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What to Wear to a Formal Attire Wedding

The initial reaction when a wedding invite drops through the letterbox, is usually one of excitement, in anticipation of the rare occasion where a best bib and tucker is essential. This is often quickly replaced with the conundrum of what does ‘formal attire’ really mean?

At Shepherd and Woodward, we can quickly dissipate any feelings of despair. We have various options available that will suit differing tastes and characters (pun intended!)

There is a reasonable level of flexibility under the ‘umbrella’ of formal wear, ranging from traditional morning dress or black tie, to a 2 or 3 piece suit. We have broken this blog down by outfit type and from there we hope that you will be able to choose, with confidence, your attire for the special day that approaches.

Traditional Morning Dress

Morning dress is the epitome of elegance and has remained broadly resistant to change since its first appearance towards the end of the 19th century. Its timeless style has an air of authority and class about it and is probably the most formal item to be found in a gentleman's wardrobe.

It was modified from the frock coat - which was knee length with buttons to the waist - to a morning coat with sweeping tails from front to back. This new coat was both practical and aesthetically pleasing for the gentry, as it eliminated the copious amounts of fabric flapping around the knees as they rode their horses, ensuring that they looked elegant and eye-catching.

So, what does morning dress consist of?

  • A morning coat - a single breasted and single buttoned coat which sweeps away at the waist at the front to finish at the back, behind the knees.
  • A waistcoat, either double breasted or single breasted in a choice of colours
  • A white wing or standard collared dress shirt.
  • A pair of grey stripe formal dress trousers (optional braces)
  • Highly polished, black, Oxford dress shoes
  • A tie of choice or cravat if a wing collar shirt is worn
  • Top Hat and pocket watch are optional
  • Handkerchief / pocket square.

Dinner Suit / Black Tie

According to some historians, King Edward VII was unimpressed at having to sit on tails all the time and so commissioned Saville Row tailor, Henry Poole and Co, to make him something more desirable for formal dining.

The dinner jacket, (commonly known as black tie) and also known as a tuxedo, particularly in America, has been a popular choice for weddings as a more modern alternative to morning dress.

It offers some flexibility for its wearer to be more creative, in that subtle details can be altered, such as the design or fabric of the lapels, to reflect different personalities and characters.

What does a dinner suit consist of?

  • A dinner jacket - single breasted jacket, usually in black or midnight blue. They feature a peaked, shawl or notched lapel, with cotton, silk, velvet or satin facings.
  • Dinner trousers with a single silk or satin braid going down the outside of the leg covering the seam, to be worn with braces.
  • A white dinner dress shirt - wing or standard collared and a pleated front covering the buttons.
  • A black ready tied bow tie.
  • Black dress socks, usually fine silk or wool.
  • Highly polished, Oxford dress shoes are the traditional choice, but patent brogues and court pumps are also a popular alternative.


  • Cummerbund, if desired
  • A black low waisted waistcoat, if desired
  • Shirt studs and cufflinks

Perhaps, so far, the list of options has tipped a bit too far on the scales of formality for you, or you feel you run the risk of outstripping the groom or bridal party. You wish to respect the formal dress code, but it hasn't quite hit the spot of what you feel most at ease in. Well, at Shepherd and Woodward we want you to feel yourself and so we invite you to explore our suit range. Our 2-or 3-piece suits can make you look and feel on top of the game and so here are some further considerations for you.

2 or 3 Piece Suit

Perhaps wearing a suit is a very rare occurrence for you, and you really want to make sure you get it right. Well, at Shepherd and Woodward we have selected some beautifully cut, high quality 2-piece suits for you to choose from. Or maybe you wear a suit more regularly for work but want to upscale to a 3-piece suit for that extra special touch. It's not often you have the option to wear an exquisite tweed waistcoat, so why not embrace the opportunity?! In short, a 2-piece suit is a matching jacket and trousers, a 3-piece throws in a waistcoat.

 Listed below are the options for a 2- or 3-piece suit:

1. Our Ted Baker suits are slim fit, and beautifully made using 80% wool finish, with polyester lining. They are available in black, grey, navy and blue and are guaranteed to make you feel suave and sophisticated. They come as a matching 3-piece suit. See our blue Ted Baker suit here.

2. Our Torre tweed suit range comes as a 3-piece suit made from high quality tweed cloth which is 100 % wool. It is a fitted design, with a 2-button fastening. It has been carefully thought through for both aesthetics and practicality, with 2 large front pockets, a small breast pocket and a small ticket pocket. There are 4 buttons on the cuffs and it is attractively lined in navy blue with light blue dots. Our Torre Milan range comes in light grey, light brown and blue herringbone.

The matching waistcoats come in slightly different designs from one another, featuring different button numerations, lapel style or waistcoat lining, but they all serve well as an additional layer for warmth, whilst looking stylish and debonair as part of the 3-piece.

3. We also stock our beautiful Bucktrout Multi Harris Tweed Patrick Jacket, handmade, using 100% wool, with hand finished leather buttons and available in brown, charcoal grey, green and mustard. These also come with a stunning matching waistcoat made from the finest handwoven wool, featuring welt pockets, leather buttons and finished beautifully with a stunning lining/backing.

  • A white Seidensticker single or double cuffed shirt in either a tailored or regular fit.
  • A silk tie in colour and design of your choice, alternatively you may choose from a selection of ready tied bow ties.
  • Black Shoes
  • Cufflinks
  • Belt or braces- optional

Highland Dress

Finally, perhaps the most eye-catching and dramatic attire on the formal wear scale! Highland dress dates back to the 16th Century when it was worn as a display of wealth and power. Different tartans represented different clans or families and it was an important display of aristocracy and sophistication.

Over the centuries it has become more and more acceptable for anyone to wear it, and is the British equivalent to black tie, with many people choosing to adopt this beautiful iconic attire.

  • Jackets - We have a selection of tweed jackets - a popular favourite for weddings, as they combine modern with luxury and elegance. Available to hire in light grey, charcoal, navy. We also stock the Prince Charlie/Argyle tweed jacket, elegantly cut, with silver buttons, satin lapels, braided epaulettes and expertly made using 100% wool.
  • Waistcoats - these come meticulously crafted using 100% wool and an essential addition to the outfit.
  • Ties/neckwear - we have a wide range of silk ties available to peruse.
  • Kilts - we supply over 20 different tartan patterns available to browse, each with its own clan name.
  • Socks - available in light grey, navy and black.
  • Sporran - a pouch usually made from leather or skin such as calfskin or deerskin.
  • Skean Dhu Knife - worn tucked into the sock on the same side as the dominant hand, with only the hilt of the knife showing.
  • Ghillie Shoe - these are a tongueless shoe, often with ornamental perforations; a popular dress shoe, not to be confused with a brogue.
At Shepherd and Woodward, we have a team of experienced staff who can advise you as you choose your outfit for the approaching wedding event. Please do not hesitate to contact us by email at or call us on 01865 249491 and we will be delighted to assist you in your choice of formal wear attire.

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