Even though bridal gowns steal most of the wedding limelight, men aren’t completely off the hook. If you're facing a formal event your closet isn't quite prepared for, don't panic yet. There are a multitude of formalwear shops out there dedicated to making sure you look your best.

Where to Start

As early as eight months ahead of time, call a formalwear store near you to schedule a complimentary fitting appointment. Appointments aren’t strictly necessary, but they can ensure personalized service. A consultant can take more accurate measurements at the store than you can at home. Large chain and warehouse stores will have a wide variety of styles and designers, and be slightly less expensive than small boutique stores. Small stores, however, can offer more exclusive styles and give you much more attentive service.

Will you rent or buy? If formal events are the exception in your social plans, it's more cost-effective to rent a tuxedo. You can also scour consignment shops or thrift stores for affordable finds, although you may need to take these to an alterations shop to ensure a perfect fit. If you foresee multiple formal occasions in your future, it's time to invest in a good tuxedo. You can also use your tux for dressing sharply on less formal nights by combining the jacket with a nice pair of jeans.

Is a tuxedo the right answer? If it's a less formal occasion, you'll want a suit. For informal occasions like beach weddings or daytime events, a dress shirt and slacks is more appropriate. Remember, not all suits are equal; you don’t want to show up to a wedding looking like you’re expecting a merger and acquisition meeting. When in doubt, call the host or a trusted male guest and ask what they're wearing. The wording on the invitation will also give you a clue as to what's expected: black tie, formal, cocktail, semi-formal, and casual are common terms from most to least formal.

When you reserve a suit or tux rental, you'll usually have to put down a small deposit, and pay in full when you pick it up. You can usually change your mind even after putting down the deposit, however, if you decide you'd like another style. Be sure to ask about group discounts. If all the members of a wedding party purchase their tuxedos together, they can often get a lower price. Rented tuxedoes and suits should be returned the day after the event; otherwise you may be charged a fee.

What to Wear

Go on, do flatter yourself. Try on a variety of tuxedo styles and colors to see what looks best on you. (You can bring a fashionable friend if you don't trust the sales clerk.) There are different cuts of collars and numbers of buttons, as well as colors from white to navy to black to brown to gray. You can find tuxedoes in novelty colors as well, but you’d do well to remember the rule: "Never wear a suit that's louder than you are."

If your bride has already chosen a dress, it makes your job easier. Bring a photo of her dress and the bridal party's outfits with you into the shop, and the salesperson can help you coordinate your tuxedo to match. Beyond making sure the colors complement each other, the cut and style should go together as well as the bride and groom do. Matching your vest to the color of the bridesmaids' dresses (or your date's dress, at a formal dance) is always a popular move. If you are one groomsman of many, your tuxedo should match the other men's tuxedos exactly.

Get a tux that fits. A quick way to size yourself is to measure your chest under your arms: the number of inches is the size suit you wear. Your trouser size is usually five or six inches less. Know your body: Are you wide-shouldered, broad-chested, or taller or shorter than average? Take these into account when picking a designer, as some labels cater to certain body types. This is no time for compromise; if the tux doesn't fit you exactly, take it to a professional alterations shop to get the right fit. Many rental places offer this service, as well.

When you're ordering your tux, you should place your order as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks before the big date or you might incur rush fees. You also want to allow for ample time to make any necessary adjustments.

Accessories are a good way to let your personality shine. You can go big with a top hat and tails, or add some flair with a pair of cufflinks. Bow ties are increasing in popularity. Vintage spats are always a conversation piece. Folded kerchiefs in the breast pocket are a perfect place to add color. If you're in the wedding party, it's not unusual to be given a boutonniere in the wedding colors, so be sure to leave room.

Your shoes are the finishing touch, so remember to find a pair that fits well and matches your suit (and matches the shoes of the other groomsmen). Some tux rentals come with shoes included. Just don't be the guy who shows up in sneakers.

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