There exists a maddening, nearly relationship-shattering barrage of decisions to be made in the months leading up to your wedding. Should the centerpieces be flowers or cacti? Will you serve hard liquor or just wine and beer? Should the napkins match the tablecloths? Steak and fish for dinner, or chicken and fish, or chicken and steak and fish? What about the vegetarians? What type of fork design matches the venue best? Who’s going to sit with Uncle Jimmy?
But these days, there seems to be one arena where there’s just no choice at all: the color of the groom’s tuxedo, and that color is black. Chalk it up to a generation of “wedding album backlash,” that universal phenomenon of looking at pictures from your parents’ and relatives’ big day and laughing uncontrollably at the hideous baby blue, soft gray, pink-accented, or ruffle-adorned tuxedos of yesteryear. In the ’60s, ’70s, and even ’80s, men had real options when it came to wedding-wear, and they became so adept at selecting outlandish outfits that they ruined any chance at stylistic creativity for the marrying men of my generation. Somewhere near the dawn of the ’90s, the god of grooms shut the door on such tomfoolery. “No more silliness, son; this is not the time to look goofy,” the god proclaimed. “You’ll be wearing black from here on out.”
Men, being the path-of-least-resistance sex, accepted the decree and got used to wearing black. The menswear stores followed suit and curtailed their once colorful offerings to 99 percent black, with perhaps one non-black tux (just to laugh at). The once exciting and free process of selecting a stylish, perhaps purple tuxedo has been whittled down to unoriginal drudgery, which, when confronting so many other decisions, isn’t so bad.
But it’s a shame, because our Big Day is the one time in a man’s life when someone might actually remember what we wore. It’s our only chance to leave a creative mark on the annals of style, and getting stymied by those who “know better”-be they brides, moms, menswear sales associates, or the dreaded wedding consultants-is a collective blow to our fashionable guts.
When I got married last July, I decided it was time to fight back. I wanted to wear a white tuxedo. It wasn’t easy. Luckily for me, my wife-to-be was down with the idea. (In fact, she still thinks she came up with it, and gives me that placating, okay-you-take-credit-honey look every time I bring it up.) The problems started at the Men’s Wearhouse on State Street. I assumed I would open the tuxedo binder and find a rainbow of choices. There was only one white-technically ivory-tuxedo. And it was on a dark-skinned guy, which made me wonder whether my pale reddish skin tone would clash. And since the ivory tux is so rare a selection, there were no samples to try on. I didn’t care-I’d made my proclamation, and wasn’t turning back. I ordered the white tuxes.
“White?!?!” was the chuckled question I got from everyone-parents, brother, friends, strangers-leading up to the wedding. “Yeah, white,” I’d respond, “you got a problem with that?” Then came plenty of “it’s-your-big-day-dude-you-can-look-like-a-fool-if-you-want-to” comments and looks.
Soon came wedding week, and the anointed time to try on the real deals. In the dressing room, the chorus arose: “These are really, really white, man! They’re thick and heavy, too!” Turns out that white tuxedos are made with a much wider-gauge fabric, so as to hide your skivvies and whatnots. That makes them stiff and not very breathable, which for a wedding in the middle of July isn’t the most comfortable situation. Of course, it was way too late to turn back.
On the big day-a characteristically sunny summer afternoon-my groomsmen and I sat around my house drinking beer and staring at my off-kilter tuxedo selections, waiting until the last possible minute to don the duds. And then, amid sweaty palms, pumping hearts, and thought-numbing anxiety, we were dressed-in white-on my wedding day.
The next few hours carried forth in a blissful blur, and we received countless compliments on the tuxedos. Maybe people were just being nice, but I’m pretty sure we looked damn sharp in ivory and to have dressed in black on that life-changing afternoon would have been a letdown, both for me personally and for the hordes of creative-minded men to be married in the years to come. I made a stand for style, a stand against the black-tuxedo-only tradition, a stand against the wedding album backlash of generations past. I did my part to usher in the next wave of ruffles and baby blue. It felt good. I remain proud.
And plus, when it’s time to look back at our wedding album in 20 years, won’t it be about time for a good laugh?