Should You Wear a Tie to a Wedding: Complete Guide to Wedding Ties

The fancy paper and scented envelope it came in are very stylish. Someone you know is getting married. You’re happy for them, but also a little freaked out. At the risk of sounding like a cliche in an 80’s movie, “What are you going to wear?” Do you need to rent a suit and wear a tie? Relax, there’s plenty of time for you to find the right stylish look. I’ll help you navigate the troubled waters of formal dressing so you can turn up looking like a million bucks.

Should you wear a tie to a wedding? Age and other factors can affect how you should dress for a wedding. As a general rule, unless the invitation specifically says the wedding is informal, then yes, you should wear a tie. There are levels of formality that determine precisely how dressy you need to be. 

Interpreting The Invitation: What Kind of Tie to Wear

If this is your first ‘rodeo’ or the invite for the wedding you’re preparing for has some confusing language, it can leave you feeling frustrated and worried about your wardrobe. What kind of tie do you really need?  Don’t skip that RSVP just yet. Unless you’re a fashion expert, or you attend a lot of weddings, it’s normal not to know this stuff. The type of tie and suit you need are easy enough to figure out with this translation guide.

  • White Tie

If you have friends who are genuine royalty or very monied, then you may eventually receive a white tie wedding invitation. A white tie wedding means you quite literally need a white bow tie. Moreover, you’ll be looking for a tux with tails, white gloves, and patent leather shoes. Sometimes this is called an evening tailcoat and trousers.

A vest is traditional, and you should strongly consider wearing one. My favorite is the S.H. Churchill & Co. White Pique Vest & Bow Tie I got from Amazon. Check out the prices by clicking here

This level of dressiness is most often found only among the most elite people. For example, if you were asked to attend the wedding of a friend whose family comes from ‘old money,’ they might have this sort of soiree planned. You can probably expect the reception to be in a ballroom or a similar setting.

  • Black Tie

Black Tie is a formal setting. You’ll need to wear a black bow tie, or possibly a long black tie for this kind of wedding. A long necktie is more casual, so make sure you ask if you’re not sure. You can skip the gloves, and the tails on your tuxedo. However, you still need a tux. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear a more formal tailed tux if you happen to own one. Go with a shirt that has french cuffs and cufflinks.

Similar to the white tie wedding, this event is very formal. Use your best manners. If you aren’t familiar with silverware settings for a fancy table, then bone-up on what fork to use. The reception will probably be seated at dining tables with some dancing to follow. Also, keep in mind that at this level of formality, you should not stand around with your hands in your pockets, it’s rude.

  • Black Tie Optional

Like the previous two levels of formality, this wedding is a formal affair. “Black tie optional” does not mean you can skip the necktie. It means you need a formal suit and tie, but the tie doesn’t need to be black. When in doubt, wear a black tuxedo and black tie anyhow. You won’t be overdressed. Don’t forget your pocket square.

Black Tie Optional is the lowest level of formality, where I’d suggest going with personal stylistic details or a colored tie. Skip the loud patterns and keep the patent leather shoes. A high-quality suit in navy, dark grey or dark brown is alright, and lighter colors in summer or springtime. Get a tie that’s one color if you aren’t going with black and make sure you sport a tie tack.

  • Semiformal aka Dressy Casual

Semiformal weddings are not the place for your casual-Friday work attire. You still need a necktie. In winter, opt for a dark-colored suit with a pocket square. If the wedding is a spring or summer affair, then a light grey or tan suit is elegant. You can even wear white linen in summer, but that’s the messiest color to choose from. Always opt for off-white if the bride is wearing a white gown. You don’t want to show her up or look like the groom. That’s a major faux pas.

If you absolutely loathe ties, then you can technically skip out, but you shouldn’t. If you do, make sure to class up your outfit with cufflinks and good shoes. Alternately you can go for a Mandarin collar shirt like my favorite from Neil Allyn. You can get one from Amazon if you click here.

  • Dressy Casual

Don’t get confused by the name of this wedding style. For your best look, go with an elegant suit like you’d wear to a business meeting or a job interview, and wear a long tie. It’s okay to wear a colored shirt and tie, but make sure you look well put together. Opt for minimalism to avoid looking either overdressed or tacky.

A dressy casual wedding is the sort of affair where it would be alright to wear a nice western suit with a bolo tie if that’s your inclination. Don’t wear a tuxedo even if you own one. That would be taking things a few steps too far. Wear nice shoes, and feel free to skip the cufflinks if you don’t like them. Again, if you despise neckties, you could go without and class up the rest of your outfit instead.

  • Casual

Sure, it seems like this might mean you can just wear jeans, but that’s not the case. A casual wedding is the sort of place you would wear that casual-Friday attire. Kacki’s and a blazer is fine. In summer, you might get away with slacks and a button-down shirt or a polo shirt with a collar. Skip the tie. You won’t need it for a casual wedding.

Unless the people inviting you very explicitly tell you that they’re having people wear jeans, or shorts then you still need to dress nicely. Don’t go overboard or you’ll look way out of place, and you might even look better than the people getting married, which is a huge no-no.

  • Special/Novelty

It doesn’t happen often, but should you get a wedding invite that says something else, then you may need to ask questions. The tie or no-tie issue is just one small part of a specialty wedding. When the formality level isn’t mentioned, ask the bride, wedding planner, or maid of honor for details. You may not understand what “beach formal” and “desert chic” means. When in doubt, ask.

A wedding invitation that says ‘costume ball,’ or ‘dress as your favorite superhero,’ should be self-explanatory. Even zombie weddings are en vogue these days. Don’t hesitate to go all-out on a costume if the invitation says you need one. In that case, skip the tie unless it’s part of your ensemble.

Choosing the Right Tie for a Wedding

Your tie says a lot about you. Men don’t typically wear jewelry or most of the accessories and patterns that women sport, so you’re a bit more limited in how to express yourself. A great tie-tack and cufflinks are essential, even if you don’t need them for this wedding.

Picking the right tie for a wedding can make a big difference. Plus, you don’t want to embarrass yourself. So how do you choose a suitable tie? Before we get into the details, there’s one basic rule. No clip-ons! They’re tacky, and it’s not that hard to learn how to tie a tie.

If you need a fantastic, all-inclusive, yet simple tie set, then I suggest the Tie G 5 Piece Tie Set, which comes with a long tie, bow tie, cuff links, pocket square, and a satin lapel flower. Pick out your color, or grab the black while it’s in stock here

Matching Your Wedding Tie to Your Suit

Lot’s of men buy ties because they look cool. However, wearing a tie is more than picking a pattern you like. Use this quick guide to choose the right tie every time.

  • Length- Make sure the tie in question is the right length for your body. The tip of your tie should end in the middle of your waistband. If you’re wearing a belt, shoot for the center of the buckle.
  • Width- Extra wide ties and unusually narrow ties should only go on men whose clothing is unusually wide or narrow. Unless you’re a fashion-forward guy, skip the trends and opt for a three-inch wide tie. You can do a quick measurement with a dollar bill. Lay the dollar down on a flat surface. The bill is 6.14 inches wide. If you lay a tie on top of it, the tie should line up with the side of the dollar and reach or cover George Washington’s nose.
  • Color- Black or white are traditional for weddings, and they go with everything. For a pop of color, choose solid colors like dark silvery grey, blue, and reds.
  • Pattern- If you’re headed to a casual wedding and plan to wear a tie, then all you have to do is make sure the primary color or colors in your pattern matches your suit and shirt. Realistically, it’s okay to wear a tie with darker or lighter shades of the same colors your outfit has.

Tie Knots for Weddings

Learning to tie a tie properly for a wedding or other fancy event only takes a few moments. You’ll want to follow a tutorial and practice a few times. If you’re overly concerned that the big day might come and you’ll forget how to tie your tie, it’s okay to pre-tie it and then loosen the loop so you can slip it on.

You don’t need some overly fancy knots to look suitable for the wedding. All you have to have is a crisp, put-together look. Fortunately, being stylish isn’t about fashion trends or having a million clever details. Hence, you can dress simply and still be incredibly well turned out.

Final Thoughts

It should not be a question; When in doubt, wear a tie. There are plenty of good reasons. First, you’ll look great. Secondly, it’s just good manners. Third, you never know when you’ll run into someone who could be important in your life. Whether it’s a love interest who happens to be a bridesmaid or a business connection, your first impression is still everything.

You don’t need to own a plethora of formal suits and tuxedos to dress for weddings. When you don’t anticipate being invited to a classy wedding, and it comes out of the blue, it can be frustrating. It’s alright to rent in a case like that. Otherwise, one truly formal tuxedo, one extremely formal suit, and a couple of less formal but still excellent options are enough. Especially if you don’t wear suits to work, less is more.

When in doubt, ask a professional what sort of tie you need. Be prepared with pictures of your suit and shirt for reference. Getting good advice is classy and smart. Wearing a great tie is even better.

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