Dress Code Decoded

Black Tie? White Tie? Morning Coat? Dinner Jacket? What does it all mean?

You’ve just received a wedding invitation, you see the words ‘formal wear’, and the uncertainty sets in. Are you supposed to wear a dinner suit? Morning dress? White tie? Black tie? What’s the difference between black tie and white tie? Will you be under dressed if you wear a lounge suit? Will you be over dressed if you wear a suit at all?

There’s no reason to panic. Of course you want to look your best for any formal occasion, and yes, formal wear can seem complicated at first. But don’t worry: we’re here to help.

Allow us to run through the basics of formal wear.

First thing’s first: look at the invitation. Generally, invitations will suggest a dress code. Unless the wedding is in an exotic location, most weddings will have one of the following;

White Tie: Full Evening Dress
The most formal of dress codes.

Consisting of a black tailcoat, white wing-tip stiff collar shirt, waistcoat, a detachable white collar and a Marcella white bow tie. Marcella waistcoats - which have a fixed yoke and are backless, with just a band to tie back - will finish off this look.

Anything else I need to know?

White tie events will generally make it quite clear what is expected on the invitation. If you’re going to wear white tie, this is not the place for personalisation and dramatic style. Stick with a traditional monochrome: no colourful bowties or black shirts. Make sure the waistcoat is not too long. Accessorise with white gloves, a black top hat, simple cufflinks, and, if so inclined, a dress walking cane.

Julie-Michaelsen-Photography-Sean-Keyes-Wedding-Black-Tie Yardsmen Morning Suit. ©Julie Michaelsen Photography

Morning Dress – a staple for traditional day-time British weddings.
Less formal than white tie, but still quite formal.

Morning dress consists of  a morning coat, a waistcoat (single or double breasted are both acceptable), striped or hounds-tooth trousers, turndown collar shirt and black shoes, most commonly a black oxford.

Anything else I need to know?

Simple cufflinks and a white pocket square are the standard for a more traditional look. Some weddings also have a colour scheme, encouraging guests to dress within those parameters. If this is this case, accessorise with a coloured or patterned tie and pocket square in the colours stipulated on the invitation. Never wear a belt with a morning suit: braces are a good option (just avoid showing them). Many traditional weddings also have top hats for the groom and his party.

black-tie-yardsmen-dinner-suit-tuxedo-hirewear Yardsmen Dinner Suit/Tuxedo

Black Tie: Dinner Suit— suitable for afternoon and evening events.
Less formal than white tie, but still formal.

Increasing in recent popularity, this look comprises a dinner jacket (or, as our American friends call them, ‘tuxedos’) with either peaked lapels or a shawl collar, black trousers, a white dress shirt, and black shoes. A black bow tie is traditional but, as with the morning suit, there is room to play with coloured and patterned bow ties and pocket squares if the occasion calls for it.

If you’re going to wear a waistcoat, make sure it is an evening waistcoat (low cut to show more of the shirt, typically known as a dresswear waistcoat or a horseshoe). Cummerbunds, generally black in colour, are a popular option instead of a waistcoat.

Anything else I should know?

Cufflinks, braces and pocket squares are great for adding a personal touch. A boutonniere is also an option – but never use a fake flower – fresh carnations and roses are traditional. If you want to mix things up a bit, a well-fitted velvet dinner jacket or smoking jacket (with black trousers) are stylish without being flashy.

IT1B0073 low res Yardsmen Lounge Suit

Lounge Suit – Less formal than black tie.
If the wedding invitation does not say ‘white tie’ or ‘black tie’, generally lounge suits are acceptable.

The key here is not to dress below business standard. Generally, a well-tailored single or double breasted suit, a crisp clean shirt, a tie and some decent, new or well maintained shoes are acceptable.

Anything else I should know?

If you’re wearing a lounge suit, single or double breasted, you can add to the look with a well fitting waistcoat. Accessorise with cufflinks and  a pocket square for a personalised look.

Remember: when in doubt, ask the bride, groom or wedding organiser if there are specific expectations to avoid embarrassment.

Still not sure what to wear? Find out more about our services by contacting us or booking an appointment.

Read more on the blog:
Groom's Attire
Wedding Guest Attire
Yardsmen Dinner Suit