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Jonathan Tam had it pretty easy.

Leading up to his big sister's wedding, all the 24-year-old had to do was get a fitting, write a speech and buy a gift. That was it. The real work was left for the rehearsal dinner.

"That's when I'll have to pick things up," Mr. Tam said, laughing. His sister, Jessica, is the first of his siblings and friends to get married, so he's flying blind. "I don't really know what to expect," he said.

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Many guys his age don't. What does "formal" mean? What's a sweet gift? Who pays for the stag? It's all foreign territory. As summer rolls in, here's a dude's guide to wedding season.

The Invite

The wedding maze starts with the invitation.

"If you're invited to the wedding, you're obligated to send a gift even if you're not going," says wedding planner Leah Elliott. "That's by-the-book." (So you might as well go).

Does the invitation say "and guest"? If not, don't bring one. Your date won't have a meal, or a place to sit. Otherwise, single guys need not panic.

"You don't have to bring a date," says wedding planner Candice Jones. "You can find a cute girl there."

Whether or not you go, RSVP. Send the little note back in the mail, and do it right away, Ms. Elliott suggests. "Before it gets buried underneath all the other mail."

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The Gift

There are four trains of thought: the registry, a gift card, cash or anything else. The experts agree the registry is the safest bet, even if it means a crock pot.

"Your legwork is done for you," says Alison McGill, editor-in-chief of Weddingbells magazine.

But your registry options will be domestic - Williams-Sonoma is no Best Buy - so some guys stay away.

You can get them something cooler instead - camping gear, a TV, a vacation, or tools if they've bought a home. But ask the groom. Make sure the couple want it, don't have it, and can both use it.

"Unfortunately, there's not one great, catch-all wedding gift," says planner Lisa Hanslip. "It's kind of a minefield, really."

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If you want to avoid the land of decision making altogether, give them a gift card or cash - $100 to $150. If you bring a date, double it. Otherwise, adjust for how close you are to the couple, and your financial circumstances: students less, lawyers more.

Gift cards typically reflect a little more consideration, but cash is popular with couples who are paying for their own wedding - an average of at least $30,000 these days. While once it was considered tacky, more couples are now hoping for cash to offset those costs. "Generally people just say, 'Look, we want cash. How do we tell people?'" Ms. Elliott says.


It all depends, really.

If it's formal (unlikely) that means full-on tuxedo. Warning: This wedding will suck. It will be hot, traditional and way too long. Tread carefully.

Most invitations won't say what the dress code is. So if it's in a classic setting, such as a church, assume it's semi-formal and wear a suit. Black is safe, but the suit can be cream or lighter-coloured (without going too Don Johnson), a smart choice in the summer heat, says planner Cynthia Martyn.

Khakis may also be passable, particularly at a beach wedding. Jeans? Big no.

"Unless it actually says 'hoedown,' jeans are not appropriate," Ms. Elliott says.

If you're hitting multiple weddings this summer, it's cool to wear the same suit if the ties and shirts are different. Oh, and black pants? Wear black socks.

The Stag

Groomsmen are responsible for planning the bachelor party.

It can range from a night out to a week in Vegas. It's often open to non-groomsmen - some post it as a Facebook event - but don't assume you're invited. Ask. This is the time to give your buddy the Callaways, hockey tickets or a PlayStation 3. It's not required, but it's your only chance to completely ignore the bride. Also, it's way more acceptable to get totally canned during the stag than at the wedding. The groom's stag costs are covered by his groomsmen. Other guys coming along might chip in by buying a round, or pitching in for dinner.

The Ceremony

Show up half an hour early - you'll look like a tool if you're late. Once there, it's straightforward: The bride's family and friends sit on the left (facing the couple), the groom's on the right. If you're alone or just with a date, grab a seat somewhere between the wallflowers in the back and family in the front.

Don't whoop. Vigorous applause is fine, but cheering is tactless, Ms. Hanslip says.

If you're a groomsman, you pretty much just stand there. And if all else fails, consult the nearest female.

"The saving grace is really the women," says Craig Schumacher, 25, a best-man-to-be. His strategy: "Ask whoever, and try to figure out what I'm supposed to do."

The Reception

Justin Pfefferle, 25, a groomsman-to-be, will be wearing a kilt at his Scottish friend's wedding. He'll be very, very authentic. Such are the hazards of a reception with a bar.

"How many drinks later am I going to want to demonstrate to everyone that I'm not wearing anything under my kilt?" he said.

Impromptu speeches are a terrible idea, and you shouldn't sneak out until after the first dance.

And since we've all seen Wedding Crashers, the experts say that basic dating rules apply at a bar. The big one? Don't hit on the married women. Singles are fair game. Again, just don't get too drunk.

"Most weddings are open-bar," Ms. Elliott says. "And open-bar does not mean keg party."

The Morning After

The next morning, there are often gift-openings for close family or goodbye luncheons for out-of-town guests. It depends on the couple, but typically family and the bridal party have to attend.

If you made an ass of yourself the night before, or got too drunk, you still have to show up.

"If you are conspicuously absent, it makes it a bigger deal," Ms. Hanslip says. "Inevitably at those things, half the people are worse for wear."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More


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