By Ben P.
Photo credits Kate Ignatowski

Most StyleForum readers probably aren’t especially familiar with my social calendar, but as of May 2nd I am a married man. Having lived through the experience, I can say with at least some authority that the world of weddings is terrifying.

That being said, there are things you can do to make your experience easier, and you can learn from my mistakes and hopefully avoid some of your own! Most importantly, though: Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. It’s important to know that nothing is going to be perfect: both your planning process and the wedding itself are going to be fraught with unexpected problems. Want evidence? On the way to my ceremony, my mother-in-law (who was carrying everything we needed for the ceremony, including the rings!) got into a car accident.

Style tips:

  1. The most common wedding question on StyleForum is what type of suit you should purchase. There are basically three schools of thought: buy whatever your fiancée wants, invest a lot of money into a classic suit you can wear again (bespoke, made-to-measure), or spend as little as possible on a one-off suit that won’t have much wearability (like a cotton glen plaid jacket with white contrasting linen pants). I’ve always favored a purchase that could conceivably be worn again, as it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend a lot of money on something you’re wearing for four hours. My personal pick? A staple grey SuitSupply suit. Regardless, make sure you check in with you fiancée.
  2. Once you pick your suit, have fun with it: I don’t mean those ugly ‘fun’ socks, but try something out you wouldn’t have otherwise. With my suit, I went ahead and had the belt loops removed and wore braces for the first time. I liked it, it was memorable, and I got a slight Styleforum thrill when showing a guest that while we both were wearing braces, only mine buttoned into the pants properly.
  3. A wedding is a chance to invest in more than just a suit – you’re also going to be wearing shoes, accessories, shirts, and even a high-end watch (if that’s your thing). I originally ordered a pale blue spread collar shirt from Carl at CEGO in New York City, but after seeing the shirt with my suit my now-wife insisted that I go out and purchase a white shirt. Fortunately, Ledbury is local to Richmond, so ended up with a very plain (but well fitting) spread collar white cotton shirt.
  4. When it comes to shoes, think about both the formality of your wedding and the environment of your ceremony. Our ceremony was outside, so I decided to opt for something that was both comfortable and that I was able to walk in. I had already spent enough on my ensemble, so ended up wearing a pair of shoes I already owned: snuff suede Alden x Leffot “Cooney” Boots on the slim, and more formal, Hampton last. If you’re wearing a tuxedo, don’t skip on the footwear, and wear something in patent.
  5. Don’t wear converses or sneakers with your suit. It’s not clever, it’s not quirky, it doesn’t show you have an exciting personality, it’s just obnoxious. And really, try your hardest to avoid all the Pinterest-driven wedding madness. When you look at your wedding photos in ten years, are you really going to be happy that you chose to have your buffet menu printed on mason jars and balloons?
  6. Don’t have your groomsmen wear vests (or ties) without jackets - same goes if you’re a guest. What’s the point? And if you’re going to have everyone wear a matching tie, make sure it’s a step up from a fluorescent orange number from H&M. While this might be wedding essentialism, this is StyleForum, and we care about these things. If cost is a consideration, offer to either pay some of the purchase price, or define an outfit and allow your groomsmen to work within a general mold. Just make sure you treat everyone to a visit to a tailor: too many wedding photos are ruined by groomsmen with un-hemmed, baggy pants. And that tailoring? It doubles as a groomsmen gift!
  7. Think carefully about climate when you make clothing choices. Looks aside, you want to be comfortable. I regret not going with a summer fabric on my suit, and even though the jacket was only half-lined, I was hot for most of ceremony, and was very grateful once we reached our air-conditioned reception space.

General Tips:

  1. Have a voice, but be aware that this day is more about your bride than you: Many wedding blogs/wedding advice lists offer some hackneyed bullshit about how the grooms’ desires are irrelevant, and while this is total nonsense (you might be paying for part of this wedding; you are a valid, functioning human being, etc.), you should be aware that weddings are more about the bride than the groom. Thank Disney.
  2. You can have a say in everything: think critically about what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy. Early on in the planning process, sit down with your fiancée (just you two!) and ask yourself what weddings you’ve attended that you’ve enjoyed, and what elements you might want to incorporate into your own wedding. For me? No dancing.
  3. Set a budget: Weddings are expensive. The average wedding costs over $25,000 and everyone is going to gouge you. Dress alterations that would normally cost $100? For a wedding dress, those alterations cost $400. Cakes? Three times as much. Once you enter the wedding thunderdome, you and your wallet will never be the same. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Every excess dollar your spend is a dollar you can’t spend on something else, be it a house or a new bespoke pair of John Lobb balmorals. Because my wife and I are both young professionals (and we were paying for our own wedding), we worked hard to keep our total wedding cost under $10,000 – which, while a staggering amount, is far below the average of $25,000.
  4. Try negotiating. You’d be surprised at what people are willing to do if you ask – especially if your wedding as at an atypical time or is shorter. We had an afternoon wedding that only lasted about four hours with reception, and were able to negotiate significant discounts on many of our elements. If you’re well dressed (and have the appearance of someone with good taste), many vendors will offer discounts because they know their work for your wedding will help fill out their portfolio.
  5. If you’re on a limited budget, make sure you book a good photographer. My wedding was a blur, but I’m glad that we selected someone who had a great portfolio, because that’s probably the only way I’ll remember anything.

And, most importantly:

  1. Have fun! Weddings are what you make of them.