Invest in an outfit you’ll wear again or save your dough on a rented look you can rock for the day? Get the facts before you get fitted
Time should be your primary deciding factor in whether you buy or rent your outfit. Last-minute dashes the day before are never an option; just as your wife-to-be will work with a six-month turnaround from shopping to final fitting for her wedding gown, you will need to consider your timescale just as carefully.
“Time is so important when you’re choosing Highland dress or a suit,” insists Slaters’ Stuart Graham. “If you’re hiring, we usually recommend booking your outfit three months before the wedding. This is really vital during peak wedding season.” The length of the process also depends on your ability to choose – if you’re notorious for deliberating, you might need to start the process quite a bit earlier to ensure you’re happy.
“A lot rests with the customer and whether he knows what he wants,” admits Carol Howie at McCalls. “The speed of the process, whether you buy or rent, depends on how long the selection takes and whether you want to try various options and styles. For buying, delivery alone takes six to 12 weeks, whereas rented outfits can be booked and collected the next day. That said, we would suggest booking three-to-six months ahead to give yourself the best choice of outfits and fit.”
What’s in stock varies dramatically between the ranges available for buying and those you can rent. Buying might be the only option if your shopping list is a little more precise – when your heart is set on a particular tartan, say, or you’ve only found one shade of blue that will work with the bridesmaid dresses. “The selection of tartans to buy at McCalls includes over 3,000 styles,” says Carol. “If you’re renting, the choice is limited to 30.”
“You have to purchase if you’re looking for something unique,” she confirms. “But you can buy unique items to top up a rented outfit – a customised sporran, bespoke shoes or a tailored jacket can all be added to your individual ensemble, while the wedding party will still be kept very similar. But no matter which method you choose, for hygiene reasons you will have to buy kilt hose and a shirt.”
Availability restrictions aren’t the only issue with renting. “The outfits are not always in brand-new condition,” points out Carol. If ‘vintage’ to you says ‘old news’, and you’d prefer contemporary, cutting-edge tailoring, buying might be a better bet.
“Budget, naturally, has to be weighed up,“ admits Carol. “Having said that, the groom is far more likely than the bride to wear his outfit again. A made-to-measure outfit, fitting you perfectly, will show you off at your best when you wear it on other occasions. And it can be a wonderful keepsake.”
Buying could also mean that you are firmly in control of your spend. “There is a larger span of price ranges to choose from when you buy, which allows any budget to be met,” says Stuart. On the other hand, if you’re convinced that the only time you’re ever going to wear a morning suit is the day of your wedding, you’d be sensible to stick to the hire department. “A plus point of renting is that you will not be left with an outfit you’ll never wear again,” says Stuart.
The gulf in price between the two options is often so vast, as Carol explains, that your budget alone might just dictate whether to buy or rent: “The deposit for a bought Highlandwear outfit is around £200 to £300, with the full outfit costing approximately £1,000 in total. In contrast, you can expect to pay a £20 deposit and £100 in total for a rented outfit.”
Next on the agenda is fit. “Rented outfits come in stock sizesand are not made to order,” warns Carol. Needless to say, every body is different and not necessarily built for a stock size. If you are a regular-shaped guy, this might be absolutely fine. If you’re on the tall, short, wide or narrow side, though (or some combination thereof), it might be less straightforward.
“Although with renting you have the option of a final fitting and expert advice on how it should all look for the big day, further alternations to taper or slim trousers, for example, can’t be carried out on the formal hire items.” Can you and your boys live with those extra inches flapping around your brogues?