By David Isle
As a wedding guest, you have certain responsibilities - to the happy couple, to your family, to yourself. Do not criticize the bride in any way; if you brought your child, make sure it behaves; if the bar is open, offer it no quarter (Obviously I’m kidding. You’re not bringing kids to a wedding, and if the bar isn’t open, you’re not there). Last and also least, wear something respectable.
The definition of “respectable” varies from wedding to wedding, but you can wear the following to any wedding unless specifically directed otherwise: a navy (or charcoal) suit, a white shirt, black shoes, and a wedding tie. It is your birthright as a man to wear this simple combination to absolutely every wedding you attend.
There are two kinds of guys that want to deviate from this basic uniform in a serious way: the first kind resents the effort of wearing a suit and tie, either out of laziness of passive-aggressive protest of the wedding itself. The second kind, not wanting to be mistaken for just another wedding guest, feels the need to “show some personality” in his clothing, and has been reading mass-marketed articles about how to do such a thing at a summer wedding. Both archetypes are agents of mischief. Not because, as the old canard threatens, they will look silly in the photos 20 years hence. Quite possibly the navy suit will be a silly-looking thing 20 years from now. No, the greatest risk is on the wedding day itself. To understand why, we must return to the first axiom of wedding planning: the happy couple will never accept a simple and obvious solution when there’s an opportunity to love each other just a few thousand dollars more.
The wedding planning industry has been absolutely relentless in impressing upon each couple (sometimes but not always, “couple” is a euphemism for “bride” and/or “mother of the bride”) that the wedding celebration is a symbol of the bride and groom’s unique love for each other. Therefore, anything wrong with the symbol represents something wrong with the symbolized. The industry apparatchik therefore links any hesitation about the ceremony or its expense to hesitation about the union itself. “Sure, you don’t have to spring for the videographer…it’s just about what’s important to you. If you don’t care about remembering the happiest day of your life, then you can just stick with the Polaroids. Who knows, maybe it won’t work out anyway and you’ll just end up lonely and rotting in an old folks home. But this videographer I know is really great - think about it!”
The only element that the couple and planner cannot control is you, the guests. You, and your outfit, must do your part to maintain the fiction that everything is just perfect, just as it should be, just as it must be for a couple that loves each other so truly, madly, and eternally. You are the adoring and supportive Loved Ones that the couple is so honored to have present as witness and celebrant of this perfect new union.
If you’re like me, you see all this misplaced and overwrought anxiety and relish the power to turn it all into a joke. Or maybe I’m the only one who gets the urge to, say, perform enthusiastic pom-pom routines from the bleachers at cheerleading competitions, or pump out my loudest fart during deep-breathing meditation at the end of a yoga class, or vote Republican. In any case, yes, it would be funny to go to your friend’s wedding in a Hooters shirt. But think of how mortified they would be, and think of how much you value their friendship in those moments when they are not possessed by the temporary insanity that afflicts modern American to-be-weds.
You will therefore, lazy and unenthusiastic men, iron your shirt and wear a jacket and tie, since every wrinkle, every open shirt, every unjacketed shoulder, uncovers a blemish in the bride and groom’s future. You will therefore, peacocking dandies, wear your simplest and least conspicuous suit, as every eye and compliment directed at you and not the happy couple augurs failure.
Someday the couple will come off of their matrimonial high and realize that the wedding has nothing to do with their marriage. In the fullness of time, it becomes clear that the extra flower arrangements have no bearing on their squabbles over closet space; the customized napkin holders did not somehow bring about reconciliation between the in-laws; the guy wearing the rumpled khakis did not ruin everything.
But the wedding day itself is not that day. It must be perfect or all is lost. So wear a suit and tie.