I can’t help but have mixed feelings about dinner jackets. It’s an elegant, classic look but, if you’re at all caring about the rules for this sort of thing, inappropriate to wear during the day. The notion of wearing a dinner jacket for your wedding is very much an American thing, and I’ll forgive them that because they generally have their weddings later in the day than we do in the UK (or at least that’s my understanding, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). The ideal would be to change into your dinner jacket from your day attire for the reception. I did go to one wedding where they did this, and I do think that it added a little bit of glamour, but not everyone has the money to splash out on an extra outfit or the time to get changed.
Despite this there’s really a lot to recommend them and I think it would work well for a city wedding.The monochrome palette is classy and timeless. Your look will not date, will look nice in black and white and has little to no risk of clashing with the bride, bridesmaids, flowers, guests or anything else that’s likely to be at your wedding. When executed properly it flatters pretty much any build and who doesn’t want to look like James Bond (if we just ignore the fact that the one time he did get married his wife was shot)?
It’s also a lot easier to justify buying yourself a dinner jacket than a morning suit: you’re likely to be attending far more events where you can wear a DJ than a morning suit, so why not buy a nice one. It’s also lot easier to find somewhere to buy a decent DJ than a morning suit and it’s actually possible to find them in the sales (though not necessarily easy).
So what’s the downside? Well beyond it being wrong to wear it during the day, if you’re going with “black tie” as a general dress code, then there’s the problem of differentiating yourself from your other guests, especially since it can be difficult to add colour to your outfit without it looking a bit garish. Also, when trying to execute it “properly” there’s a fair bit of room for error so it’s important to understand where you might go wrong. Now, as always you can break these rules, and in normal circumstances I might even say that slavishly following the rules would leave you with a dull and unremarkable outfit, but that’s not the case here. You can follow these rules to the letter and turn out looking sharp, distinctive and elegant (possibly because hardly anyone follows the rules anymore)
Let’s start of with the lapels as this is the bit that lots of people get ‘wrong’. The jacket should be either a peak or a shawl lapel. You see a lot of dinner jackets around with notch lapels, but put bluntly the notch lapel is for business suits and is not really the done thing for evening wear.
Of all these “rules” this is the one that seems to be broken the most and that sticks out like a sort thumb once you’re aware of it. And of all the rules it’s the most pointless one to break, as a notch lapel really doesn’t add anything to the outfit. The problem is that notch lapel jackets are a lot easier to come by.
The lapels should be faced, ideally in some sort of silk (otherwise you’re just wearing a black suit) which is most likely to be satin, though other finishes like grosgrain are around and are perfectly fine. Note that the material for your bow tie and cummerbund (if you’re wearing one) should match your lapels, and you’ll probably have a lot easier a time finding one to match satin.
The jacket should be single button if you’re going with a single breasted jacket (which is more than likely the case as they’re a lot easier to get hold of). A normal suit jacket has one or two vents at the back, but on a dinner jacket it’s perfectly fine, if not encouraged to have none.
And then there’s the colour. Black, is of course the standard and you can’t go wrong with that; midnight blue, which is an extremely dark blue is also nice, but there’s not so many places you can find one. And then there’s white which has it’s place but there a few issues to consider even beyond the ongoing risk of red wine stains. A white suit can be a bit much and really takes a certain sort to carry it off without looking like the man from Del Monte. If you are liking that look though, you could try the half-way house that is white jacket-black trousers.
So, with the basic overview done, let’s quickly go over the basic elements of the outfit
You should really be wearing either a cummerbund or a waistcoat. Cummerbund should match your lapels and when worn the pleats should be facing upwards. This seems a little counter-intuitive as you (or at least I) might think that you’ll end up getting crumbs from your dinner in there, but that’s the way it’s meant to be. Generally you’ll be going with black, though you can go for coloured and if you do, be careful. Putting coloured accessories on a black outfit can easily look cheap.
For waistcoats I’d be tempted to stick with black or white. Then again, you might want there to be some sort of colour to distinguish you or to match with the rest of the wedding party, but if you do you can end up with the same problems I’ve just mentioned with cummerbunds.
White, or one of the colours that’s nearly white like ecru. For the collar I prefer the turn-down classic collar rather than the wing collar, but I’m not going to yell at you, and the front should have either a pleated or Marcella (which is sort of waffley weave) bib front. The buttons should be covered, or it should fasten using studs and the cuffs should be fastened with cufflinks.
Most decent shirt shops or department stores should be able to sort you out with those things, with the only real problem being the studs, but those can fairly easily be bought online from the likes of TM Lewin. Generally your choice is either a silvery or gold toned metal, either plain or with onyx or mother of pearl. Cufflinks should at least match these in terms of the metal used.
Just make sure to try your shirt and studs together before the big day, because I bought a new shirt to go to a friend’s wedding and if I stretched my shoulders, the shirt would burst open and fire the studs across the room. Thankfully I found this out while getting changed and the shirt had buttons as well (thank you Marks & Spencer).
As mentioned before, should really match the facings on your jacket. Also, it’s your wedding day, the least you can do is learn to tie it yourself (you are excused if you have less than the normal number of hands). If you’re insisting on a wing collar, then try to get a non-adjustable tie. OK, it’s even more of a pain in the arse to tie, but you won’t have a buckle on the back of your neck. And please, please don’t be the guy who wears a clip on tie and replaces it later in the night so they can do the untied tie look as it’s about the lamest thing that a man can do.
Strictly speaking these should be patent leather oxford, but failing that a nice pair of smart, plain, well polished black shoes will do.