Town & Country magazine has its Weddings issue this month, and wedding planners rejoice for the start of the season. That means it is timely to discuss the question of what should be worn to these events, particularly in the United States where our heterogenous mix of cultures has left us at the mercy of those same wedding planners due to our lack of a common tradition.
Fortunately for the length of this essay, today we address only the clothing of the male guests at a wedding and not the much more complex choices that face the bride about the wedding party itself. And the choices are complex, for there are essentially three styles of weddings held at two times of day, and the wedding party should wear different clothing for each of them. But, as I wrote, we will only concern ourselves here with the dress of the male guests.
Ignoring time of day, for the dress of the guests does not generally need to change with the time, the three styles of weddings form a pyramid. The broad base at the bottom is the informal event where the bride wears something less traditional than a wedding dress. These are the most difficult events to characterize and one can only recommend a telephone call to the bride or her mother to determine what she will be wearing. For it could be awkward to appear in a necktie when the bride will be in denim, and here in California if not all across the continent one should never assume any level of formality greater than is offered by the products of Levi Strauss & Co.
That said, the top of the wedding pyramid is a formal wedding like that in the illustration, a level of formality that most men never encounter in their lifetimes. The bride wears a long dress, the groom and his party wear formal or semi-formal clothing, and the guests wear lounge suits if there are no strollers already hanging in their closets. Eschew dinner clothes unless the event begins after 6PM.
Navy blue solid suitings are best for events that will continue into the evening, with black shoes, a silver wedding tie, and the three whites, as I like to think of them. Those being the white shirt collar, a white linen handkerchief in the jacket pocket and a white gardenia or carnation as a buttonhole. The last is important as it is the principal remaining item worn by the guests that differentiates the wedding day from an ordinary one.
Between the formality of the long dress and the informality of anything goes is the short white wedding dress event. And here the guests can confidently wear those same navy blue suits, perhaps with a less formal necktie and, during the day, a colored dress shirt. The white pocket square and white buttonhole remain the same.
Whatever the type of wedding, it is important to remember that we are guests of the bride's parents, and it is the bride's day. A suit honors both the occasion and the hosts as we wish the bride and groom a long and happy life together. And by thinking of these things in the depths of winter, we have time to acquire the proper clothing.