What Is Semi-Formal Wedding Attire?

There are some things couples hope their wedding guests will always get right. Chief among them? The dress code. But even if the dress code is clearly printed on the wedding invitation, guests don’t always arrive in attire that fits the bill—it’s not for lack of trying, though. After all, some dress codes can be downright confusing to decipher, like semi-formal wedding attire.

In general, semi-formal dress codes call for a more relaxed look than what’s required at a formal, black-tie event. It’s a way of asking guests to wear something nice without requiring them to purchase an expensive gown or rent a tux. That flexibility, however, is exactly what makes it tricky for guests to decode: Without clear guidance on what’s expected, your family and friends might have no idea what’s appropriate to wear.

That’s where we come in. To walk you through this semi-ambiguous attire (which is widely deemed the most confusing of all), we tapped industry experts Victoria Holland and Gina Vinnitsky for their professional advice. Read on to learn more.

What to Wear to a Semi-Formal Wedding

“Sometimes semi-formal can be so hard because guests don’t want to be overdressed, but they don’t want to be underdressed,” explains Victoria Holland, luxury wedding planner and owner of Victoria Ann Events. If you understand the basics, however, selecting an outfit shouldn’t be too hard, no matter the venue or season.

Photo by Alen Karupovic

Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Women

If you’re not a fan of floor-length gowns, you’ll be pleased to know that you can ditch your formalwear pieces when attending this type of wedding. “A semi-formal dress code gives women the chance to opt for pieces that let them breathe and move a little more freely,” shares bridal stylist and owner of Silk and Style Bridal Gina Vinnitsky. “No heavy beading or floor-length gowns. Instead, women can don anything from a mid- to knee-length skirt with fabrics featuring minimalistic patterns and/or muted colors.”

Holland also notes that women can lean into more tailored looks, like two-piece ensembles and suits. “We always think a fun suit is a great option for women, for semi-formal, if the venue is giving more formal vibes, like a chic satin suit in a fun color,” she shares. Vinnitsky agrees, adding that “Pants or a jumpsuit would also work just fine for a semi-formal wedding.”

As for accessories, Vinnitsky advises guests to opt for more simple and minimalist styles, recommending block heels or wedges over stilettos and simple gold or silver jewelry over ornate pieces. “Some thin gold hoops or delicate necklaces will emphasize your look without going overboard,” she explains.

Photo by Joel Serrato

Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Men

Semi-formal attire is not the time for tuxedos. Instead, men should focus on matching a suit jacket or a blazer with dress pants. What’s more, when choosing a color to wear, Vinnitsky shares that “Depending on whether it’s a daytime or nighttime event, [men] can opt for a lighter or darker color. Light blues and beiges are perfect for those morning and afternoon weddings, while navy is befitting of an evening event.”

Another piece of advice? Stay clear of jeans and khakis! “I can’t tell you how many men think that semi-formal means nice jeans and a button-down. It does not,” advises Holland. “Our best advice for men is to wear dress pants and a fun dinner jacket with a button-down shirt.”

Lastly, when it comes to accessories, both experts highlight that men can ditch their ties, though it’s highly suggested to wear one in order to elevate a look. Vinnitsky further shares that men should consider wearing loafers and oxfords since they’re slightly more casual, but dress shoes are also appropriate if that’s what you prefer. “Pocket squares also add a nice touch and a bit of personality, but are not required,” the stylist adds.

Additional Semi-Formal Wedding Attire Tips

If you’re still unsure of what to wear, a great rule of thumb is to “lean into what vibe the venue is giving,” shares Holland. Additionally, Vinnitsky shares that guests should consider the time of day when selecting an outfit.

“Daytime, and especially daytime outdoors, will definitely lend itself more to the casual options, while nighttime and indoors will lean more towards dressy options,” she says. “In general, semi-formal is about striking the perfect balance between casual and dressy. It’s a notch above ‘business casual’ but a notch below ‘cocktail’ attire.”

When in doubt, however, both experts advise guests to dress up rather than dress down. After all, no matter the dress code, weddings are special events that deserve out-of-the-ordinary outfits. “You’ll never regret being slightly overdressed, especially at a wedding,” notes Vinnitsky.


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