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For most,dressing in a formal suite or tuxedo is not an everyday occurrence. Knowing how, what, and when to wear them can get very confusing. We spoke with the experts, AKA THE BLK TUX, to break down the different dress codes for you.

Before anxiety kicks in, remember that your guests will probably be more concerned with what they’re wearing than what you’re wearing. Just focus on choosing the right dress code for the vibe of your wedding. Knowing the location, ceremony time and overall scope of the wedding will help you determine which one is best suited for the big day. 

Below you’ll find THE BLK TUX’s simple formality scale to help you quickly find the perfect dress code.

The spectrum runs from the informal (1) to the very formal (5).

No matter what you choose, the Blk Tux has you covered!

CASUAL – 1  2   3   4  5  –  FORMAL

 

WHITE TIE “AKA” FORMAL
FORMALITY LEVEL: 5
 
White bow tie
White waistcoat
White wing-tip tuxedo shirt
Button studs and cufflinks
Tailcoat with black pleated tuxedo pants
 
White tie is reserved for diplomatic galas, extremely formal ceremonies, and royal weddings. It is the most strict of dress codes, so make sure to stick to the list above. The “waistcoat” and “tailcoat” are mysteries to most. A waistcoat is essentially a vest with lapels. A tailcoat is a short jacket with peak lapels and long tails, designed to be left open. Proportions are everything, so you’ll need high-waisted pants so the waistcoat covers your pant waist without dropping below the short front of the tailcoat. 
 
BLACK TIE “AKA” SEMI FORMAL 
FORMALITY LEVEL: 4
 
White tuxedo shirt
Button studs and cufflinks
White pocket square
 
Black tie is a common dress code for formal weddings, company awards nights, charity events, or formal holiday parties. Black tie is nearly as strict as white tie, in that visual personality is not encouraged. You do get to select from two lapel styles and two tuxedo colors. You can also wear a more contemporary tuxedo shirt with a fold-down collar. If you need suspenders, match them to your tuxedo. A low-cut vest—matched to your tuxedo—or a black cummerbund is also optional.

CREATIVE BLACK TIE “AKA” FESTIVE
FORMALITY LEVEL: 5
 
Button studs and cufflinks
White pocket square
Black patent leather shoes and black socks
One interesting thing
 
The Oscars, the Emmys, and especially the Tonys, are a great place to find examples of creative black tie. Largely created by “the industry” in the ’90s, this code allows for individuality while observing most of the black tie code. Have fun choosing your jacket, shoes, tie, pocket square, or shirt, but deviate from the traditional in only one category.
 
BLACK TIE OPTIONAL “AKA” INFORMAL / BUSINESS FORMAL
FORMALITY LEVEL: 3
 
Black-tie optional is on the very edge of high formality. This dress code is considerate and inclusive of guests who may not own a tuxedo. If possible, guests wear a tuxedo and follow the black tie rules. Next best thing? A dark suit with black leather dress shoes, a solid necktie or bow tie, and a white dress shirt. This combination also works well as business formal, sometimes simply called “business.” Skip the belt and wear cufflinks to elevate your look.
 
COCKTAIL ATTIRE “AKA” BUSINESS CASUAL  
FORMALITY LEVEL: 2
 
White, blue or pink dress shirt
Navy, blue, brown, gray or charcoal suit
Black or brown dress shoes
Black or brown dress socks
 
Cocktail attire or business casual require a formal suit, though none require a tuxedo. Take liberties with your suit color—navy, blue, brown, gray, or charcoal—and you may now wear notch lapels. Brown shoes are also on the menu, and they don’t necessarily need to be high-polished. Shirt options now include pastel blue and pink. Also fair game: neck ties and bow ties with subtle patterns, lapel pins, patterned pocket squares, and tie bars.
CASUAL DRESS
FORMALITY LEVEL: 1
 
Collared dress shirt
Blazer
Dress pants or chinos
Dress shoes with interesting socks

As with all dress codes, err on the side of formality: no polo shirts, denim, shorts, or sandals.

A patterned jacket with contrasting dress pants or chinos, or patterned pants with a solid contrast blazer work well. Or try a patterned dress shirt without a tie with a matching suit. In this case, an interesting pair of socks— or no socks at all—would be a great way to display personality without going overboard. Ties are optional.

 
 
 
*Photos and details all provided via The Grooms Guide by The Blk Tux