So you missed your senior prom, managed to miss out on groomsmen gifts by side stepping your way out of attending weddings and have not been selected as a nominee to receive the Pulitzer Prize award yet. Now you're engaged and it's time to wear your first tuxedo. Can you keep this string of luck alive and side step your way out of this one too? Nope.
Get prepared. The tux might be the most important element of the wedding process for grooms (followed by choosing the right groomsmen gifts. Hey, you only have so many responsibilities). You want to look good, giving off an air of calm and coolness as the beads of sweat trickle down your temples. Do your research. Be patient and have a game plan that is flexible before you meet with a tuxedo sales person. Have patience trying on various styles. No tuxedos fit the same, just as no body type looks the same. Just because it looked good on Fabio in your fiance's Modern Bride magazine, doesn't mean it will look good on your five foot eight dumpy frame. Hey, this is your best chance to make you and your boys look like studs.
To help you get started, we've prepared a brief overview of tuxedos.
Tuxedos History 101:
Tuxedos first came to America around 1886 when James Potter brought the look from England. He began wearing his new jacket to the Tuxedo Club in upstate New York. Other men quickly followed, going to the their local tailors and asking to copy the jacket made popular by James at the Tuxedo Club...and so the tux was born. The 1920's saw the introduction of the pleated dress shirt, and accessories such as cufflinks and the double-breasted tuxedo. Hollywood began promoting the tuxedo look during the depression era of the 1930's because black and white photographed well. The white dinner jacket also became popular with the growing popularity of warm weather resorts. Color television began in the 1950's, popularizing a variety of colorful accessories with formal wear designs such as red suspenders and printed handkerchiefs. The 1960's and 1970's saw a break from tradition as pant bottoms flared out, bow ties widened and putting one's personal signature on a tux became normal protocol. The 1990's have seen a turn back to the traditional tuxedo styles as cigars, classic cars, single malt scotch and jazz music are back in vogue. However, you can still put your personal stamp on the tuxedo with accessories and even the unorthodox sneaker look.
Where To Go:
Tuxedos can be purchased from three different kinds of retailers: formal wear stores, men's wear stores, and bridal salons. Avoid going to a shop that does not specialize in formal wear. You'll also want to be comfortable, so don't settle for something that's going to make you look like a mannequin. You'll want to give yourself at least two months before your wedding to make your selection and schedule fittings. Plan on making three visits to the store. The first should be with your fiance so she can help coordinate colors with the bridesmaids and give opinions on potential styles. The next visit should be with your groomsmen and ushers to pick out a specific style and to take everyone's measurements. The final visit is one or two days prior to the wedding when you will try on your tuxedos and take them with you. It's common to pick out a style for yourself that is different from the groomsmen, but make sure you all are coordinated, and if you're going high-end, consider buying the tuxes for your boys as groomsmen gifts. Keep an open mind about choosing tuxedos when you walk into a store. You might have a particular style in mind, but once you try it on, it might not suit you. Choose the best cut for your body type and the right color for your skin tone. This is key! After all, you don't want that god-awful greenish yellow tone to your face on your wedding day, making people wonder if you were trying to suffocate yourself prior to the ceremony...right? For out of town attendants, have them go to a local formal wear store to get their measurements. Formal wear retailers will provide this service at no charge as an industry standard and courtesy to other stores. The whole procedure should only take ten minutes. And, make sure everyone gets a final fitting a day or so before the Big Day!
There are several tuxedo jacket styles to choose from. There's the single-breasted traditional look, three-buttoned fashion-forward style, and the six-buttoned contemporary look. Tails create a more formal look and should be knee length. Three standard lapel styles include the Shawl collar, Notch collar and peaked lapel. Neckwear options include the bow tie, a double-knot tie that folds over the chest called an Ascot, the four-in-hand formal tie that looks similar to a business tie or the button cover, similar to a large stud, worn over the top button. Vests or cummerbunds (a material used to cover your waistband) should complement your bow tie and jacket. Formal shirts are pleated, with either the classic turndown collar or the more dramatic wing look. Accessories such as studs and cuff links in black onyx or pearl are safe choices. The person handling the flower arrangements should pick out the boutonniere, usually one flower.
It is risky to shop for price alone if renting. What separates one place from another is the way the tux is cared for, the number of times it has been rented and how shop worn it is. In most stores, you'll find tuxedos from popular designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Perry Ellis, Bill Blass and Ralph Lauren. Prices will vary, usually ranging from $100 - $150 for each rental. You will be bombarded with various wedding specials, but they all basically net out to be the same - a free tux for you when you purchase at least five tuxedos for the wedding party. Keep in mind that your groomsmen are responsible for paying for their own tuxedo rentals unless you want to spring for the cost as groomsmen gifts. Buying a tuxedo is another option. A man will potentially wear a formal suit an average of 6-8 times over a lifetime. The prices generally range from $300 - $1,000, so in the end, it may be a wise investment (and hey, according to national statistics, there is a 50/50 chance you will need a tux for your second wedding anyway).
Your Best Man:
The best man has some key responsibilities when it comes to the tuxedo. He should help you get dressed on the day of the wedding, return your tuxedo the day after the wedding, as well as make sure the groomsmen return their tuxedos. Make sure your best man is "up-to-speed" on his duties. If he's busy hitting on the bridesmaids at the reception, feel free to remind him that his job description includes all of the above.
Start figuring out what you like. Do a little research through one of the search engines on the internet and check out the formal wear ads in the bridal magazines (Make your fiance buy them - you don't buy her feminine hygiene products, do you?). If that doesn't work rent a couple of James Bond movies for true inspiration! Keep in mind that May and June are typically the busiest months for retailers of tuxedos with the prom and wedding season kicking into high gear, so try to avoid these months if possible. Gentlemen, I wish you good luck and keep breathing!