Decoding the dress code can be one of the most difficult things when attending a wedding ceremony. Things get even harder when the dress code is stated as ‘semi-formal.’ In theory, the semi-formal wedding dress code allows more room for expression and experimentation. But in practice, decoding this dress code is incredibly difficult.
What constitutes semi-formal attire? Are jeans too casual for a semi-formal wedding? Are suits too formal? Striking the perfect balance between formal and informal can be a daunting task, even for the fashion-conscious gentleman.
Thankfully, you’ve come to the perfect place! Studio Suits’ team has created a guide for semi-formal wedding attire for men. This guide will be incredibly useful for when the wedding seasons come and the invitations start to arrive!
Understanding the Semi-Formal Dress Code
Even though weddings are traditionally a formal occasion, semi-formal is one of the most common dress code requirements for weddings these days. So, to avoid any confusion, let’s start by answering the basic question, what is a semi-formal dress code?
A semi-formal dress code typically means you should dress in an elegant and sophisticated manner yet not be bound by strict rules. This dress code allows you to personal touches in the ensemble while still requiring you to look sharp and presentable.
When it comes to semi-formal attire, think somewhere between a formal dress code and a smart-casual one. For men, this means you can step away from the extremely formal tuxedo suit and opt for more casual two-piece suits or a blazer and slacks combo. You also have more freedom to pick your ensemble’s color, pattern, and accessories.
Overall, you’ll want to dress down and style your suit in a more relaxed way. Think crisp slacks, a dress shirt, and a smart blazer.
That said, it’s frowned upon to look too casual when attending a semi-formal wedding. So, tuck your denim and t-shirts away; you won’t need them for this occasion. Remember, it’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. That’s why, in our opinion, it’s best to tip the scales closer to formal than to casual.
Is Semi-Formal Dress Code the Same As Cocktail?
Semi-formal and cocktail dress codes are very similar. In fact, some people conflate the two, thinking they’re the same thing. However, those two dress codes are actually distinct from each other.
Cocktail attire is slightly more formal and dressy than semi-formal attire. You can consider cocktail attire as a small step above semi-formal when it comes to formality.
Furthermore, the cocktail dress code is typically reserved for events that start later in the afternoon or early evening and end later in the evening. Meanwhile, the semi-formal dress code is usually used for events that start in the morning or afternoon.
Formal vs Semi-Formal Wedding Attire
The formal dress code, also known as black tie optional, is the third in degrees of formality when it comes to wedding attire. Meanwhile, semi-formal is fifth on the same scale. So, the first difference between formal and semi-formal wedding attire is how formal or dressy they are.
Going further into the details, the formal dress code calls for something for something more conservative and traditional. So, while tuxedos aren’t required, formal wedding attire typically consists of a polished three-piece wedding suit, a sharp white dress shirt, and a tie or a bowtie. Additionally, formal wedding attire is darker in color. Aside from the classic black, navy and gray may also be used.
On the other hand, the semi-formal dress code is more lax and flexible. Semi-formal wedding attire can consist of a two-piece suit or even a matching suit jacket and slacks. Ties are optional for this dress code, even for the groom! And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even opt for a short-sleeve shirt to wear under your suit jacket!
Furthermore, you have more color and pattern options when it comes to semi-formal wedding attire. Just make sure the color matches the time of the wedding. If the wedding is held in the morning or afternoon, pick lighter colors, such as powder blue, dove gray, and sage green. On the other hand, pick darker colors, such as navy, maroon, and emerald green for weddings that are held later during the day.
Going into the Details
Got that? Now, let’s get into deeper details. Before you decide on your outfit, here are some things to consider:
Confused yet? Don’t be! Studio Suits will help you figure out all the details in this guide.
Before you decide on your outfit for a wedding reception, you’re going to need some more details about the event:
- What is your role? Are you the groom, a groomsman, the father of the happy couple, or simply invited to attend the grand celebration?
- What time is the celebration held? Will the ceremony be held in the morning, afternoon, or evening? What about the reception?
- What is the venue? Is this wedding held in the church, a grand ballroom, or a sunny beach?
- How can you personalize your ensemble? How can you accessorize? Are ties a must?
All these details will help you choose the perfect semi-formal wedding suit.
Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Grooms, Wedding Parties, and Guests
Now that we’ve got the definition of semi-formal attire down, let’s talk about how you should dress up according to your role in the wedding. In this part, we’ll talk about three main roles:
- The groom
- The wedding party members (bestman, groomsmen, and father of the bride/groom)
- The guests
Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Grooms
The semi-formal dress code gives the groom more freedom for self-expression while still maintaining a good level of elegance and sophistication. As the groom, you’re allowed to personalize your semi-formal wedding suit while still standing out amongst the wedding party.
Well-tailored two-piece wedding suits are highly recommended to keep the groom looking sharp and charming. However, an elegant blazer paired with matching suit pants can also look fantastic. Moving on, long-sleeve dress shirts are the traditional choice, but short-sleeve ones can be super comfortable for your big day. You can wear the classic white shirt or choose other fun colors, such as pink, brown, and light blue.
Even though ties are optional in the semi-formal dress code, they are still highly recommended for grooms. The right tie will help you look more polished and put together on the big day. Other accessories such as cufflinks for your shirt are optional but still highly appreciated for your semi-formal wedding attire.
In short, a good semi-formal wedding attire for grooms would consist of:
- Suit: a jacket and slacks (jacket can be taken off later during the reception)
- Shirt: casual dress shirt, button-up shirt, or short-sleeve shirt
- Accessories: a regular tie or a bowtie, the color doesn’t have to match the suit
- Shoes: Oxfords or dress shoes
Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Wedding Parties
Men in the wedding party still have to match the groom’s attire, even with the semi-formal dress code. This means choosing an outfit that matches and complements his attire’s color scheme and aesthetics.
That said, unlike with the groom, ties are optional for the wedding party. This option may even help the groom shine in his wedding attire. But on the other hand, men in the main wedding party are allowed to accessorize their attire. Watches, cufflinks, and even matching caps can be acceptable as long as they’re not distracting or taking attention away from the happy couple.
Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Guests
Guests can be more playful and adventurous with their attire, so be sure to make the most of a semi-formal wedding dress code. Don’t be afraid to play with colors and patterns, just make sure they’re not distracting!
For guests, it’s highly recommended to steer clear of black suits. As the rule goes, the darker the suit, the more formal it is. As a guest, you wouldn’t want to outdress the wedding party and the groom, so it’s best to stick to lighter or more neutral tones, such as charcoal gray, cobalt blue, brown, and tan.
In short, a good semi-formal wedding attire for guests would consist of:
- Suit: a jacket and slacks, they don’t have to match but need to look cohesive
- Shirt: casual dress shirt, button-up shirt, or short-sleeve shirt
- Accessories: ties are optional. Watches and cufflinks are acceptable
- Shoes: Oxfords or dress shoes
Semi-Formal Dress Code Etiquette for All Occasions
Typically, season is the biggest determiner of your attire when attending an event. However, when it comes to the semi-formal dress code, the time of day plays a big role in determining your attire as well.
Whether it’s a sunny outdoor soiree or an evening reception, understanding these important details will help you plan your semi-formal wedding attire. No matter if you’re the groom or the guest, these guidelines will help you appear more sophisticated and charming.
Daytime and outdoor weddings generally lean less formal than weddings held later in the afternoon or evening. Feel free to experiment with neutrals and light colors for your semi-formal wedding suit.
White and white-leaning colors, like ivory and cream, look especially fantastic for semi-formal weddings that are held during daytime. However, steer clear of these colors unless you’re the groom! After all, white and other white-leaning colors are traditionally reserved for the happy couple.
Guest can opt for other light and airy colors, such as:
- Light pink
- Dove gray
- Powder blue
- Sage green
- Plain tan
Prints are also acceptable for both guests and the groom. That said, it’s best to stick with classic and subtle prints that aren’t too loud and distracting. This will give the groom a sophisticated aura and prevent guests from stealing away all the attention.
Don’t forget to play around with your shirt as well. Dress shirts are the anchor to a well-tailored suit. They’re typically white and long-sleeved for formal events. But this rule can be put aside at a semi-formal occasion. Feel free to wear short-sleeve shirts or casual button-ups for more comfort. Alternatively, you can also choose fun-colored shirts to accentuate your outfit!
Additionally, guests also have more freedom to experiment with their semi-formal attire. Suit separates are great for the celebration. You can pair a well-tailored blazer with some nice slacks. Then complete the look with brown leather oxfords for an elegant touch.
Lastly, the key to a great semi-formal wedding attire is confidence. So, don’t forget to have fun with your look and let your confidence shine as you celebrate this lovely occasion!
Evening weddings call for darker, more refined suit colors. Even though the event’s dress code is semi-formal, weddings that are held later in the day are typically seen as a smidge more formal than daytime weddings. So, it’s time to bust out those sharp, dark suits.
Colors that will look amazing for evening weddings include:
- Charcoal gray
- Midnight blue
- Navy blue
- Emerald green
These shades will contrast nicely with a classic white button-down. Alternatively, you can put a modern twist on your outfit by opting for a jet black dress shirt. Just finish the look with a smart pair of dress shoes and you’ll be dressed to impress!
What about black suits? Are black suits too formal or unsuitable for a semi-formal dress code?
Black suits are considered the most formal amongst other suit colors. Thus, it’s usually considered too formal for a semi-formal occasion. However, exceptions can be made for the groom. After all, the groom is allowed to outdress everyone else in the room. So, even though the wedding’s dress code is semi-formal, you can still wear a classy black suit as the groom.
What’s Too Casual for A Semi-Formal Wedding?
The semi-formal dress code might be less dressy than the classic black-tie. But don’t forget the word ‘formal’ is still present! If you’re not careful, you might end up looking unpolished and out of place.
Semi-formal attire sits somewhere between casual and formal. That said, it’s best to stay closer to the formal side to be safe. The semi-formal dress code is not an invitation to go casual. And after all, a wedding is still an elegant occasion that calls for sharp attire.
So, what’s too casual for a semi-formal event or wedding?
Overly casual attire, such as t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops, is a definite no-no for semi-formal events. Wear any of them and you risk getting rejected from entering the venue! Furthermore, jeans, whether it’s dark or light wash, have no place in semi-formal wedding attire either.
As for shoes, it’s recommended to stick with oxfords and dress shoes to be safe. That said, some people are becoming more and more accepting of elegant and fancy sneakers these days. Still, if you intend to wear your sneakers to such an important event, it’s best to check with the happy couple first.
Lastly, be mindful of the color scheme you choose for your semi-formal wedding suit. As a guest, your role at a wedding is to support and celebrate the couple. So, you should avoid white, light creams, and beiges at all costs.
Additionally, colors that are too bright and loud prints may look too distracting. Aside from making you stick out like a sore thumb, that kind of outfit might steal attention away from the bride and groom.
Semi-Formal Wedding Suit for Men: Do’s and Don’ts
Hopefully, you now have understood the fundamentals of semi-formal attire. To conclude, let’s sum up all the guidelines we have learned.
Here are the do’s and don’ts for choosing semi-formal wedding suits for men:
- Be adventurous and playful: The semi-formal dress code gives you the opportunity to show some personality. Use this chance to step up your style game!
- Don’t be overly bold: Weddings are still an elegant affair; avoid looking too loud or tacky. If you’re the guest, you wouldn’t want to outdress the happy couple either!
- Do ask for feedback: If you’re unsure about what to wear, it is perfectly fine to ask the happy couple for feedback.
- Don’t go full casual: You’re still celebrating a major life milestone, not meeting your friends for lunch. So, dress appropriately! Ditch the T-shirts, jeans, polo shirts, flip-flops, and so on!
- Do stay on the formal side: When in doubt, stick to the more formal side of the spectrum. It’s better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.
- Don’t skip tailoring: Your outfit should look relaxed but never sloppy! A well-tailored suit goes a long way. It will help you look more sophisticated and feel more comfortable.
While a semi-formal wedding dress code can be tricky to decode, we hope that this comprehensive guide has helped you understand it better. Whether you’re the groom or the guest, we hope you can dress to impress on such a joyful celebration.
Don’t forget to invest in a good-fitting suit. A well-tailored suit will make you look good and feel more confident, no matter where you are. Plus, bespoke suits made by experienced tailors are extremely durable, making them a wonderful long-term investment!
So, don’t hesitate any longer and order a bespoke, made-to-measure semi-formal wedding suit from Studio Suits today!