Ah, weddings. The landmark of one family’s year is simultaneously a non-event for most people invited. They come and go with little differentiation, and a couples’ ‘perfect day’ becomes another hangover with a full evening of embarrassing dance moves and uncouth behaviour in front of many judgemental relatives (or is that just me?)
Let’s face it, weddings are just another excuse to get drunk and celebrate – everybody wants the ceremony to be as short as legally possible to ensure maximum free food and bar time. We don’t care about the little poems you’ve included in the vows, and we certainly don’t care for clueless mumbling through your ‘favourite hymns’. Unfortunately, however, despite the promise of debauchery after the usual rigmarole, the downsides outweigh the perks. Being in your early twenties, you’re still skint, and older male cousins/uncles/family friends no longer endeavour to pay for your entire evening. You’re no longer sixteen, and there are other up-and-comers in the family that end up getting absolutely hammered after being targeted by said relatives. You pay your own way now – student or not.
Whilst fiscal woes may compromise your spending, they certainly don’t have to compromise your style. Once again, we’ve selected several looks on a shoestring budget that are bound to impress – you don’t need hundreds of pounds to look good. It’s all about careful selection, experimenting with outfits and searching for those bargains. Whilst wearing the first thing you pick out of the wardrobe may seem a lot more convenient, nobody wants to see denim in a church, and a complete lack of attendance on your part only insults the extended family. Weddings may seem a great effort in both hassle and outfit – but that’s no excuse not to give it your best style shot.
The most relevant situation to me personally is our first stop. My sister’s own wedding in India next month has provided a free trip to sunshine central, but has also faced me with a distinct style conundrum. Getting betrothed in a warmer, more reliable climate may seem like a good idea: but what do you wear? The suit is simply out of the question, as is typical holiday wear. Nobody wants to resemble a roast ham in a super smart, super layered ensemble – but on the other hand, you don’t want me to be remembered as “that idiot wearing shorts and a t-shirt” when old photographs are dug out. Where does that leave us, then? With my next loan instalment not until mid-April and British Gas barking at the heels, it’s time to search the internet far and wide for a look that is both classic and appropriate.
My tip is to keep it simple. Forget all notions of a tie and blazer, because we’re going for a style that boasts comfort, versatility and finesse in soaring temperatures. Start with a classic white long-sleeved shirt – I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: this is a compulsory wardrobe staple that all guys should own. ASOS are offering a Ben Sherman Shoreditch Collared number for £41 in the sale: an excellent price from a well-respected high street brand. For a cheaper alternative, Topman currently features a wide selection of white shirts that cater to every style and taste, ranging from £20-£34.
I would recommend rolling sleeves up to elbow or bicep height, ensuring you keep cool but maximise on an understated subtlety. Experiment with other tones, such as the pastel Oxford shirts on sale from New Look at £14.99, but as a rule keep colours light and fabrics plain – any garishness or pattern will compromise a sense of chic timelessness.
Avoid shorts, which are far too casual for this sort of occasion, and opt for light but well-fitted tailored trousers. Luxury brand Reiss are still pushing some sale items that would be ideal for this outfit, the greatest offer being cotton dogtooth trousers at a mere £25. An unlikely candidate in the form of M&S also present a great summertime trouser in khaki and tobacco, on-sale at a thrifty £15. The removal of socks is totally dependant upon footwear (I’m a keen advocate of bare feet even in the most modest of temperatures) but remember how hot that Indian/Spanish/French weather is going to be, and remember that smelly sweaty feet are not desirable on anybody’s big day. If, like me, you prefer to go chiropodically commando, fold the hems of your trousers once or twice and embrace the ankle-grazer.
Finding that perfect pair of shoes is the costliest part of this style. Flip flops, as you should already know, are completely out of the question if you want to maintain some level of style. Brogues are far too cumbersome for a warmer climate and anything chunkier would result in many funny looks from guests and residents alike. Of course, there are many alternatives; sandals were championed in recent S/S shows from Hermés, but gladiator soles are a very difficult look to pull off.
Instead, why not opt for the humble boat shoe or summer loafer, the latter of which has seen a revival in the shape of Prada and Alexander McQueen. Topman have placed a rather steep £55 on a pair of delectable brown loafers, but for genuine leather and elegant tassel detailing, they’re worth every penny. A cheaper and welcomed alternative comes from discount juggernaut ShoeZone at £19.99 – and credit where credit is due, their latest deck shoes are bang on-trend with thick sole and mismatched leathers. Shop about for that perfect shoe, because chances are, they’ll be the most expensive component of your holiday outfit.
The finishing touches are what propels this style into the realms of style perfection, and the little details really do make a world of difference. Invest in a quality leather belt to accentuate the trouser, with the current sales holding the key to value – for example, Urban Outfitters are offering a tan leather plaited version for just £15. Indeed, cheaper articles are just as effective in delivering a finishing touch. Tesco’s Florence and Fred present a versatile and deceptively smart black belt at £10, which would be far better paired with more burgundy-hued trousers.
Complete look with any decent pocket-square if you wish, with many great examples lying in the bargain bins and shelves of most vintage stores. With these final pieces, you’re well on your way to looking every inch the understated holiday gent – classic smartness without trying too hard.
It was extremely hard to find example looks featuring just a white shirt, but the outfits below set out the correct approach – short sleeve shirt (or long sleeves rolled up), some slim smart trousers and lightweight, chic footwear:
Ah, your normal bog-standard wedding where everything is just perfect. Country manor setting? Check. Tearful bride? Check. A best man’s speech that is a little cheeky but mostly wholesome? Check. It’s that idyllic day that will be forever remembered as a top wedding (and a little less clearly on the reception front) but don’t let the simplicity fool you. If you’re not a groomsman or a page boy (I would be slightly worried if anybody over the age of nine was performing this role), deciding upon outfit and level of formality is still a tricky balancing act. Mastering the ideal guest outfit is difficult on a budget, but a few wise decisions will make sure you look ever the dapper gentleman on all those well-orchestrated family photos. Just make sure your grandmother’s hat doesn’t block out your get-up.
A well-measured suit and shoes are obviously the first pit stops of any male wedding guest, but ensure to follow basic fashion guidelines. Avoid black and white like the plague – this isn’t prom, it’s somebody’s wedding, which in turn explains the necessity to ditch anything remotely looking like a tuxedo. I would also advise caution on pinstripes. They’re a little business-like and undoubtedly add a sense of mature responsibility – but not in a good way. Suits always make us look that little more refined, but you don’t want to look 36 when you’re actually 22. Keep it fresh, and keep it age appropriate. If overt dandy style is your thing, I would strongly advise you tone it down at such an event as well. There’s nothing more embarrassing than looking like one of the groomsmen without actually being one: you haven’t been invited to join them, deal with it, and don a differing style without muscling in on the main wedding party.
Finding cheap suits that are both stylish and complimentary is somewhat of a rarity, but there are ways to invest without completely breaking the bank. Of course, it would be great to walk into Harrods and get the latest Tom Ford delight fitted, but such things remain a pipedream in the immediate future. Topman offer affordable options that are made to match most body types, ranging around the £100-£150 mark. River Island also present their own take on the budget suit, with separate pieces between £35-£40 for trousers and £60-£90 blazers. Remember, ready-made suits can always be adjusted at your local tailor or dry cleaner for a fee – and well-fitted suits and loose, oversized sacks are worlds apart.
Shirt selection should mirror the same desire for a good fit – but luckily they’ll be far cheaper than high street suit pieces. Burton’s tailored shirt selections offer a light blue Oxford at a mere £18, with variations in salmon, grey and burgundy at a reduced price of £20. Not only will such bargains be great for that wedding outfit, but they are also versatile pieces that will stay in your wardrobe for a long time. What more is there to think about?
Fortunately, there’s a lot more choice with footwear when debating what ends up on your hooves. Abysmal British weather means there are plenty of rigid, boxy shoes on the market right now, and they should be polished and preened to perfection. The staple brown brogue goes well with all outfits (minus black, but we’ve discussed that already) and a cost-effective choice are the £19.99 Street 101 brogues from Amazon. Those who know me are well aware of my constant advocacy of the boot, and a dark brown or tan pair will compliment most slim-fit suits. Next offer weather-tolerant steals for £24, coming in a various range of colours – just avoid neon-coloured ‘novelty’ laces. ‘Nu Rave’ is never coming back, especially at a wedding.
Accessories are also a must, and you can mix-and-match to your hearts content. Tie and pocket square? No tie and a pocket square? Just a tie? Or none of the above? You have complete free will – but don’t over-accessorise. Bring in your cufflinks or hit the trend mark with a silver or gold collar pin (I’d recommend finding these on eBay though, since such a tiny piece can reach stratospheric prices in the retail market). Think classic, and you’re bound to look your best.
Avoid novelty cufflinks in the shape of dice, dollar signs and even iPhones. Yes, they do exist, and yes, they are embarrassing.
Okay, so you’re not all that important to the couple in question, but starving you of an invite to the reception would just be plain rude. At least this way, you get to escape the monotony of an over-long and over-sentimental ceremony and get to the part everyone enjoys the most: the party. You may think average smart ‘going out wear’ is acceptable for this sort of occasion. Well, think again. This is a reception party, not a nightclub, and a little extra care and attention to detail is necessary in conveying an appropriate look. Think dinner party, as opposed to nightclub – regardless of what your evening is going to contain. There’s a fine line between foolishly cutting shapes on a dancefloor, and looking like you’re going to be cutting shapes (and grinding on the nearest life form) on a dancefloor.
T-shirts are a big no-no. No matter how up-market or elegant you deem a certain piece to be, nothing can replace the smartness of a good shirt. Slogan t-shirts are the next level of self-deprecation (‘If found, please return to pub’ – such an error) and maybe it’s time to stop pairing that plain white tee with a blazer. It’s not 2001, and you’re not in Tiger Tiger. In addition, I now consider deep V-necks to be an offensive weapon of apparel, thanks to the vacuous tango’d boneheads of The Only Way Is Essex. So, with all of that in mind, I sincerely hope a quality shirt is at the forefront of your style choices – there’s no place for anything sub-par. ASOS offer a range of plain, contemporary and statement choices for £20-30 that will provide the focal point for a variety of different looks. Stick to the smarter side of casual and you’ll match the tone of the reception without the formality of suits and the like.
The beauty of the more casual side of a wedding is your ability to have a lot more freedom with outfit choice. Tailored trousers can be dressed down with particular footwear and plain shirts, but well-fitted jeans and chinos are also welcome here. It all depends on your individual style, really. New Look present a variety of choices, ranging from £19.99 all the way up to £60 – and every fit is covered. Black skinny jeans can always be formalised with blazers and Chelsea Boots, whilst plain, straight leg jeans have always been a wardrobe necessity. I’ve never condoned ‘trend feature’ jeans – twisted hems, carrot fit and cuffed ankles are all very fleeting and should never be included in the smart casual zone.
Go for the brogue if you desire a more dapper finishing touch, but desert boots, Doc Martens, Vans and most other forms of footwear are acceptable, so opt for whatever makes you feel comfortable. Take a browse over our best finds below in finding that ideal outfit – smart casual needn’t be a stress.
Whatever wedding you’ve been invited to, and at whatever stage you’re joining it, you don’t need to fork out designer prices to construct a relevant and stylish look. Whether it’s the celebration of the century or a snooze fest for the back catalogue, you’ll be sure to catch all the compliments from adoring aunts and lovestruck bridesmaids with these tips in mind – hopefully, with some rather impressive threads on your back.
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