Dressing for Life’s Big Events: How a Man Should Dress for Weddings, First Dates, Religious Ceremonies and More

by Antonio on February 26, 2009 · 44 comments

in A Man's Life, Dress & Grooming, On Etiquette, Style

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A man’s life is full of moments that will require him to dress a certain way. From his high school graduation to walking his daughter down the aisle, a man needs to understand the basics of formal, semi-formal, and casual dressing so that he knows when to wear what and how. Because a gentleman understands his clothing is not just about him; his personal presentation is a reflection of the respect he shows to those around him.

By default, I am conservative in this article. My advice is the same that you would receive from your grandfather. But that’s its strength – this timeless wisdom is battle tested and proven. By following it you can rest assured you’ll be well dressed at any event anywhere.

Deciphering  the Invitation

The first rule in dressing for an event is to read and understand the invitation. Many times the choice of what to wear has been made for you, and your options are limited to the colors and styles within the confines of a set garment type. But what exactly is “Black Tie,” and how should you dress for a business casual event?

(Note these terms are only for North America, as the English and Europeans have their own terminology and the same word does not always have the same meaning.)

blacktie

Black Tie – sometimes referred to as evening dress, means that a tuxedo is expected. Weddings, operas, receptions at embassies, balls, and charity dinners are just a few places you’ll see this dress code.

blacktieoptional

Black Tie Optional – a tuxedo or dark suit are both equally acceptable. This dress code evolved as dress standards relaxed and more men found themselves without a tuxedo. Instead of excluding them from events, black tie optional was created to include all. If you have both a tuxedo and solid dark suit, wear the garment that fits and compliments you best. Do not rent a tuxedo if you own a perfectly fine suit, but instead consider purchasing a quality tuxedo if you expect to attend more than one of these events every couple years.

semiformal

Semi-formal – a dark suit, crisp dress shirt with non-obtrusive pattern, and a conservative tie. No tuxedos are expected, and none should be worn.

businesscasual

Business Casual – a tie is optional, but a dress shirt & nice trousers are required. A sports jacket or blazer should also be worn (this last one is my opinion, but alas is actually optional).

casual

Casual – Jeans, cotton trousers, & shorts are acceptable; they should fit well and be free of holes and wrinkles. A simple collared polo shirt that fits will suffice in warm weather, but in cooler weather the smart dresser will choose a button down shirt with a casual style, color, and/or pattern.

Not sure? Then ask.
If what you should wear is not spelled-out on the invitation, or if the invitation was simply relayed over the telephone or email, another method of determining what to wear is to ask your host directly. The only danger here is that the dress may change. Often the dress code at a less than organized event changes as the event draws nearer; make sure to double-check at least a couple of days before the event if you feel this may be the case.

If you can’t reach the host, try to talk with someone participating in the event. When a groomsman tells you he’s wearing a suit with tennis shoes, it’s safe to assume you’ll be perfectly fine in a dark sports jacket and trousers with dress shoes.

Be Prepared to Adapt
Not sure what to expect and have to be there in the next hour? Consider wearing clothing that can be dressed up or dressed down. If you show up over-dressed in your suit and tie, you can always excuse yourself for a minute and slip off your jacket, slide off your tie, and unbutton your top button before rejoining the celebration.

Dressing for Life’s Events

Weddings

A male wedding guest should seek to contribute to the happiness and love being celebrated. His attire should be smart and within the requested boundaries of the host, and if he chooses to be fashionable, it should be limited to his accessories. Remember that you are not there to attract attention to yourself but rather to help frame an important event in the history of two families.

As to what to wear, most wedding invitations clearly state what the dress code will be. Expect it to fall between black tie and business casual, although 95% of the time if you show up in a dark suit, white shirt, and muted tie with proper dress shoes you’ll be perfectly dressed. If the invitation does not cover what guests should wear, there are a number of clues you can pay attention to that will help you figure out the expected attire:

  • First, take into account the location; an outdoor wedding in rural Wisconsin is going to be by its very nature less formal than a wedding at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
  • Second, the time of day; day weddings are often less formal than evening ceremonies. In fact, the wearing of a tuxedo before 5PM is considered a faux pas by many traditionalists, although in the US this rule is often ignored.
  • Third, examine the invitation itself. If it looks like they’ve spent a fortune on the invites, you might want to spend a little time dressing the part of a considerate guest.

A low key wedding in which the couple specifically asks for guests to dress casual should be heeded, but with caution. One person’s definition of casual is not another’s, and the prepared man carries in his car or travel kit an upscale casual outfit in case he arrives underdressed.

Graduations

graduation

Many graduates think the event surrounding the culmination of their education is about them. I know I did. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realize a graduation is really a family celebration, a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by others so that one can achieve a common goal. With this in mind, you should dress smartly not for yourself but in respect to those who went without so you wouldn’t have to.

Even when wearing a ceremonial robe, you’ll want to dress smartly as your shoes, socks, and trouser legs will be seen. Consider timeless oxfords as footwear, but any dress shoe that is made from quality leather and properly shined will do. For most, a simple suit & tie or sports jacket, dark trousers, and tie is perfect. Leave the jacket off when robed, but have it handy to wear to the reception and multiple picture taking sessions.

If a guest of the graduate, take the ceremony’s location into consideration. A ceremony at Columbia University in New York can be attended in a suit; a graduation at Oceanside High School in California will more likely call for a sports jacket and light-wool trousers.

First Date

There are a lot of things you can’t control on the first date; whether or not she’ll like the restaurant, what she’ll think of your opinions, and if she laughs at any of your jokes. But one thing you can control is your appearance, and it’s to your advantage to make the most out of what you have.

On a first date, always try to stack the cards in your favor. You want to look your best, and unless you have the body of Adonis “your best look” is a comfortable well fitting suit or sports jacket. If built right, it will accentuate your shoulders, trim your waist, and give you the appearance of added height. To match the jacket, wear a pair of dark wool trousers. Roomier than jeans, they’ll also hide small stains better whether you spill food or forget to shake. And always pay close attention to your shoes’ shine and style; you can bet your date will. Lastly, make sure to subtly let her know what you’ll be wearing well before the appointed time. She may be under the impression the date is a more casual situation, and may be uncomfortable if her outfit doesn’t match your clothing’s level of formality.

First Week on the Job

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and during your first week at a new job you’ll be making a lot of first impressions. So it’s important that you pay very close attention to the unstated dress code and carefully adapt your clothing to it. Now don’t give up your individuality, but be sensitive to what others are wearing and the reactions your clothing will draw. Because even though the interview is over, the game of office politics and perception has just begun.

My advice is start off slightly over-dressed your first week. This may not be possible at a law firm where everyone is wearing a suit and tie, but in a business casual environment you may want to opt for a sports jacket, shirt, and tie vs. a shirt and tie only. When shaking hands for the first time you want to project a professional image, as most of our sensory input is visual, and numerous communication studies have demonstrated appearances far outweigh what we actually say in a first encounter. With people making a decision about you in the first few seconds, it’s easier to start at the top than to start low and try to work yourself up.

Receptions and Parties

party

There are get-togethers, there are cocktail parties, and then there are receptions. In that order do we generally see these congregations increase in their level of formality; however, it’s not uncommon to attend a casual reception or a more formal get-together. Again, like most things, its situation dependent.

Get-togethers are typically more relaxed and comfortable social events, often loosely planned where most of the attendants know each other already or share a common bond. The dress code here ranges from casual to business casual. Cocktail parties on the other hand are planned events where many of the guests do not know each other; hence we have a higher level of formality as people feel each other out. Judgments are passed, business deals started, and business cards are liberally distributed here. Expect the dress code to be business casual to black tie optional. Finally, we have receptions. Although they can be very informal events, many times they are not, as the event’s purpose is to “receive” a new couple, a new company president, or a new child. For this, we show respect by elevating our appearance. Expect semiformal to black tie optional.

Religious Services

church1

Whether you are attending as a believer or as a guest, a man who visits a place of worship or religious importance should always show respect, if not for himself, then for others and their beliefs. He does this by following the unstated dress code and never dressing below it. Because no church is the same, and no temple has the exact requirements as another, this varies not only from religion to religion but also from country to country. A safe guide is to always wear clothing that covers the body, is respectful in nature, and that is culturally acceptable. Think business casual to semi-formal wear.

Funerals

A man’s purpose when attending a funeral is to comfort the bereaved; by attending and dressing appropriately he shows his support and pays his respects to the deceased and their family. Funeral invitations are rare, but the prescribed outfit is universal across the English speaking world; a dark suit, a simple shirt, a somber tie, and polished shoes.

Your suit does not have to be black; a navy pinstripe will work if that’s what you have. As for the dress shirt, white is the most formal color, but other non-attention drawing shades are fine. When putting together what to wear remember your appearance should allow you to arrive without show, to grieve without drawing attention, and say your final goodbye with respect.

Conclusion

We’ve all heard it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed; my advice though is to simply dress perfectly for the occasion. It’s not that hard if you pay attention, do your homework, and prepare accordingly.

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President, www.ATailoredSuit.com
Quality Custom Clothing & Sound Style Advice
Join our Facebook Page for a chance to Win Custom Clothing

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Norm 3 February 26, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Nice addition. It is still surprising to me how many people don’t dress for a situation. I didn’t graduate that long ago and there were people wearing their “best jeans” under their robes.

I’ve fortunately always had good taste in clothing and work with what will fit in what ever situation I land in. I hope this helps some of the younger men that read this.

Though I’m a little distraught that the tailored suit people don’t have the option for a 3 piece suit or double breasted. Being a larger guy single breasted jackets look humorous on me rather than impressive. I’d much rather look like a 40s gangster than Lou Costello.

2 Michael Halbrook February 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm

This is a great post. On more than 10 occasions, I’ve been saved by my dad’s timely advice from my youth, which you echo in your Conclusion:

It’s almost always better to dress one step “above” what you initially think you should wear to an affair.

3 Jeff February 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm

What a solid and needed post. I appreciate the pointers very much. I’ve always struggled with deciphering “business casual” and the such, and this makes it nice and clear. It seems a lot of guys do khakis and a polo for business casual, but it’s really a notch up from there ideally.

4 Michael February 26, 2009 at 11:39 pm

One line here kinda irks me. You write about first dates: “Lastly, make sure to subtly let her know what you’ll be wearing well before the appointed time.”

This is much easier said than done. I can’t tell you how many girls I have put off by trying to subtly suggest a more formal attire. Any advice in this regard?

5 Vlad February 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

To Michael:

It depends on your style of communication, and how well you know your lady, but I would, for example, let my date know what I’m planning to wear, and maybe even ask her for advice.

You could, for example, say something in the lines of: “Hey, I’m planning to wear [dark suit pants]. Do you think [a white shirt] would match?”

That wouldn’t be rude at all to my mind, and most girls take it as a compliment when you ask for advice.

6 Johnny February 27, 2009 at 1:27 am

Great post! This was very helpful for me. I am 28 years old, but did not have this information available to me through my father. It’s not that he wasn’t around, it’s just that his idea of dressing up is a short sleeved button down Hawaiian shirt and some jeans. I did grow up without grandfathers though, but looking at pictures of them they seemed to have been dressed fairly well. I feel there may have been a gap between my father and his father that may explain it. After speaking with a few of my friends who have fathers born in the mid 50′s, it seems that there may be a generational gap in effect. I am curious if others have had similar findings.

7 Steve Treacle February 27, 2009 at 2:58 am

In the Uk, we often get told to dress ‘smart casual’, which always seems an oxymoron to me. I tend to assume it means something like ‘business casual’ but I agree that it is much better to dress a little too formally rather than the other way around.

8 Paul-Joseph Stines February 27, 2009 at 6:38 am

Great post…and very timely. It seems that many men simply do not know how to dress, or how many young people do not know how to tie a tie. I went to a job interview a few years ago in a “business casual” environment. I wore a tie as I always do for an interview. The interviewer was flabbergasted! She said the guy before me came in for his interview in a tank top! Needless to say, I got the job.

What amazes me most are the numbers of men who don’t know how to dress for church. While casual is accepted, there are always a few men who go to church wearing shorts and tee shirts. Granted, I live in Florida, but going to church that casually dressed demonstrates a basic lack of respect for one’s surroundings, for others there, and a primary lack of respect for himself. The inevitable result is a loss of respect from others; no one will take you seriously.

If men want to regain that basic masculine respect, he first has to show that respect himself.

9 Craig February 27, 2009 at 6:51 am

Good Post! I would only add that I have went to interviews where I was “over-dressed” but felt in charge of the interview. Both times I felt that way I was offered a job. The one job was a warehouse management job that would require me to “get dirty”. The interviewer asked if I could dress way-down and I said “Yes, I dress this way for interviews no matter what the position.”

10 Adam February 27, 2009 at 7:27 am

This is a great post. I work in a school and we had a staff member to pass away recently. Many of our high school students came to the funeral in jeans, flip flops, and t-shirts. I was embarrassed that our guy students showed up to a funeral so casual, so there is a definite need for this kind of advice. I was blessed to have father who taught me many of things, although I didn’t appreciate all of the advice until I was older. Thanks!

11 Will February 27, 2009 at 7:41 am

Definitely for a date it depends on the venue! If there’s any doubt I’d tell her what kind of clothes would work. “Picnic” or “ball” pretty much speak for themselves (I’d hope).

My comment for the young is: you can get by with being a little less formal than the middle-aged or old, but not wildly less formal, as Adam notes.

12 gordon February 27, 2009 at 7:44 am

For funeral dress it should be noted you should never wear red ties. Only somber colors of blue, grey, etc.

Great post.

Gordon

13 Lee February 27, 2009 at 7:48 am

Good article. Basic premise being dress for your environment and I agree it is often not followed.

I only had one problem with it and that was for a first date. I am sorry but I will not get that dressed up for a first date. This is my chance to see what type of person she is as well as for her to have a feeling about me. Sure, I am going to put on some decent jeans(if winter/shorts if summer and in Houston you respect the summer heat) and a nice wrinkle free shirt(there is a life beyond polo and the generic button down long sleeve). We are going to be nervous enough as is when we meet and I go out of my way to have her as relaxed as possible in as relaxed an atmosphere as possible. I am there to get to know her and I want nothing to interfere with this most important part. This idea of constantly wooing a woman high up on her pedestal needs to die. We are men, we know what we want, and we want a strong woman to compliment us.

Kinda goes with the guy that shows up at a relaxed waterfront beer joint, in a jacket. Sorry, you are a tool, you are not a gentleman or sophisticated. Dress for your environment, you look as out of place and disrespectful as the guy showing up to the theater in shorts and a wife beater.

14 James February 27, 2009 at 8:04 am

Good article!

Men need to dress like men again. I would put things up a step

1. Formal- should be white tie. White tie needs a come back, it is the ultimate in class and it serves a very strong purpose. For formal events, Men should be dressed a like in order to highlight the woman he has as his date. So bring out the white tie, and by all means, military men should wear their decorations as appropriate.

2. Semi-formal- Black tie, and I am particular about this. The pics shown for this feature showed notched lapels. A properly cut tuxedo ALWAYS has either shawl or peaked lapels. This differentiates formal wear from business wear.

3. Day v. Night. The tuxedo dinner jackets and white tie tailcoats should only be worn after 6pm. (5pm. at the earliest). During the daytime, the daywear equivalent should be worn. For formal, it is the cutaway morning coat with either matching or contrasting slacks, a grey or black vest, and either a tie or ascot. For black tie equivalent, wear the stroller, which is a black suit jacket (cut with peak lapels either 1 or 2 button) a matching or contrasting vest (black or grey), and grey pin striped formal pants. It is essentially morning dress with a suit coat instead of a morning coat.

4. Weddings- Day weddings whould be day wear. Evening weddings should be evening wear. If the ceremony is during the day, and the reception is at night, by all means CHANGE CLOTHES. There is a reason why there is usually a 3 hour break of time between the ceremony and the reception.

5. Black tie optional- If you do not own a tuxedo, a black suit with a black tie(but not solid black, you’ll look like you’re at a funeral) is exceptable. That said, a decent tuxedo is not that expensive anymore. You can get a good cut for about $150, which anyone can afford even in this economy.

15 The Plainsman February 27, 2009 at 8:48 am

“For funeral dress it should be noted you should never wear red ties. Only somber colors of blue, grey, etc.

Great post.

Gordon”

I did have to break this rule once. When my best friend died 2 years ago, I wore HIS red necktie that he let me borrow for a date (with my future wife) that I never returned. I used it as an icebreaker when delivering part of the eulogy.

As for the article at hand, this deos speak to more conservative and formal dress, of which I am a fan. As the world seems to get more casual, I am beginning to dress more formally for meeting and events that I have. Work especially. It is Friday, so I am dressed down, but I am beginning to wear more sport coast and neckties to project an air of professionalism.

Also, I find that dressing nicer helps in my own work ethic and self-confidence, which is projected onto others as well.

16 Ross Patterson February 27, 2009 at 8:49 am

Just a quibble – “Black Tie Optional” got it’s start from when White Tie was the norm for fancy dress, which one almost never sees in the US anymore. The “option” was to drop down from White Tie to Black Tie. You’re absolutely right that in modern usage it means “dark suit or tux, your choice”.

FWIW, I always take the option and wear my tux, but I’m usually in the minority. Except for the waiters :-(

17 The Plainsman February 27, 2009 at 8:50 am

Also, that was good to mention graduations.

I wore a white shirts and necktie that matched my school colors both for my HS and College graduation. Many of my peers wore nothing but a t-shirt and jeans, some shorts underneath.

My father, adverse to dressing up, wore a suit. My grandfather had a suit on of course.

18 Ryan February 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

@ Michael (posted on February 26th, 2009 11:39 pm )

It’s probably one of two things: (1) the way you’re saying is putting her off or (2) she’s not someone with whom you want to be anyway.

19 Ryan February 27, 2009 at 11:50 am

Great post. Dressing appropriately is something that is missing from society these days. While I didn’t live in these generations, I feel like past generations instinctively dressed appropriately.

One point on a first date – I would imagine this is catered towards the traditional dinner date. I prefer activity-based first dates (hiking, sports activities, taking a walk in a park…) over dinner dates. One would look pretty silly hiking in a suit. Again, it comes down to dressing appropriately given the situation.

20 Kyle February 27, 2009 at 11:55 am

I purchased a black suit with black pinstripes last year, and it was a worthwhile investment. Since black matches anything, it goes well in any nearly any sort of situation where some formality is required. The ability to wear pretty much any shirt and tie with it makes it rather versatile.

The last time I wore it was last week, to my grandma’s funeral, where I had a sombre black tie, tied in a full Windsor knot, and black shirt to compliment. Not a fun time, but at least I was dressed well.

I plan on wearing it again this Sunday, to my baby niece’s baptism. Just haven’t decided on what shirt or tie to wear yet.

21 Graff February 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Important! I think – many people don’t dress for a situation.

22 Art Gonzalez February 27, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Fantastic article! I love the level of detail and the references to the different occasions. Great to share with my kid.

Thanks,

Art Gonzalez
Quantum Knights

23 Pete February 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Where do t-shirts and hoodies fit in?

24 frdindenver February 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm

RE: the pic for the ‘black tie optional’. It is my understanding that when a man’s suit coat (or blazer) is buttoned, the bottom button (whether #2 or #3) is always left un-done. The pic shows all 3 buttons buttoned.

What’s correct?

25 Tony February 27, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Norm – At A Tailored Suit we do make 3 piece suits and double-breasted jackets. The double breasted-option is in the “build your garment” tool and the 3-piece option is available upon request.

Michael – You’re probably right; I’ve been out of the dating scene for some time now. But from what I remember the girls I dated always enjoyed dressing up a bit.

Johnny – This gap is real and we are working hard to fix it!

Adam – Sadly, I have seen the same thing.

Will – Absolutely right about the first date advice, it does depend on the situation.

Lee – Respect your opinion and see your point of view, but still feel if you can you want to dress your best for your date. Whether she knows it or not, she is making a decision about you very quickly; her early take on you will determine how the rest of the night goes. As for jackets; they are not all created equally. Go with a sporty pattern, casual style, and pair with jeans for a perfectly fine look.

James – Thanks for the additional info, and agree with the peak lapels on the Tux.

Ryan – You are correct, it is geared towards the dinner date. And unless a man’s name is Daniel Craig I would advice against wearing dress clothing when engaging in vigorous activities.

Frdindenver – Good eye, the gentleman in the photo should not have his bottom button buttoned. On a two-button jacket, only button the top. On a three-button jacket, only the top two should ever be buttoned, with the top button optional for a more casual look.

Best,

Antonio

26 Brockstar February 27, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Great post, as always. Anyway, longtime reader, first time poster, and of course, I’ve got a bit of a quibble.

You used a really lousy picture for the tux. Never EVER should a tux have a notched collar. Those are reserved for suits and sportcoats. Traditionally, a tuxedo has either a peaked or shawl collar. I prefer a shawl collar myself, but both look great.

Hope I was a help!

27 Robert Heffern February 27, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Seriously? Dress nice on the first date, be hygienic and clean, but you really should be putting yourself out there. No fluff, not buff and shine. In today’s world Facebook has replaced the first date, I can find out more about a person from their myspace than from a date at a crowded restaurant, and their Twitter cant hide. The first date is past from the moment you get online. Today we are all at at least date 2 to 2.5. We know them fairly well, so it has already been determined through eHarmony that we are somewhat in common and are actually worth dating. So then the challenge becomes trying to present the real face, the real us, and see if the date might go somewhere. Where that is is beyond me.

Yeah, I know, we can date casually and all. just go out for coffee and talk with someone. But, let me tell you, i am not changing into nice clothes for coffee and the economy. What’s that? I should always look nice. Well guess what? I fart, and i stink after working out, and i am a real human with hair and flab. I’m too tired and to get all gussied up for everyone i meet all the time. And if she can’t realise that, well guess what, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere to begun with, because honesty in all things starts with the first cough and bump in the hall.

Sorry, late night and all. but honestly, the more ways I have to communicate, or IM, or message, the less talking I seem to do. Good Lord knows I need someone.

28 Brett February 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm

In fairness to Tony, I should point out that I added the accompanying pictures, he didn’t. My fashion knowledge leaves much to be desired, so if you have a beef with the pics, know that’s it’s all my fault. It’s sometimes hard to find just the right, non-copyrighted photos for these things. I did my darndest.

29 Matthew February 27, 2009 at 11:37 pm

@ Robert Heffern

The biggest problem with that point of view is that it necessarily limits, possibly even eliminates, the chances of getting that someone you need. Nobody is going to want someone who isn’t willing to take the time to put on an air of presentability. If you’re not going to get “gussied up” for everyone you meet all the time, you’re likely not going to meet anybody.

Appearance is the first thing people notice, before that cough and bump in the hall. Everyone farts, and everyone stinks after working out. Did you really think you were the only one? Why sell yourself short to serve some misguided view of honesty? Because, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re selling yourself short.

30 Ced February 28, 2009 at 8:43 am

i have a small point to make, for funerals and weddings, the part of the country and type of people need to be taken into consideration. for example my family lives in the mountains of south west Virginia and swamps of Louisiana. going to an event dressed in a full suit will make you stand out for sure as many dont have the money for the dressier clothes or the knowledge to wear such. at my grandma’s funeral this past December in Louisiana most men wore clean clothes some wore bib overalls others jeans and work boots, and i wore dress pants and a clean button up shirt. and no one looked at anyone either way and i think my grandma would have been happy to know that no one got all dressed up just for her.
some people and areas are just laid back and dont care how people dress.
i know for my funeral if someone shows up in a tie im gonna haunt them hahaha

31 Dave February 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

This is such great advice and I’m glad it’s getting out there to at least a few people!

Someone made a point about dressing like yourself and being yourself on the first date. If that’s what you want to do, that fine… If being yourself is more important to you than tradition then you should do that. But I think the advice on this page is obviously intended for those who would like to look the part of a gentleman (hopefully as well as *being* one)

Tradition dictates that the first (dinner) date be snazzy and dressed up. Women tend to appreciate this as it lets them know you were interested enough to make the effort. They want to know they are a big deal! Secondly, it also shows that you know how to dress, which helps to show a well-rounded and knowledgeable character. It is not easy for most of us to learn how to match a jacket, shirt, slacks, shoes, and tie. Thirdly it also gives them a chance to dress up as well and live out there girlish fantasies. Most girls adore the opportunity to dress up from time to time. Finally, it will help to make the evening more memorable, important and special for both parties. So not only is dressing up for a first date a tradition (depending on the context), it is also sensible.

32 Chris Cree March 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

For the last 20 years I’ve lived in Jacksonville, Charleston and now in Savannah. And in the coastal Southeast US “business casual” usually means a polo shirt and khaki pants. We see about as many people wearing shorts with their polo shirts as we do sports jackets. They’re definitely more casual down here than where I grew up in the Northeast.

33 ken April 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I am attending a daytime wedding in June (Calif). As the grandfather of the groom what is appropriately formal?

34 Edgar May 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

The man wearing a black bow tie is not wearing a tuxedo jacket.

1. It has notch lapels; tuxedo jackets have peak or shawl lapels.
2. It has more than one button.

Black suits are neither fish nor fowl. Black is for formal dress (white tie; black tie; strollers; and various kinds of obsolete attire), while the lounge suit (what we now call a business suit) comes in various colors. A young man might successfully wear a black suit for a night on the town, but they are not appropriate for most settings.

Grandpa Ken,

May I suggest a white shirt, a light gray Macclesfield tie, and either a suit or a dark sports coat (or blazer) and striped slacks? The non-suit outfit is a nod to tradition which will look great, yet no one will think you’re dressing in costume. Please wear wool, not linen–you don’t want to be a rumpled, wrinkled mess, now do you? (You might find some more inspiration here: http://permanentstyle.blogspot.com/2008/05/contradiction-of-wedding-dress.html) The grandfather of the bridegroom should look classy and dignified for this special occasion, and I hope my suggestions help.

35 Rob June 2, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Fascinating article, and probably applicable if this were 1969 and not 2009.

In 1983 I changed from a job that required a business suit to one more casual, and I’ve never looked back.

It is perfectly acceptable to ignore all the rules above. I have never been more formally dressed than a dark turtleneck and jacket in those 26 years, and usually it’s just a casual shirt & pants if the event is more formal than jeans & t-shirt.

Never had a problem at the several weddings, two funerals, or any other occasion. I find it hard to imagine anyone being so weird as to wear a tie on a date!

36 Joshua Katz January 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm

For what it’s worth, my standard first date outfit is a suit with a silk mock turtleneck. I appreciate the dressy aspects, and I get to avoid wearing a tie, which I associate with business, not pleasure.

37 Michael Reese February 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm

With regard to religious activities, I agree with the article up to the mention of ‘business casual’. IMHO, that is NOT respectful enough, as I have seen men at weddings in track suits and the like; knowing what some of the ‘fad’ clothing costs, there is no excuse not to have at least ONE suit. Maybe, as poster Joshua Katz mentions, a mock turtleneck would work. Otherwise, it seems rude and disrespectful to show up at such events looking like the ‘business casual’ model above. If you can go that far, a tie ain’t gonna kill you. And I hate wearing ties!

38 andre November 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm

i have a awesome Canali off white dinner jacket, i also have a few tuxedos, can i incorporate the jacket with a pair of tux pants, tux shirt( colour?) bow tie. it is a hair fashion event so there is room for expression.
Thank you
great forum.

39 the gold digger December 10, 2012 at 8:47 am

Don’t forget to polish your shoes. For everything.

40 Jan January 13, 2013 at 10:59 pm

How should I let a lady know what im wearing? I can see that quickly becoming a “brandish” kind of statement.

41 FeatherBlade February 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

@Jan #40 – By “brandish” you mean a statement calculated to show off your (resumable) wealth?

I would say learn the different generic style designations and don’t mention brand names e.g. “It’s semi-formal, so I’m wearing a charcoal gray suit.” vs. “I’ll be wearing Armani” or “We’ll be out on the water, so I’m wearing khakis” vs “Ralph Lauren is the only thing to wear when yachting”.

That will tell her not only the level of formality of the event, but also give her an idea of how to coordinate with your outfit (if she is so inclined) and what shoes would be appropriate for her to wear (stiletto heels work very poorly on grass or sand).

42 Don A. August 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm

@James (#14), I agree with Formal as white tie and tails, and semi-formal as black tie. However, we here in the tropics tend to under-dress to an extreme, and a three-piece suit is considered formal, much to my dismay (although I try to write it all off as “black tie optional”).

Those living in countries with a formal variant of the national costume can manage nicely, although this descends into “I can wear the same outfit to church in the morning, meet the President at noon for lunch, and attend a wedding in the afternoon.”

As regards people attending weddings severely under-dressed, I have been to nuptials where only the bridal party and the principal sponsors (think of them as godparents; they normally sign the registers as witnesses ’round here) dressed to the nines, but it all ends there when the extended family, sometimes even the siblings of the bride and groom, dress in less than what has been requested in the invitation. The worst offenders tend to show up in cathedrals, of all places. [/sigh]

43 Di in Oz September 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I thought I might give a woman’s opinion as to how to signal to the lady what clothes to wear on the first date.

Just say something like “I thought we might have dinner at “Le chateau de somewhat expensive food” or “the bar-b-que joint down the hill”. No doubt she knows the venues and can dress accordingly.

We live in the tropics here, and you will never go amiss with a crisp shirt, well-ironed with the cuffs rolled back, nice slacks, and polished leather shoes. Yes some hicks will get by with stubbies and thongs (shorts and flip-flops) but thats generally just for the working blokes.

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