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What to Wear to a Wedding: Black-Tie, Black-Tie Optional, Cocktail

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May 10, 2023 6:38:01 AM PDT May 10, 2023 6:38:01 AM PDTth, May 10, 2023 6:38:01 AM PDT

What to Wear to a Wedding: Black-Tie, Black-Tie Optional, Cocktail

Dressing up is one of the most fun parts of being a wedding guest. Yet, it’s also one of the most stressful. There are so many ways you can get the dress code wrong if you’re not familiar with what the different terms mean. Some of these are pretty straightforward, but others, not so much.

If you’ve received an invitation that says “Black-Tie Optional” or “Cocktail” and are wondering what do men wear to weddings like this, we’re here to help. In this blog, we’re talking about what men should wear to a wedding with a dress code so you can dress your best for the occasion. Let’s dive in!

Black-Tie Wedding Attire

Black-Tie is the most formal type of dress code after White-Tie. When you receive a wedding invitation that says Black-Tie it means it’s an evening event and you’re expected to dress up in formals—a black tuxedo to be specific. Here’s a breakdown of what men wear to a wedding that’s Black-Tie:

The Essentials

For Black-Tie events, a well-fitted black tuxedo is a must. We recommend going for a tuxedo with a diamond weave or any other subtle weave for a classy look. The jacket should be single-breasted with satin buttons and lapels. Vents are optional but having none will make you look slimmer. The trousers should have a satin stripe matching the one on your lapel and buttons down the outer sides. A high waist with the pant legs falling just above your shoes is the most desirable fit. The tuxedo shirt has to be spotless white with double cuffs, a pique bib front, and a turndown collar.

The Accessories

Accessories make the outfit, and these are what men should wear to a wedding that’s Black-Tie. For Black-Tie events, black bow ties made of silk are the norm. What do men wear to weddings if they don’t know how to tie a bow tie? Clip-ons are a big no but one with a pre-tied knot is okay. For footwear, we recommend wearing well-polished patent leather derby shoes with black socks. As for cufflinks, a simple yet classy pair that wouldn’t stand out much is best. The same goes for the watch as well. It should be understated and have a black leather strap. Remember who the star of the evening is!

Optional Accessories: If you want to add an extra layer of elegance, you can wear a black cummerbund or waistcoat and a pocket tie in a white or a muted pastel color.

Black-Tie Optional Wedding Attire

The Black-Tie Optional dress code is a slightly less strict version of the standard Black-Tie but just as formal. What do men wear to weddings like this? If you’ve been invited to a Black-Tie Optional wedding, you’re expected to wear a tuxedo if you have one or otherwise wear a dark suit. Here’s how to put together the look:

The Essentials

Even though a black tuxedo is optional in this dress code, if you have one, it’s recommended that you wear it in accordance with all the guidelines of Black Tie. If you don’t have a tuxedo, a suit in either black, charcoal grey, or deep navy is what men should wear to a wedding that’s Black-Tie Optional. Either single-breasted or double-breasted is acceptable. What shirt do men wear to weddings if they’re wearing a suit? Ideally a dress shirt in white with either double cuffs or barrel cuffs. Take note that tuxedo shirts should not be worn with a suit. 

The Accessories

If you’ll be wearing a tuxedo, then you’ll have to wear a bow tie. If you’ll be wearing a suit, a necktie is the only sensible choice. It should be dark in color with no pattern or very subtle pattern. For the shoes, black leather oxfords are the most appropriate but you can get away with black derbies as well. Socks that match the color of the trousers or necktie are ideally what men wear to weddings.

The pocket square should either be white or match the shirt. If you’re wearing a dress shirt with double cuffs, wear a simple pair of cufflinks. You can also add some understated accessories like tie bars, rings, and collar clips to add subtle distinction to your look. The general rule is to not go overboard with colors and patterns just because it’s a Black-Tie “optional”. 

Cocktail Wedding Attire

Cocktail is the least formal among all the dress codes we’ve shared till now and has a close similarity to business attire. But the broad range of events this dress code can be applied to have many wondering what do men wear to weddings with this code. The good news is that it’s still an opportunity to dress up and bring your A-game. Here’s what men should wear to a wedding that calls for cocktail attire:

The Essentials

Tuxedos are completely out for cocktail events. They’re too formal. A suit is the only choice you have here but you do have more freedom to experiment with the colors and patterns. If it’s a nighttime event or cold weather, it’s best to stick to darker colors. What do men wear to weddings if it’s daytime or warm weather? Then you can choose lighter colors like washed blue, tan, oatmeal, and light grey. A light gray suit with a heathered pattern is also a fine choice.

You can experiment by pairing blazers with trousers in a different color but it’s best to use complementary colors and avoid going overboard. It is still a wedding, after all. For the shirt, white is still the best choice but soft pastels will work too if your suit is very simple. You can also go for muted weaves and patterns to add depth to the outfit.

The Accessories

What accessories do men wear to weddings that require cocktail attire? If the suit and shirt are subdued, the necktie and pocket square is your opportunity to add a nice mix of color and pattern to your outfit. Just make sure that neither of them is too eye-catching or clashes with each other. Oxford shoes in black, dark brown, or dark oxblood are what men should wear to a wedding with a cocktail dress code but lighter colors are safe if it’s a daytime event. Derbies and loafers may also work in the daytime depending on how casual the wedding is. Wear socks that match the trousers. If you add a belt or a watch, coordinate the color of the leather and metal with any other accessories you might be wearing.

Finalize Your Wedding Look

A wedding is a momentous occasion for the hosts, so as a guest, you should respect their wishes and dress up accordingly. If you’re not sure what men wear to weddings with a peculiar dress code, always do your research. Even though you’re unlikely to be kicked out, you still don’t want to be the guy showing up in a light blue suit to a Black-Tie wedding.

Now that you know what Black-Tie, Black-Tie Optional, and cocktail dress codes entail, head over to Alton Lane to have your tuxedo or suit custom-made. It takes only two minutes to enter your measurements and choose your customizations. And it only takes two weeks to receive your custom-made order. If you need any help, feel free to contact us!