekend in one too.

Important: the pocket square. The casual dress code allows all the pocket square dreams you’ve ever had with absolute indulgence, be bold.

Beach
Light fabrics/light colours/tie optional for guests/block t-shirts & blazer/hats & pocket squares

Beach wedding attire

You’ll have no doubt noticed the ever increasing number of people opting for matrimony on sands exotic and distant. Perhaps it’s something to do with looking good on the ‘gram.

What won’t though, in this writer’s humble opinion, look good on the ‘gram, the beach, the wedding day - or anywhere, ever, are white linen trousers. Do not recreate a Micheal Bolton video if you aim to avoid divorce.

Be sure to dress lightly, both in density of fabric and colour. A tucked-in, fitted t-shirt is perfectly acceptable for guests, recommended if you’re off somewhere blisteringly hot.

You’ll still require a jacket and we’d point to seersucker, a light cotton that still gives weight enough to look ceremonial.

Hats are a good idea too, cream fedoras and trilbies are both practical and stylish if you're prepared to stretch the budget a little. If a good quality hat is beyond the purse, then it’s better left alone on this occasion.

Finally, go with a lightly coloured, playful pocket square if you choose the smart and fitted t-shirt option. It’ll ensure casual doesn’t slip into slapdash and slack.

Choosing Your Accessories

There are a number of different accessories that make up a wedding outfit, be they, groom or guests. Below we outline those that are likely to catch the eye, and how to wear with panache.  

Boutonnières
For that delicate flourish to an outfit, many gents will opt for a boutonnière on more formal occasions.

A boutonnière is typically a floral decoration of a single flower or bud that is displayed upon the lapel of a tuxedo or suit jacket. White or red blooms are often used for morning suits and black tie, while for less formal occasions more colourful and exotic flowers allow for a little extra dash of excitement. Once a staple of gentlemanly attire, boutonnières are more often than not now reserved for special occasions for which formal wear is expected.

Wedding Boutonnières
Should you wear a Boutonnière at a wedding

Traditionally, a boutonnière is worn pushed through the lapel buttonhole and the stem held in place using a loop at the back of the lapel. However, more recently we often find the lapel is made without the reverse loop as required.

Generally, though it should still hold your light flower in place for the period of a single event and can always be pinned to the back although do be aware that continued pinning could eventually damage the cloth or silk facing.

Lapel Pins
Lapel pins, hugely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have seen a resurgence in recent years. They more often than not consist of precious metal and gemstones with rare examples from the likes of Cartier and Faberge being sold at auction for thousands of pounds. Despite having a much higher base value than a boutonnière, it is often a much more subtle addition, adding a single pearl or emerald in an 18ct gold mount to your lapel. We also see that lapel pins are being worn outside of formal occasions and can even adorn a jacket worn with open shirt and chinos. Additionally, lapel pins are often much easier to match to a pocket square if you choose to wear both to an event (which of course we recommend you do).

Wedding lapel pin

Pocket Squares
For a wedding, the most popular pocket squares tend to be silk, which have both an illustrious feel and make for bold colours or patterns in photos. A key element of choosing a pocket square is the size. We advocate a size of at least 40cm x 40cm, which ensures that there is enough bulk that the square sits firmly in the pocket all day. Anything smaller and you will likely spend the day fishing your pocket square out of the bottom of your pocket.  

Another aspect to consider is the ‘bleed’ of the pocket square. This is how well the colour, print or pattern bleeds through to the opposite side of the square. Not a trivial point when you want it to look fantastic when folded in your pocket for those close up wedding shots. We have taken great pains to ensure we have almost a perfect bleed with our pocket squares with this very point in mind. 

Wedding pocket square
Wedding squares

Finally, finish is key. A nice plump hand rolled edge is the only option for a silk or wool/silk pocket squares. Not only the hallmark of an exceptional product, but it gives extra weight to the corners to allow for different types of folds.

Ties
When choosing a tie one of the key things to consider is the texture. For morning coats, we would recommend a silk tie that reflects the sheen of the jacket, whereas for more casual textured jackets such as sports coats and blazers a more textured wool or wool/blend tie combines beautifully. 

For the blade itself, 8cm is a traditional width that will never be out of fashion. In the below images the most formal tie combination is on the left with a silk tie, through to a wool blend and sports coats on the right.

Casual Wedding Outfits
Tie for wedding
Wedding tie options

Groom Tie & Pocket Square Recommendations

With a more formal wedding setting, for the groom and wedding party we would recommend a classic combination of dark textured tie and white/lightly patterned pocket square. 

Here the groom has two options. He can either choose to have the same combinations of tie and pocket square for all the wedding party, or can have an offset, where the groomsmen have either a different pocket square or tie from the groom. If you are wondering, in our experience, the most popular combination is to have matching pocket squares for the full wedding party, with the groom having a different coloured tie, but there are no set rules around this. 

Below are two of our most popular pocket squares and ties for weddings. The Selby's Flycatcher below has a section of white fabric where wedding details can be embroidered, while The Battle of Trafalgar is also a popular choice.

For the ties, the most popular is the classic navy textured tie, with the warmer glen check also popular during the warmer months. Both ties are from our Scabal range and entirely handmade in England.

Formal Wedding

Casual Wedding
For the more casual wedding, we would suggest going for a square with a bit more colour. Below are two of our favourites for the groom looking to add a pop of colour. The two squares below have the added lustre of being painted by two masters, firstly Canaletto with, Venice: The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day, and Rubens with The Medici Cycle: The Triumph of Juliers.

Bespoke Pocket Squares

For the truly unique offering on the wedding day, a bespoke pocket square is a one-of-a-kind product that can be an extra special touch on the big day. Bespoke squares can be created from paintings or photographs and start from £145.

For bespoke enquiries please contact us on bespoke@rampleyandco.com.

Bespoke pocket square wedding

Groom Accessories

To see our full range of pocket squares please click on the following link: Pocket Square Store

Our handmade ties can be found here: Handmade Ties.