The traditional groom’s outfit is a morning suit. This means a black morning coat, black and grey striped trousers, a waistcoat and tie. However, many men choose something less traditional. Black tie weddings are increasingly common, as are weddings in lounge suits (every day suits).
But if you’re going for traditional groom attire, here’s what you need to know.
Most men don’t own their own morning suit, so you will either be buying one or more likely, hiring one. (More tips on suit hire below.)
A morning coat is a type of tail coat. It is single-breasted with one button. Below the button, the coat sweeps away to the sides to form a pair of tails behind.
The accompanying trousers are typically thinly striped in grey and black, and appear dark grey from a distance.
Good quality morning suits are made from pure wool, although some outfit hire companies will only be able to offer you a wool blend (part wool, part man made fibres). The latter sometimes have a slightly shiny appearance.
Waistcoats are a matter of personal choice. The conventional groom’s outfit is monochrome, and some grooms see their waistcoat as an opportunity to introduce some colour. (If you are thinking of going for a coloured waistcoat, remember to consult your fiancee, who has almost certainly had the colour scheme for her wedding planned out since she was about ten years old.)
For grooms who want a more traditional look, a plain or lightly patterned dove grey waistcoat remains the classic choice. Cream is a close second.
Usually the best man and ushers wear clothes to match the groom’s outfit, so you may want to make yourself stand out a bit. You don’t have to do this with your waistcoat – simply having a different coloured tie or buttonhole can do the trick.
When choosing your waistcoat, remember that not much of it will be seen under your coat. However, you may want to remove your coat later in the evening (perhaps when you are showing off your moves on the dance floor).
Some waistcoats are backless, and are held in place at the back with straps rather than a full back piece. These stem from an era when it was considered bad manners for a chap to remove his coat during the course of the evening. Nowadays these types of waistcoats are outdated and best avoided.
Again, a matter for personal choice. But let’s face it, it’s probably going to be your fiancee who chooses the colour and not you.
A normal tie is traditional, but bowties are not uncommon. Lots of grooms to wear cravats instead of ties. Strictly speaking a cravat has no place in morning dress, but if you don’t mind breaking traditional rules of dress then this is another option.
No groom’s outfit is complete without a crisply pressed white shirt. You should wear a conventional fold-down collar. Purists will tell you that wing collars are not appropriate for a wedding. However, many grooms still wear them, especially if they are also sporting a cravat.
Your shirt should have double cuffs (i.e. cuffs that fold over) and be fastened with cufflinks. If you normally buy shirts on the High Street, now is a good time to try one of the specialist shirt-makers such as Charles Tyrwhitt.
Your shoes should be black, leather, lace up, and very well polished. If possible, go for leather rather than rubber soles. Remember than if you are going to be kneeling at the altar then the soles of your shoes will be visible to everyone. Make sure you’ve removed all the labels!
Wear your shoes around the house for a few days after you buy them, to soften the leather and make them more comfortable for the big day.
When you polish your shoes, make sure every last bit of polish residue is removed. At some point on your wedding day you are likely to be dancing toe to toe with your wife. Although you probably won’t see her dress before the big day, there’s a good chance it will be expensive, long and immaculately white. Many a bride ends up with black shoes polish marks round the rim of her dress – make sure your bride is not one of them!
Top hat and gloves
Strictly speaking you are not properly dressed without these. Virtually no-one bothers with gloves. For hats, unless you are keen to have one, it’s a pain to carry one around all day just for the sake of sartorial correctness. In the twenty first century these can be considered an optional part of the groom’s outfit.
Most men don’t own their own morning suit. To buy your own morning suit may seem a bit of a waste, just for one day. This means the vast majority of grooms hire their morning suits.
Of course, you are likely to be kitting out not only yourself but the best man, fathers of the bride and groom, and the ushers too. This takes a bit of co-ordination.
Nationwide chain or independent?
If you’re hiring then you need to decide whether to use a nationwide chain or a smaller independent outfitters. There is an advantage to using a chain if you, your best man, ushers and so on all live in different parts of the country. This is because each of you can just go to your local branch, rather than travel to a central location.
The other option is to use a smaller local outfitters. It’s worth asking around for recommendations in your area. You may find you get a higher level of service, and better trained staff, in stores like these.
The hiring process
The process of hiring is pretty simple.
Step one is for you, and probably your fiancée too, to visit a few stores and pick the outfit you want.
Step two, once you have chosen the store and the groom’s outfit, is to get measured. If you are hiring outfits for a group, they all need to get measured too.
Step three is just before the wedding when you pick your outfits up. Most stores will allow you to pick up your outfits at least three or four days in advance. Pick up your outfits as early as you possibly can. Stores can and do make mistakes and if your outfit doesn’t fit, you need to allow time to get a replacement. The day before your wedding with a morning coat that doesn’t fit is not a happy place to be.
Step four is taking everything back after the wedding. By convention this is the best man’s job.
Avoiding the races
One final word of advice. If you are getting married in June then check that your wedding doesn’t clash with the Royal Ascot or the Derby. Morning suits are in high demand at these times, so if there’s a clash then make sure you book a long time in advance.