Attire: Rent or Buy?

When you start thinking about what you’ll be wearing on your big day, one major decision you’ll need to make is whether you’ll be donning a suit, a tux, or something else entirely. Assuming you don’t have a closet full of options, the next big question is whether you should rent or buy your outfit (or rent the big ticket items and personalize with accessory purchases). Here are some things to consider if you’re not sure which way to go.

Is it reusable?

An easy place to start: will you actually wear it again? If you’re leaning towards a tuxedo, this might be a tougher sell (you may want more excuses to wear one, but don’t mistake that for the likelihood that you will actually wear one). If you’re opting for a suit or something more casual, that’s a grayer area.

Your wedding day is a singular occasion, and you don’t want to temper your style just to excuse buying instead of renting. If what you want for your big day isn’t something you’d wear on any other occasion, don’t have any qualms about renting it! Just go visit as many of your local rental stores as possible to find the one that feels more “designer” than “prom” (or, in my experience, the dreaded “my wife is choosing, I’m just here to get measured” stores that deal in low-quality fabrics and uninspired choices). Don’t forget to check out the more modern online equivalents of these stores as well: they tend to offer upscale, higher quality products and they can still tailor your outfit to ensure a good fit.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and your wedding suit is your first suit—or your first nice suit, anyway—now’s a good time to consider getting one. If you don’t have much experience, find a store that can really help you feel at ease and walk you through the process. Richard at our local Nordstrom was instrumental in making over this t-shirt and jeans guy, so go find your Richard and have fun.

Can you afford it?

Whether or not you’re paying for your clothes yourself, budget is usually the biggest concern. This one’s trickier than it might seem since rentals are generally more expensive than people realize. If you don’t have any idea how the numbers will end up working out, go explore and start filling in some of those potential costs. Remember to consider all of your items, including a shirt, socks and shoes, neckwear, a pocket square, a belt or suspenders, and a vest or cummerbund. Get real about adding these up and you’ll have a much easier time making the right choice.

Whenever I’m on the fence about costs like this, I like to think about where else that money might go if I don’t splurge. If there’s an obvious answer to that, it’s easier to weigh your options and discuss with your partner to make the final call.

Do you have the time?

As cheesy as some of their options can be, rental stores do have a lot of experience dressing the Median Man. If you’re not particularly style savvy, renting can provide an easy solution to the array of microscopic choices that might otherwise take you months to conquer. I tend to think we all have the capacity to put together something nice, as long as we’re in the right frame of mind with the right options available to us. With a little guidance, even the grungiest groom can start to chip away the “no’s” and find a good choice. But if you and your partner just don’t have the time and energy to do that, rentals can be an easy shortcut.

Can you mix and match?

If you do decide to rent, you might find that one last piece of the puzzle just isn’t fitting. In this case, rent what you can and buy the rest. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the style of shoes (with feet as big as mine, you learn to take what you can get), but my husband and I bought an ungodly amount of ties ranging from $5 to $185 and returned most of them before we settled on the right pair. If part of a rental outfit feels wrong, skip it and go find other options.

The process of finding the right outfit can be exciting, frustrating, special, and disheartening. Even when you figure out exactly what you want, you’ll have to balance that with your partner’s style and fit it all into your budget. It’s also a lot of fun, and when you finally put the pieces together and see yourself in the mirror, you’ll know it’s right by the big smile on your face.

About the author


The naturally irreverent man-of-many-hats: musician, author, app developer, amateur photographer, and the creator of

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