The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

With wedding season almost upon us, we take a look at the five most common British big day dress codes — and tell you what they mean for you...

Things we love about weddings: the open bars; the comedy dancing; the days off work; the atmosphere; the throwback tunes chosen by the DJ. Things we hate about weddings; the family drama; the hangovers; the travel; the long, long ceremonies; and, most of all, the ambiguous dress codes.

It is this final hurdle that trips most of us up. Either we forget to re-read our invitations for this most important piece of information, or we’re so confused by what’s being asked of our wardrobes that we turn up to the church woefully under, or flamboyantly over-dressed.

Well no more. Before the bells start ringing, allow us to guide you down the aisle in style — as we explain the five most common wedding dress codes in Britain, and the clothes you need to get them right.

‘Black Tie’ is trickier than it sounds

See ‘black tie’ written on your wedding invitation, and you’ll likely breathe a sigh of relief. But hold on a minute — because this simple-sounding monochromatic dress code actually has many shades of grey. We’d suggest you stick to the most pared-back version of things, leaving cummerbunds and patent lace-ups at home.

That means a traditional wool evening suit, like this single-breasted offering from Hackett. Pair this with a good quality cotton tuxedo shirt — we’d suggest picking one up from Turnbull & Asser. And then tie the whole outfit together, literally, with a good silk-faille bow tie such as this Italian-made accessory from Favourbrook.

The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Hackett Wool Evening Suit

£925

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Turnbull & Asser Tuxedo Shirt

£305

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Favourbrook Silk-Faille Bow Tie

£65

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‘Morning Dress’ is not as formal as it once was

Also known as formal day dress, morning dress is the unofficial uniform of upper class weddings and horse races. And, while the traditional get-up includes a top hat, these days you’ll be let off if you just opt for the waistcoat, morning coat and contrast trousers.

From Gieves & Hawkes, this black offering is a quintessential morning coat, cut in a rich black wool, and with perfectly cut tails and sweeping peaked lapels. Sir Plus make a great waistcoat, in a buff colour rather than the more ostentatious pinks or blues. And, for your dress stripe trousers, head down to Chester Barrie and pick up these grey numbers.

The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Gieves & Hawkes Black Wool Morning Coat

£695

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Sir Plus Buff Peak Lapel Waistcoat

£135

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Chester Barrie Dress Stripe Trousers

£225

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Make sure that you don’t take ‘Cocktail Dress’ too far

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: Cocktail Dress is the most difficult dress code to pull off. As it actively encourages touches of eccentricity and individuality in your outfit, many people go over-the-top and end up peacocking their way into the reception. But we’d suggest, once again, keeping things simple — while still exercising your right to shake things up.

Rather than a simple suit, then, opt for something double-breasted — and in a different texture than your usual wool. We’d go for Oliver Spencer’s linen suit, as featured below. Pair this with a darker shirt, nothing too bold, but different enough to make an impression. Emma Willis is your go-to here, offering a range of textures and colours to see you through wedding season. And, finally, accessorise to hammer home the dress code — with Huntsman’s subtly stylish silk pocket square.

The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Oliver Spencer Double-Breasted Linen Suit

£545

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Emma Willis Navy Mélange Linen Shirt

£240

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Huntsman Navy Hand Rolled Pocket Square

£75

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Do simple suiting well to master ‘Formal Attire’

Now this is the simplest of the lot. It may sound vague, but throw on a shirt and tie of any colour or design and you won’t go far wrong. Keep your suit plain, your shoes lace up and your shirt simple. It’s as easy as that.

We’d go for the ever-versatile navy suit, such as this from Ermenegildo Zegna. Slip on a pair of Crockett & Jones’ peerless dark brown Connaught Oxfords to compliment your outfit, and finish things off with a quietly patterned tie. We love this melon print silk offering from Sir Plus, created in partnership with food distribution charity The Felix Project.

The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Ermenegildo Zegna Navy Slim Fit Suit

£2100

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Sir Plus Navy Melon Print Silk Tie

£85

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Crockett & Jones Connaught Shoes

£430

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Go light and breezy to perfect ‘Garden Attire’

Now here’s a little-known, and little-used dress code — but one springing up in popularity; Garden Attire. Think lightweight fabrics and pastel colours, looser fits and bright, breezy accessorising. You want to look smart, but also not out of place at a garden party — hence the dress code’s name.

We’d go for a textured hopsack suit in a light colour. This Seishin Suit from Richard James is perfect. Shrug this on over a linen shirt that would look just as at home on the beach. Orlebar Brown are ideal for this, and their Morton linen offering is one of the best. Finally, finish things off with flair — in the form of an Anderson & Sheppard cotton scarf.

The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Richard James Seishin Suit Fine Hopsack

£915

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Orlebar Brown Morton Linen Shirt

£70

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The ultimate guide to dressing for the wedding season

Anderson & Sheppard Cotton Scarf

£175

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Further Reading