Aside from the question of who of sound mind would plan their big day in the darkest depths of winter, figuring out what to wear for a winter wedding is more often than not a complete pain in the backside.
Black tie? Red tie? Air tie? Go sans socks or wear bright white tennis socks? We’re joking, don’t you even entertain the thought of white socks. Counterintuitively, deciding which clothes to put on to celebrate the eternal (fingers crossed) union of two kindred souls is painful, passionless and devoid of warm feeling.
While we can’t advise on how stingy or spendthrifty you should be with your gift we can advise on how to nail your winter wedding getup, whether you’re a groom, part of the wedding party or one of those (quietly seething) people who has only been invited to the after-party. Starting with these three rules…
1. Read The Dress Code
It’s ironic that many couples spend hours agonising over the thickness and graphic design of their invitations but blithely ignore the ridiculous ambiguity of their designated dress code. So, it’s up to you (or rather us) to read between the lines.
If the invitation prescribes black tie, in plain English that’s a tuxedo, a white dress shirt, a black bow tie, black high-shine shoes and black socks. ‘Black tie optional’ is much the same, though you can go less formal with a plain black neck tie – don’t fall into the booby trap of going too casual here.
Semi formal is a trickier beast to master. In a nutshell those two words mean formal, but not top hat and tails formal. So, a full suit is a must: navy, grey, charcoal, mid-blue all acceptable here. With accessories, you’ve got a little more leeway but to err on the side of caution a tie is a good shout. Red, navy, charcoal are no brainers, while stripes and polka dots are the safest pattern choices. If you insist on going air tie tuck a pocket square into your blazer’s breast pocket to swerve hard day at the office vibes.
2. Pick Your Fabrics Wisely
Look, we know you’re not stupid, but we feel it imperative to state the obvious that you shouldn’t be wearing a cotton or linen suit in winter unless you’re well up for shivers in the pews.
Anything that feels hyper British is very much recommended: tweed, flannel, wool and, if you’re a baller, cashmere. Look for a heavy cloth weight (between 14oz and 19oz) to stay fully insulated. Don’t go half-lined either, not only will a full lining keep goosebumps at bay, it’ll also offer a better suit structure.
3. Consider The Location
For your winter wedding outfit’s overall vibe, location is key. If you’ve got a city wedding invite err on the smarter side of things: pinstripes, checks and a colour palette of black, navy and red for appropriate accessories. Suits for country winter weddings should draw from a palette of earthy colours (green, brown, rust) although textural fabrics such as tweed and wool also lend themselves to a deep charcoal.
What To Wear
If You’re The Groom
It’s the big day and you’re the #bigman, so you need to be the best dressed, period. You’re not on The X Factor and your photos stand to age badly, so ignore any advice about showing off your personality and err on the side of tradition. Opt for a two or three piece suit depending on the level of formality that you’re comfortable with. This should be black, navy or dark grey and not double-breasted or patterned. For the rest of your look think similarly simple. Choose black high shine Oxford shoes, a white shirt, and to add some ‘personality’ opt for a fine stripe or polka dot tie and a floral dress pin in a dark colour.
If You’re A Top Table Guest
So, you’ve negotiated your way on to the top table: unless the bride or groom is friendless, you’re golden in their eyes. Return their respect by not showing up in anything alarming: it’s not your time to shine. Wear black and you risk competing with the main man, choose navy instead to keep the formality dialled up and the attention-grabbing antics dialled down. A white shirt and black shoes will again do the trick, but a lighter tie and pocket square in a similar (not identical) hue will distinguish you from the groom while keeping you on the straight and narrow. Of course, the wedding party may have an outfit prescribed for them. If so, just do what you’re told.
If You’re A Daytime Guest
Daytime guests have the hardest job dressing for a wedding, even more so than the bride. No, really. You’ve got to go formal (though not too formal) but there are no solid restrictions on colours, fabrics or shapes. To make your life easier, a suit in navy, grey or taupe are the best winter-ready options and you can add some check, pinstripe or a double-breasted silhouette too. On footwear, brown shoes will work perfectly well with all of the above suits and are less formal than black Classic shirt and tie combinations are obviously a safe bet still, but for a more modern look try and grandad collar shirt and a pocket square to liven things up a little – but only if the wedding is on the casual end of the spectrum.
If You’re An Evening Guest
So, you didn’t make it to the main event, but take that not as a slight, but rather hours of small talk mercifully swerved. It goes without saying that you need to look like you’ve made an effort, but you don’t need to go in all guns blazing. You can wear pretty much any colour of darker suit (within reason) but you don’t need to be buttoned up to your collar. As above, a grandad collar shirt will do the trick, and you can even try a (subtle) patterned design, while a black or charcoal roll neck jumper will strike that perfect balance between relaxed and refined. PSA: no trainers and no jeans and yes, that includes black jeans.
By now, you should be almost completely swotted up on the ins and outs of winter wedding dressing, but don’t just think of the bigger picture, the devil really is in the detail.
The suit is pretty much the most important item of clothing you’ll need for a wedding, so you really, really need to get this right. “A single breasted peak lapel suit always has a little bit more of an ‘occasion’ feel to it; as does a 3-piece suit,” says Holger Auffenberg, head of design at British tailoring brand Chester Barrie. “A double-breasted suit can look good especially in winter, but be mindful that this should never be worn unbuttoned, so this will probably hold you back a bit once everyone else starts to relax.”
When choosing a shirt, your main concern should be the dreaded tie clash, and you can avoid this with a white shirt most often. “There are very few occasions where you could go wrong with a plain white shirt, and a festive event like a wedding is certainly not one of them,” says Auffenberg. Put simply, boring is best, but the quality needs to be on point too. “Try and avoid cheap poly or cotton poplin uniform types and opt for something with a bit of body and texture, like a royal Oxford or a basket weave. Pale blue or even pastel colours can work, too, but I would probably stay away from business like bold stripes and checks.”
Teaming the right shoes with the right suit is probably menswear’s most oft recurring nightmare. “Not really a wedding-specific piece of advice, but your shoes should always be appropriate for the suit you are wearing. The famous ‘no brown in town’ has been dead and buried for a while now, but I would stay on the more classic side with your footwear with traditional dress shoes,” says Hoffenberg. “Considering that you are expected to participate in the dancing later on I would recommend leather soles, no rubber and definitely no commando soles.” So, whether black or brown, Oxford and Derby shoes win out over monk straps, loafers and the like.
No, you can’t just chuck your parka jacket on for a wedding, you’ll spend more time than you think wearing outerwear at a winter wedding, so it needs to look sharper than sharp. “Any coat you are wearing should be longer than the suit underneath, otherwise you end up with a ‘harassed commuter’ look,” says Hoffenberg. “Keep in mind that the trousers will show under the coat, so make sure the coat does not clash with suit, but also stay away from a total match. Plain navy long coat over plain navy suit may sound like a good idea but will betray the fact that either a) you only own one suit and one coat or b) you have absolutely no imagination.”
Like pretty much any situation we can think of, at a winter wedding, with accessories, less is more. “If you think you are wearing too many accessories, you are,” says Hoffenberg. “If you are part of the wedding party, you may be given a corsage to wear, so make sure this does not clash with anything else you may be wearing. A subtle handkerchief can lend a fresh, more formal touch, and maybe a wedding is the perfect excuse to wear the cuff links you have inherited from your great great uncle.” Keep it simple folks, that’s all we ask. Beyond the tie and cuff links, restrict yourself to one of the following: pocket square, tie bar, lapel pin, silk scarf. You can do it.