I have been fortunate enough to make many wedding suits during my career. I have made silks, satins and velvets, lightweight linens as well as heavy tweeds and Prince of Wales checks. I have made morning suits, evening suits, casual suits and even shorts. So whether you are a groom or a guest, in a cool English church or on a distant tropical beach, here are few tips for you to consider when dressing for a wedding.
It is perhaps a blessing and a curse that there are now fewer rules on how to dress for such an occasion. A blessing because rules can be dull, a curse because they can also help you to navigate a potentially volatile sartorial minefield. Happily there is one universal truth that applies to all ages, shapes and sizes whatever the occasion: while fine tailoring always flatters, fashion sometimes does not.
The most popular wedding suit that we make at Richard James (and the one I encourage most grooms to opt for, certainly if this is the first suit they are having made) is what I would refer to as a "classic" Savile Row three-piece. By classic I mean a versatile, ever-smart suit that flatters your proportions. One where the jacket doesn’t look too long or too short, too tight or too loose, your trousers don’t make your feet look too big or too small and the waistcoat doesn’t make your body look too long or too short. A skilled tailor with a good eye will find this elusive sweet spot. The waistcoat will also allow you to look smart when you take your jacket off and stop your shirt from coming out of your trousers – this in turn will prevent you from looking like a drunk geography teacher at the school disco.
If you choose a three-piece wear your trousers higher on your waist and if possible wear them with braces, this way the waistcoat can be shorter making your legs look longer and your figure slimmer. What you must avoid at all costs is showing any shirt or trouser waistband between the waistcoat and the trouser, braces ensure this won’t happen. Brace trousers are cut about an inch larger than your waist so they will be more flattering because there is no tension going into holding them up. A brace trouser won’t dig into your tummy either, perfect after a long sit down meal. Do not wear a belt with a waistcoat. Ever.
If there is a colour theme, having a swatch of the colour with you when you choose your cloth will help. If in doubt a plain mid grey will go with anything. Try not to go too light in tone as it may wash you out. Navy is very versatile and flatters all complexions. It will also contrast with your surroundings giving you a more defined silhouette. One last piece of advice on cloth selection; choose a cloth that is matt rather than shiny. A matte cloth will absorb light rather than reflect it. Your suit will appear richer in colour and it will look fabulous in the photographs too.
Sunny weather weddings lend themselves to more casual styles in lighter tones with softer construction (less padding and canvasses). Soft linens, cottons and summer wool frescos all come into play during the summer. If you have a fair complexion opt for a darker tone such as a navy in linen or seersucker. A simple two-piece can be paired with a more casual leather shoe such as a loafer or even a suede moccasin. Only you can decide whether you should wear a tie or not.
Apart from a beautiful suit, the other most important investment in your outfit is time. Time needs to be spent making sure your shoes are nicely polished or brushed. Your shirt (which you might also consider having made to get the all-important sleeve length and collar size spot on) must be spotlessly clean and beautifully ironed. Pocket squares and tiepins are all welcome little touches as is a single flower bud in the lapel buttonhole - as long as no greenery or silver foil is involved. Don’t be tempted to throw everything into the mix, a little restraint is very masculine.
For formal weddings such as Prince Harry and Megan Markle's you will be wearing morning dress (if not military dress). Morning dress and its close cousin dress tails are known as body coats in the trade because they need to fit like a glove and ideally should be made for you. If you have to hire or buy off-the-peg then this is what you need to look for: the lateral and vertical balances need to be precise to prevent the long tails from crossing over or splaying apart, vital for the groom who will have his back to the congregation. When trying on a morning coat try to see whether the tails are indeed opening or closing. It also looks better when it is more fitted so even try half a size down from your normal. The whole ensemble can tend to be both hot and heavy so bear this in mind.
The options for morning suits are the more common black coat – usually a herringbone - with a buff, light blue or silk waistcoat and black and grey striped trousers. Alternatively the all grey look is a little more jolly but less versatile - not appropriate for funerals. Only crisp stiff collars (turn down not wing), silk ties and shiny polished black shoes work with this look. A single flower bud works well here too. If you can manage it wear it all with a top hat, it should look a little too small and be worn at a jaunty angle.
Ultimately, whatever you choose regardless of colour or style, wear it with purpose and confidence, and remember that the very best accessory a gentleman can have is a smile. Good luck and congratulations.