Aside from the question of who in their right mind would plan for their big day to fall in the darkest depths of winter, figuring out what to wear to a winter wedding is often a pain in the rear.
Black tie? Red tie? Air tie? Go without socks or wear bright white tennis socks? We’re kidding, don’t even entertain the idea of white socks. Counterintuitively, deciding what clothes to wear to celebrate the eternal (fingers crossed) union of two kindred souls is painful, dispassionate and without warm feelings.
While we can’t advise on how stingy or thrifty you should be with your gift, we can advise on how to get the hang of your winter wedding whether you’re the groom, part of the wedding party or one of them (quietly sizzling) people who are only invited to the after party.
Rules of winter wedding style
Read the Dress Code
It’s ironic that many couples spend hours agonizing over the thickness and graphic design of their invitations, but happily 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 calls for black tie, in plain English it’s a dinner suit (AKA a tuxedo), a white one dress shirt, a black bow tie, black high-gloss shoes and black socks. ‘Black tie optional’ is much the same, although you can go less formal with a plain black tie.
Semi-formula is a more difficult beast to master. In a nutshell, these two words mean formal, but not top hat and tail formal. So a jumpsuit is a must: navy, grey, charcoal, mid blue are all acceptable here. With your accessories, play it safe with a tie – dark, muted colors are no problem, while stripes and polka dots are the easiest patterns to pull off. If you insist on going air tie tuck a pocket square into the breast pocket of your blazer to avoid harsh day-at-the-office vibes.
Choose your fabrics wisely
Look, we know you’re not stupid, but we feel it’s imperative to state the obvious that you shouldn’t be wearing a cotton or linen suit in the winter unless you’re ready for chills on the chairs.
Anything that feels hyper-British is highly recommended: tweed, flannel, wool and, if you’re a baller, cashmere. Look for a heavy fabric 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 will also offer better suit structure.
Consider the location
For the overall mood of your winter wedding outfit, location is key. If you have an urban wedding invitation, lean towards the smarter side of things: pinstripes, checks and a color palette of black, navy and red for matching accessories. Suits for winter country weddings should draw from a palette of earth tones (green, brown, rust), although textured fabrics such as tweed and wool also lend themselves to a deep charcoal.
What to wear to a winter wedding
If you are 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 don’t age well, so ignore all the advice to show off your personality and err on the side of tradition. Choose a two- or three-piece suit, depending on the level of formality you’re comfortable with. This must be black, navy or dark gray and not double-breasted or patterned. For the rest of your look, think similarly simple. Choose black high gloss Oxford shoesa white shirt, and to add some ‘personality’, choose a fine striped or dotted tie and a floral pin in a dark colour.
If you are a top table guest
So you’ve negotiated your way 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: this is not your time to shine. Wear black and you risk competing with the main man, opt for navy blue instead to keep the formality up and the attention-grabbing antics down. A white shirt and black shoes will again do the trick, but a lighter tie and pocket square in a similar (not identical) shade will set you apart from the groom while staying 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 are a day visitor
Day guests have the hardest job of dressing for a wedding, even more so than the bride. No really. You have to go formal (though not too formal), but there are no fixed restrictions on colors, fabrics or shapes. To make your life easier, a navy, gray or taupe suit is the best winter-ready option, and you can also add some checks, pinstripes or a double-breasted silhouette. On footwear, brown shoes will work perfectly with all the above suits and are less formal than black Classic shirt and tie combos are obviously still a safe bet, but for a more modern look try a grandpa collar shirt and a pocket square to liven it up a bit up – but only if the wedding is on the relaxed end of the spectrum.
If you are an evening guest
So you didn’t make it to the main event, but don’t think of it as a slight, but rather hours of small talk mercifully averted. It goes without saying that you need to look like you’ve made an effort, but you don’t have to go all out. A shirt with a grandpa collar will do the trick, and you could even try a (subtly) patterned design, while a black or charcoal turtleneck sweater will create the perfect balance between relaxed and refined. PSA: no sneakers and no jeans and yes, that includes black jeans.
Key winter wedding
By now you should be almost completely engrossed in the winter wedding dress, but don’t just think about the bigger picture, the devil really is in the detail.
The suit is pretty much the most important piece of clothing you’ll need for a wedding, so you really need to get it right. “A single-breasted peak lapel suit always has a little bit more of an ‘event’ feel to it; like a 3-piece suit,” says Holger Auffenberg, head of design at the British tailoring label. Chester Barry. “ONE double breasted suit can look great, especially in winter, but be aware that this should never be worn unbuttoned, so it will probably hold you back a bit when everyone else starts to relax.”
When choosing a shirt, your biggest concern should be the dreaded tie clash, and you can usually avoid that with a white shirt. “There are very few occasions when you can go wrong with a plain white shirt, and a festive event like a wedding is certainly not one of them,” says Auffenberg. In short, boring is best, but the quality must also be okay. “Try to avoid cheap poly or cotton poplin uniform types and go for something with a bit of body and texture, like a royal oxford or a basket weave. Light blues or even pastels can work too, but I’d probably stay away from business-like bold stripes and checkers.”
Teaming the right shoes with the right suit is probably menswear’s most recurring nightmare. “Not really a wedding-specific piece of advice, but your shoes should always match the suit you’re wearing. The famous ‘no brown in town’ has been dead and buried for a while now, but I’d stick to the more classic side with your footwear with traditional dress shoes,” says Hoffenberg. “Given that you’re expected to attend the dance later, I’d recommend leather soles, no rubber, and absolutely no commando soles.” So whether it’s black or brown, win Oxford and Derby shoes monk strapsloafers and the like.
No, you can’t just throw yours away parka jacket wearing to a wedding, you’ll spend more time than you think wearing outerwear for a winter wedding, so it needs to look sharper than sharp. “Any coat you wear has to be longer than the suit underneath or you end up with a ‘harassed commuter’ look,” Hoffenberg says. “Remember the pants will show under the coat, so make sure the coat doesn’t clash with the suit, but also stay away from a total match. Plain navy long coat over plain navy suit might sound like a good idea, but will betray the fact that either a) you only own a suit and a coat, or b) you have absolutely no imagination.”
Like pretty much every situation we can think of at a winter wedding, with accessories, less is more. “If you think you’re wearing too many accessories, you are,” says Hoffenberg. “If you’re part of the wedding party, you may be given a corsage to wear, so make sure this doesn’t clash with anything else you might be wearing. A subtle handkerchief can give a fresh, more formal touch, and maybe a wedding a perfect excuse to wear the cufflinks you inherited from your great-great-uncle.” Keep it simple, folks. In addition to ties and cufflinks, limit yourself to one of the following: pocket square, tie rod, lapel pin, silk scarf. You can do it.