At Bryan Pawling's September nuptials at Sterlingbrook Farm, he and his seven groomsmen will be wearing navy-blue suits, but each one custom made: The guys chose their lining, the width of their lapels — even the thread color on their buttons.
"You wouldn't get that in an off-the-rack suit," said Pawling, 28, of Westmont, "and the price you couldn't beat — $399 — so the groomsmen were all excited."
In anticipation of his Hawaiian honeymoon, Pawling picked for his Indochino suit a toucan-and-pineapple lining with the monogram stitched inside: "She wears the pants."
"The options for groomsmen have skyrocketed," said Christiane Lehman, owner of Truly You Events in Old City. "It's off-balance when the brides and bridesmaids are spending hours on hair and makeup, the dress and shoes, while the grooms rent some ill-fitting saggy suit. It's elevating fashion when the guys step it up."
Over the last five years, more people have chosen to go custom for their wedding, spurred by Pinterest possibilities, a greater interest by men in fashion, and economics: You could rent, but why not invest in something you could wear — and like — again?
The budget is flexible. Among Lehman's clients, one wedding party spent about $250 each for a beach vibe – pants from H&M, vests and shirts from J. Crew, and ties and a pocket square from Tie Bar. Another, just the groom and his brother, bought $1,500 custom tuxedos from Commonwealth Proper.
When offering advice, Lehman considers the guy – "grooms who are more fashion conscience and want to make their stamp as part of the wedding, as opposed to the guys who just don't care that much," she said.
When its Philadelphia location opened 2½ years ago, Indochino, based in Vancouver, sold custom suits or tuxedos to one or two wedding parties each week. Now it's seven wedding parties. The store hosts a group consultation for the guys to choose their options, and then everyone comes back for a fitting. Those who live out of town can measure themselves with the help of an online instructional video and send in their measurements. "We do that increasingly in the globalized world we live in," said Dean Handspiker, Indochino's vice president of design, product, and store development. (Tuxedos are trending over suits, and midnight blue is the hot new color, he says.)
But custom isn't for everyone. Greg Argos asked his six groomsmen for his July wedding, but ultimately, they found the price was too steep.
"The groomsmen have different careers and incomes," said Argos, 31, of Bella Vista. "Some of my groomsmen are coming from the West Coast so they have a lot of expenses already. When we crunched the numbers, renting tuxes ended up about $140 to $150 with shoes and accessories."
Robert Fung, president of Robbini Bespoke in Center City, offered custom outfits for wedding parties when he started his company in 2011.
"As custom clothing has become more popular, prominent, and relevant, it's extended to grooms, but it's really taken off in the last two or three years," especially, he said, as a groomsmen gift.
Robbini Bespoke custom suits cost $900, tuxedos $1,200, vests and pants $250 each, and shirts $125. As a personal service custom clothier, Fung goes to his clients' homes for fittings and delivers the finished outfits.
That was important to Shawn Bishop, who got married in Riviera Maya three years ago and opted to pay for custom outfits for his 10 groomsmen. The $300 for light-tan custom linen pants, untucked shirts, and sandals also included individual fittings at each man's home, spread out between New York City, Hershey, and Philadelphia.
"He measured them up and hand-delivered the suits afterward – it was really white-glove service," said Bishop, 36, of Malvern, who also got a jacket with hot-pink lining to coordinate with the bridesmaids.
Customizing was also a practical choice: It's hot in Mexico, and renting a tux or suit for a week can be just as expensive as buying.
"We were going more linen and sandals," Bishop said. "We were all into fashion, trendy guys who enjoy dressing sharp and looking good."
When Matt Flannery got married at a church in Media, followed by a reception at the Philadelphia Marriott in July 2013, his dozen groomsmen were decked out in black tuxedos from Jos. A. Bank.
"They'd each expect to pay a couple hundred dollars to rent, and I thought it was important to have them own the tux at the end of the experience," said Flannery, 35. Each groomsman paid $250 for his own tuxedo and shoes, and Flannery picked up the roughly $100 cost for each man's shirt, suspenders, and bow tie.