Everything you need to know about how to dress with style and confidence for weddings in 2020, whether you are a wedding guest or the groom.
With festive engagements all around us and the disappearance of the traditional ‘wedding season’, what better way to start the new year than to explore wedding fashion for 2020. Whether you are the groom, in the grooms party, or a guest, The Henley House has a huge selection of options available to you - from the traditional to the not-so-traditional!
For men, dressing for a wedding has never had so many options as it does these days and with the constant evolution of the suit, as well as a move away from rigid cookie-cutter wedding traditions, the opportunities to have fun with wedding attire are growing! There is an incredible array of options in both traditional tailoring and contemporary takes on wedding attire that open up numerous possibilities. This can at times seem overwhelming! The Father and Son team of Adrian and Tom Cross at The Henley House have been dressing grooms, groomsmen, fathers of the bride and groom, and wedding guests for over 35 years and have picked up some ideas along the way so with that in mind and our finger on the pulse that is 2020 wedding suit trends, let us show you some of the ways you can put your own stamp on your wedding outfit for 2020 weddings!
As a groom, the pressure to find THE perfect suit can feel overwhelming, especially if your wedding will be featuring a wedding dress which - lets face it - will take center stage! If your partner will be wearing a wedding dress, chances are you’ll have no idea what this dress will look like, so it would be worth employing the opinion of your other half when looking at suit styles. If the bride is going for an extremely formal style with heavy embellishments and a whole lot of drama you may not want to be looking at open collar informal suit options - for example. The same goes for if your partner will be wearing a suit...if you are choosing suits together this may be less of an issue as you can choose complimenting styles but if you are choosing to keep the look secret until the big day then a conversation about the tone of the outfit should be had early on.
That being said, we are very pro a ‘it’s our day we will wear what makes us feel amazing’ vibe so don't feel like you have to dress to a theme. Getting married in a barn? Doesn't mean you can't wear a formal tux! Getting married in a stately home? Doesn't mean you can't wear mismatched tailoring and skip the tie. They key here is simple, as long as you and your partner are somewhat in sync (only to the extent that its obvious you are at the correct wedding and haven't gone to the wrong address!) and feel like the best version of yourself for the day, then you can't go too far wrong!
To seemingly contradict myself, to give inspiration about wedding attire we will break this down into dress codes...this is absolutely not to stay that dress codes must be adhered to and that you can only dress within the dress code of the wedding - if you are the groom. If you are a groomsman or play another role in the wedding (unless you're the vicar in which case you probably have your outfit picked already!) you will take your lead from the Groom and if you are a guest and there is a set dress code you should be mindful of this but that doesn’t mean you options are limited by any means … keep reading to find out how.
Men’s Wedding Attire by Dress Code
It used to be the case that a dress code was a required element of any wedding invitation and although this is no longer strictly the case, most couples find themselves inundated with questions if they don't give some sort of instruction as to how to dress for the big day. Something which has been somewhat of a trend in the last decade is the rise of quirky dress codes - a little bit of fun and adding some personality to the event but often leading to some confusion, dress codes such a picnic chic, festival fancy and country cocktail leave much to interpretation.
We will go through some of the more common dress codes, dispelling the myth around what they mean and giving some traditional and contemporary approaches to dressing in this style.
White Tie Wedding: Styling for Men
What does it mean?
Well, lets just say you are much more upstairs Downton Abbey than Peaky Blinder with this dress code! White tie is the pinnacle of social events and the most formal dress code you will come across - kind of a big deal! Chances are, a white tie dress code would represent a wedding of high society...expect guests to be titled and very much dressed to impress!
It would be quite untoward to be expected to wear white tie before dusk as this is an evening look so it’s possible that you will be looking at two outfits. There are elements of white tie that absolutely must not be deviated from, but embrace the sheer Britishness of it and revel in the parade. As the name would suggest, White tie must include a white bow tie ideally hand tied but you might get away with a pre-tied one if it is of very high quality (although chances are someone will pass comment!). The jacket with white tie is also very important, it must be an evening tailcoat which differs to a morning tailcoat in the cut which sits higher and runs back towards the body in a harder line than a morning tailcoat. Under the jacket, a Marcella waistcoat should be worn which is a low cut white waistcoat set to show off your dress shirt! The jacket should be worn unbuttoned and always have peaked lapels. It should be said that handlebar mustaches are not compulsory with this look!
Trousers should be high-waisted and have two lines of braid on the outer seam and be tailored not baggy - elegance is the aim! Shirts are simply a stiff white evening shirt with single folded cuffs and a wing collar. Cufflinks should be worn but think studs in a classic mother of pearl not your Man United Class of ‘92 commemorative cufflinks - unless you are David Beckham (if so...thanks for stopping by David!).
Footwear wise, unless you have an opera slipper laying around the best bet is a simple patent black leather shoe, it should be plain and not capped and socks should be black dress socks and absolutely not your comedy Christmas sprout socks.
Accessories can really bring this look to the levels of 19th century aristocracy, top hats are technically optional but if you’re going through the trouble of arranging a white tie outfit why not? When else do you get to wear a top hat - unless you are dressage rider Carl Hester of course (Hi Carl...congrats on the PB). White gloves are also acceptable but refrain from Mickey Mouse impressions or challenging everyone to a duel with the flick of a glove! Most bizarrely, dress canes are optional but unless you're throwing out Lloyd and Harry at the gala vibes, perhaps leave that one at home.
As a twist on white tie, you may be more drawn toward a morning suit as a daytime version of this look with all the elegance and sophistication of full evening tails.
It would be relatively rare to have a white tie dress code at your wedding or be invited to a white tie wedding unless you are high society, titled gentry or royal, but should the occasion arise you now have the full arsenal to make an impression!
Black Tie Wedding: Styling for Men
What does it mean?
After white tie, the formality of black tie will seem less daunting! Black tie remains relatively popular as a wedding dress code in the UK particularly for those wanting an event oozing with sophistication. Black tie often raises questions like, do I need a cummerbund? Will people know if i get a bow tie on elastic? What kind of socks should I wear? What even is a cummerbund? Well, fear not...
If you're a black tie groom or you're attending a black tie wedding, the rules of engagement are much the same. Essentially you will need a black tuxedo, white tuxedo shirt and black bow tie. Simple.
Colour is generally a no-go but taking inspiration from the red carpet, some black tie Grooms are choosing an inversion for their jacket and choosing a white tuxedo jacket to stand out from the crowd.
Speaking of dinner jackets, it's really the silk-lapelled jacket which maketh the outfit when it comes to black tie. There are three main types of lapel for tuxedo jacket; the notch lapel, the peak lapel and the shawl lapel. The V increasingly deepening through the list, ending with the shawl lapel which is the most commonly found cut and many would argue the quintessential ‘tuxedo look’. For a modern twist, why not opt for a velvet jacket?! Velvet is having a real moment in fashion and in sartorial fashion is a chic option, both as a full jacket or as a fine detail through bow ties or trim.
Just to confuse matters, traditionally Black tie is not even black! Mind blown! Edward VII in around 1885 was fed up of white tie formality and so had the masters at Savile row swap his tailcoat for a blue silk smoking jacket with matching trousers which became popular and the look caught on! The style merged to involve midnight blue because it was said to appear darker than black in artificial lighting. So long as you opt for a smart tuxedo which is well fitted and well pressed you are unlikely to offend. If you are the groom looking to stand out why not choose a creamy white or ivory jacket or go for deep jewel tones of red, green or purple and feel extra special on the big day, modern expressions of the tuxedo can be really fun with paisley pattern featuring heavily in recent styles. Knowing the rules of Black tie position you well to wear black tie like a badass and break the rules! Take inspiration as a guest from the red carpet with stars such as Donald Glover, Timothée Chalamet and Stephan James leading the way with alternative black tie.
At the Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1 May. Photograph by Mr Sean Zanni/Mr Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.
Accessories wise, ties are a no-go, bow ties are very much accepted and in traditional terms, necessary for a black tie look. There are ways to personalise and make this a modern look through accessorizing and opting for a fold down collar tuxedo shirt or even - stick with me here - no shirt at all. Now i'm not saying bare chested, but for a fashion forward autumn/winter black tie wedding, a turtleneck a la Caleb McLaughlin can be styled in well and look appropriately formal whilst adding a touch of flare.
Subtle personal touches are the key here as a wedding guest - if you are the groom the rules don't apply...if you want to wear a canary yellow tuxedo on your wedding day and your betrothed is good with that, then you go ahead and rock that look! As a guest you should aim not to outshine the wedding party but accessorizing well can take you from penguin to panther! Add a beautiful pocket square, suspenders and stud cufflinks to make this look your own and feel like a movie star for the day. Shoes should be so shiny you can see your reflection in them but need not be ribboned or bowed like white tie demands. Colourwise, black is a safe option if you are going down the traditional route but essentially (and ultimately this is the rule with all colour options in black tie) if it works it works! Black tie is about striking elegance and sophistication so colour pops and purposeful clashes are better suited to less formal dress codes but that's not to say you can't have fun with this look!
Wait ...what about the cummerbund!!!! Well essentially this is optional and quite traditional but is a wide belt usually in silk, often pleated, which hides the waistband and elongates the legs drawing attention to the lapel silhouette. Totally not required but can look really smart if done right. Generally id say you could consider a cummerbund if you're skipping the waist coat but It’s down to personal preference.
Black Tie Optional Wedding: Styling for Men
What does it mean?
This is one of the most common dress codes you will see, it is trying to remain formal but is mindful that not everyone has a tuxedo in their wardrobe or the desire to purchase one that may never be worn again. Even if you do choose to wear a tuxedo, you can dress it down more in the same way as we talked about breaking the rules for black tie you can go a step further with this dress code. With this dress code you could opt for a less formal shirt, select a tie over bow tie or go for a coloured tuxedo with ease.
Where it was suggested above as ‘only for the brave’ under this code it would be acceptable to play with the tuxedo look much more. As a groom, Black tie optional is a great way for you to go all out with a traditional and chic tuxedo look without worrying about your guests feeling the pressure to match your levels of suaveness. Equally it means people are likely to take the slightly less formal route and allow you to stand out in all your shiny, elegant glory!
As a guest, if you are choosing not to go with a tuxedo with this look I would advise keeping to the formal side of suits with three piece suits being ideal.
You want to still aim for the more formal look and accessorize with pocket square and cufflinks, sticking to darker colour tones and limited pattern. Aim for traditional suit cloth or a velvet dinner jacket but perhaps leave the tweed for another event and definitely avoid linen or loose fitting suits - even in the summer.
Get too loose with this look and you will find yourself falling more into the Cocktail or Semi-formal category.
Cocktail or Semi-Formal Wedding: Styling for Men
What does it mean?
Technically cocktail and semi-formal are separate dress codes with semi-formal being the slightly elevated code but its is our opinion that this is the point where tuxedos are generally left behind and there is so much overlap we may as well discuss them together.
Think of this dress code as ‘would it be acceptable at a business place’ but make it fashion. Cocktail attire was conceived of in the 1920’s with the aim to add a touch of fun and personality whilst maintaining a sense of decorum and celebration which is why it is one of the most popular wedding dress code choices (although it is often expressed in quirky ways - country cocktail, rustic semi-formal, ‘dress to impress’). Weddings which are cocktail attire or semi-formal should be approached with a blend of formality and modern dressing.
As a groom, member of the wedding party or guest, the suit should not be abandoned but is an opportunity to show some personality. Three piece suits reign supreme in this dress code although a more formal two-piece would be acceptable, especially in one of 2020’s leading trends - double breasted. For a subtle nod to this trend opt for a double breasted waistcoat or go all out with a double breasted jacket!
Colours shouldn't be too bold but more colours are more acceptable than in formal dress codes. Stick with monochromatic palettes in earthy tones like browns, reds, greens and even deep orange if you feel bold or go for a classic blue or grey. If you do lean towards blue and grey suits, consider going for shade which wouldn’t necessarily be a staple in the office - think royal, cobalt or indigo blues (you could go lighter for a summer wedding) or dove, silver (matte) or french greys.
If a solid colour is too vanilla for you, look for subtle patterns such as shark skin, herringbone or glen check for traditional vibes or jump aboard the 2020 trend bringing back the pinstripe!
As a Groom, this dress code gives you a lot of freedom to get creative, pattern and colour can really make you stand out from the crowd whilst maintaining a sophisticated feel about your look. You may consider the wedding colour scheme when choosing your wedding outfit and draw upon these for inspiration, perhaps a dusky blue for spring, striking cobalt blue for summer, a rich forest green for autumn or a regal deep burgundy for winter?
As with all mens attire, the shoes really ground your look - they say the first thing a woman notices is a man's shoes! A modern take on a classic Oxford or Brogue can pull a look together beautifully, a loafer works especially well in the summer or you can really stand out in a monkstrap shoe!
You can get creative with accessories here, choose an interesting pocket square (or go without) opt for a striking tie or even something a little more textured like a wool tie which can look stunning but make it personal. You could wear a tie clip if you wanted but its not necessary but could be a way to elevate a simpler suit and put your stamp on the look. The key with this dress code is to have fun but keep it smart.
Casual Wedding Attire: Styling for Men
What does it mean?
Oh ‘Casual’...you misleading minx! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that casual means you can get away with jeans and a T-shirt! Even if they are nice jeans, denim (unless very specifically asked for or the wedding is cowboy themed on a ranch) does not belong at a wedding. If you are planning your own wedding and considering a casual dress code it may be advisable to provide examples so your cousin doesn't show up in vintage Levis and a wrinkled polo.
As a guest at a ‘casual’ wedding, you should be thinking suit trousers, chinos, or a smart trouser paired with a suit jacket, blazer or sports jacket as a foundation for your look. There is nothing to say these items should match, if anything I would be inclined to lean toward a mismatched styling rather than a matched up suit if elements are more formal or choose informal elements with a matching jacket and trousers. Whatever you go for, your look should work together with any accessories and look neat, clean and well fitting.
Blazers and Sports jackets are great choices for a casual wedding as there is a great deal of variety available and they are not made with matching pieces. The aim is to go for relaxed but stylish - so ditch the neck tie! An open collar look can be really striking in a contrasting shirt colour to the jacket or a patterned shirt but as this is a casual dress code you could take it down another notch and opt for a crew neck t-shirt or polo. This is a great choice in the hazy summer months although you should ensure that the rest of your outfit is a little more formal to balance out the casual top should you take your jacket off.
As a groom, this is your opportunity to do anything you like with your wedding day look! If you want a really quirky, fashion forward look without feeling stuffy this could be a way to get that feeling of being special on your wedding day but not overdone if you are not generally into wearing suits. Chinos and loafers in the summer with a suit jacket and shirt is a classic approach to casual wedding attire that is sure to please the traditionalists whilst leave you feeling relaxed and comfortable on your wedding day. For a modern take on the chino choose a cropped length or style with a pin-roll….go on...show a bit of ankle!
As a wedding guest the most important thing to remember is that you are dressing for a wedding, so even if a casual dress code arrives and further probing still returns a ‘yeah just wear whatever makes you comfortable’ ensure that your choice is suited to the momentous occasion which is a wedding. Yes...even if you know the wedding is in a remote field or even a Korean McDonalds (it’s a thing - look it up!) it's still a wonderful occasion to celebrate the love between two people and also a chance to get a bit dressed up. Equally, if the dress code is casual, don't go too formal and run the risk of out dressing the wedding party. Floral for men is having a moment and is set to be on trend in 2020 so maybe go for a bold masculine floral pattern in a shirt or even a jacket!
I now pronounce you...well dressed!
There is a lot to think about when dressing for a wedding but what is really important is the occasion itself. If you are the groom, this is probably one of the main areas you have total say in, so go for a look that makes you feel the best version of you. Remember the photos last a lifetime so don’t phone it in!
The Henley House has extensive experience in wedding attire for both guests, grooms and the wedding party, so if you are planning a wedding or attending a wedding, a consultation with the team at The Henley House will have you confident that you will be dressed to impress no matter your style or dress code!