Proper wedding attire

Proper wedding attire

Q. We’re planning our wedding next June, and my fiancee is trying to decide whether to go with a tuxedo or a suit. Depending upon the store, all the salesmen insist that their store’s selection is the correct choice. Can you tell us what really is the appropriate choice?

A. Even though, currently, more grooms and groomsmen are dressing in suits than they were in the past, black-tie dressing is still a popular and essential element of many weddings. The question is, what is different about how black tie is being done today?


One very strong trend is dropping the cummerbund. Guys like the super-trim and sleek look. Since they think the cummerbund adds bulk, they are trying to avoid the horizontal line at the waist. As to why they are also dropping braces (that were traditionally part of the look), I am not sure.


The standard tuxedo is still black with either black satin or black grosgrain lapels. But midnight blue tuxedoes are newly very popular; they are made one of two ways, either with matching blue lapels or, less often, with contrasting black lapels. I believe matching lapels are appropriate.


  • The most popular/standard cut is the single-breasted one-button peak lapel
  • The notch lapel seems to be too ordinary and too businesslike
  • Some young men still like the traditional formal shawl lapel.


You still have plenty of time to learn how to tie your own black bow tie.


These, too, have some trendy new variations. Instead of a plain white formal pleated shirt, a few raised printed pattern designs have been introduced. While they make sense for “Creative Black-Tie” and “Festive Attire” dressing, they are hard, if not impossible, to swallow in a traditional wedding setting. The correct collar is either a standard turn-down collar or the flattering wing collar, not a spread.


Traditionally, a watch is not worn with black-tie attire. (The man is not supposed to be thinking about the time.) But, if a man wears a watch, it should be a dress watch, that is, a slim watch with a black strap, not a large, chunky, showy sport watch.

Do not arrange the points of the pocket handkerchief too stiffly and too precisely in the breast pocket.

These days, the boutonniere seems to have grown in importance and size, until some grooms and groomsmen appear to be wearing small bouquets. Historically, only the groom wore a small fresh flower, seemingly having been plucked from the bride’s bouquet. It was slipped through the cut-open slit buttonhole on his lapel and held in place with the small thread keeper/loop on the back of the lapel. Today the flower has grown larger and is often pinned rather ostentatiously to the lapel.

The most ludicrous example of how boutonnieres have changed from subtle personal touches to something almost comical (if it weren’t in such horrible taste) is something I saw online: a groom with a boutonniere pinned to his braces!

Despite these many innovations, keep in mind that when it comes to black-tie dressing – especially elegant black-tie dressing in elite upper-class social circles – no one has ever seen any members of royalty or, say, James Bond, veering far from the rules of tasteful tradition.

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