Tuxedo vs Suit: Which Should You Wear on Your Wedding Day?
Many don't understand the difference between a tuxedo and a suit, and with the style of tuxes changing, it's becoming even harder to tell them apart. When most people think of tuxedos they think of Daniel Craig as James Bond in his black dinner jacket and bowtie, but many modern tuxes go beyond the classic black-and-white look to incorporate newer styles in gray, tan, or navy.
Whether you're getting married or you've been invited to a formal event, it's important to know the difference between a tux and a suit, and when it's appropriate to wear each ensemble.
Tuxedo vs Suit: The Jacket
The two ways a tuxedo jacket differs from a suit jacket are in its lapels and buttons. If you’re picturing a hypothetical suit, you might visualize the notch lapel—a casual lapel shape that’s commonly used in suit design. Because tuxedos are a more formal garment, they tend to feature peak lapels or a shawl collar, but the lapel shape doesn’t actually matter that much. Tuxedos are defined by the accent fabrics used, and where.
Tuxedos feature a silk satin lapel, while suits are designed in one consistent fabric throughout the jacket. If the lapel shimmers, you’re probably eyeballing a tux. Also worth a glance: the buttons. Tuxedo buttons are often covered in silk, and you might even see a tuxedo with a silk satin accent on the breast pocket or waist pockets. Suits feature normal buttons made of horn, and have a simple breast pocket opening.
Suit vs Tuxedo: The Pants
Just like the jackets, the primary difference between tuxedo pants and suit pants comes down to the tuxedo’s silk fabric placement. Tuxedo pants usually feature a satin silk stripe down the outseam.
Most tuxedo pants are also designed with a silk waistband, which means no belt loops. Belts are a casual accessory—too casual for the streamlined design of a tux. Instead, tuxedo pants have waist adjusters on either or side, or they’re tailored to fit the wearer’s waist.
Utility is the name of the suit game—suit pants almost always have belt loops, but lack the satin accents.
Tux vs Suit: The Shirt
Once upon a time, there were a bunch of formal wear rules men had to follow to look correct. For example, tuxedo shirts (with a pleated bib and wing tip collar) would be… an unusual choice for a suit, but were mandatory for a tuxedo. But it’s 2021, you should own your style, though some of these rules are easier to modify than others.
The tux shirt advice holds up—we don’t recommend wearing a bibbed shirt or wing tip collar with a suit. Pretty much anything else is fair game for a suit, including patterns and colors. The only wrong choice for your suit shirt is wearing a shirt you hate.
If you’re wearing a tuxedo, the traditional bibbed wing tip shirt is always a safe choice. For a modern look, skip the pleated bib and choose a shirt with a fold-down collar. You should choose a few styles that mix and match modern and classic elements of the tuxedo shirt, and both would look great with any tux. It’s also smart to limit your shirt color choice to black and white when you wear a tuxedo. Colors are riskier, and better left for casual events.
If you’re unfamiliar with formal wear, the shirt cuffs might seem like tux vs suit minefield—they’re not. Cuff design is mostly a personal style thing, but if you want to wear cufflinks, you’ll need to make sure they’re compatible with your shirt cuffs.
Suit vs Tux: The Tie
Tuxedo equals bow tie, suit equals necktie—right? Not necessarily.
The biggest difference between suit neckwear and tuxedo ties comes down to the dress code of the event. For the formal dress codes, you’ll want to wear a black bow tie with your tuxedo, or at least a bow tie in the black and white color palette. The less formal the dress code is, the more freedom you have to sub in a patterned bow tie or even a necktie—all of which works just as well with a suit.
With a suit, you can mix up the colors a little more—a very popular move when couples choose their wedding ties. There’s nothing stopping you from wearing a bow tie with a suit, though neckties are a more common choice.
Tuxedo vs Suit: The Shoes
Oxfords, derbys, loafers, sneakers. There are so many styles to categorize, and which shoes are acceptable to wear with a suit or a tuxedo is always changing. That’s why we’re not going to dive into those weeds, except to say: If you’re going to wear sneakers with a suit or tuxedo, do it with confidence—that’s half the battle.
A simple way to contrast shoes for a tuxedo vs a suit is by the shoe’s material. The classic tuxedo look features a patent leather shoe. Velvet is also a trending shoe material match for a tuxedo, often styled into a loafer. Some tuxedo shoes even mix materials, like patent leather and grosgrain ribbon, or even a matte leather combo. Unless this is a festive, fashionable, or laid back event, stick to black shoes.
There’s no rule that says you can’t wear patent leather shoes with a suit—potentially a big style flex—but suede and polished leather shoes are more common choices when you’re not putting the finishing touches on a tux.
Suit or Tux for a Wedding?
As a groom, whether you want to wear a tux vs. a suit on your wedding day is up to you, but there are a few factors to consider:
- Time of day. Tuxedos are considered evening wear, and if you're having a brunch or daytime wedding, a suit will be more appropriate. If your wedding starts during the day but ends in the evening, either a suit or a tuxedo will make a fine choice.
- Wedding theme. If you're having a black-tie wedding, you should definitely wear a tuxedo. If your wedding is more casual, you may be more comfortable in a suit. Consider what your bride is wearing. Will she be wearing a gown? Or is her dress less formal? If she's wearing a tea-length dress for your summer wedding, you should probably opt for a suit.
- Personal preference. For many weddings, it's equally appropriate for the groom to wear a tuxedo or a suit. Some grooms want to look especially striking on their wedding day and wear something special, so they choose to wear a tux. Since it's difficult to tell the difference between a tux and a suit, all that matters is that you're wearing something that you like, that fits well, and is consistent with the style of your wedding.
Partner's preference. Don't have a preference on wearing a suit or tux for your wedding? Ask your partner their opinion. They may know exactly what they want you to wear. (Don't be surprised if you get color and accessory recommendations as well.) In the case of two grooms, it always looks great when the grooms wear a matching style, (either two tuxes or two suits), though individual styles and colors can vary to express your different personalities.
If you've decided to wear a tuxedo, you can choose to have your groomsmen also wear tuxedos for continuity. You may also decide that you want to stand out from the pack, and therefore have your groomsmen wear suits. You can also choose to make your look unique with different accessories than your groomsmen.
When it comes to deciding between a suit vs. a tux as a wedding guest, take a look at the invitation. If the invitation says "White Tie," "Black Tie Invited," or "Black Tie Preferred," you should wear a tuxedo. If the invitation says "Black Tie Optional" or "Formal," you may choose to wear a tuxedo or a dark suit. For all other weddings, your best bet is to wear a suit.