A Quick Guide to Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Men

Learn the ins and outs of semi-formal attire for men. Our guide offers outfit ideas and tips to perfect your look for any sophisticated occasion.

By Jennifer Prince

Semi-Formal Attire for Men
Photo by Freas Photography

Most guys know what formal attire is, but a semi-formal dress code is a whole different ball game. And when you consider that "semi" can mean a tractor-trailer or the game before the final game, and there’s a whole new level of confusion. Rest assured that neither of these definitions has anything to do with semi-formal wedding attire for men! Here, we'll clarify what a men's semi-formal look is when it comes to wedding dress codes.

What Is the Difference Between Semi-Formal and Formal Attire?

In short, the word “semi” means half, so a semi-formal dress code lies somewhere in between casual and formal. A better way to define the prefix, in this case, is “sort of” or “somewhat” formal. So, for a semi-formal look, save the tuxedo for a black-tie or formal event. It’s not appropriate for a semi-formal event where suiting is more fitting.

What Is Appropriate to Wear to a Semi-Formal Event?

Keep your tuxedo and white tie best in the closet. Whether you prefer a navy suit or light blue suit, or a pair of khakis with a lighter suit jacket, three piece suits, blazers, and chinos are all en vogue for semi-formal events.

However, pay special attention to how you accessorize, as it doesn’t merely come down to a button-down, jacket and trousers. Shoes should be in pristine condition—dress shoes, loafers and oxfords are all great options.

The shirt—long-sleeved, preferably—should be neatly pressed. A belt and socks are also necessities, and cufflinks add a nice touch.

If you’re unsure of the formality when going to a wedding that suggests semi-formal attire for men, adding a pocket square, suspenders and neckwear to a classic black suit will help your look fit the bill. You can toss these aside once you arrive at the event, if they make your look too formal. It’s better to be a bit overdressed. You can always dress your look down, rather than forgo the tie and wish you had worn it instead.

Semi-Formal Attire for Men | Zola Photo Credit // Seedling Photography

Where Do Guys Wear Semi-Formal Attire?

Weddings, of course, are our top answer, but there are other occasions where semi-formal wear is appropriate. You will have the perfect opportunity if you are heading to the theatre or an upscale restaurant. Guys may wear a blazer and trousers, along with loafers and cufflinks, to a holiday party or office event, which is a normal semi-formal event. In short, you’ll most likely wear your semi-formal wedding attire again, so making it an investment is a wise choice.

Another thing to consider is when the event is happening. Darker colors are appropriate for evening weddings, and lighter tones are more fitting for the day. However, don’t feel limited by that rule. Pale tones can complement an outdoor summer wedding as daylight lingers into the evening hours.

What Do I Do If There Is No Attire Listed on the Invitation?

Several cues can be on the invitation itself, and here are a few suggestions on how to interpret those subtleties. Although these aren’t hard and fast rules, they can help guide your choices on how to dress as a guest.

However, if you still have questions about the dress code, reach out to the couple to clarify. They would much rather have you ask than risk having you wear a tuxedo or denim to their semi-formal wedding.

1. Look at the style.

Often, classically designed invitations—such as plain and embossed with script font—are reserved for more formal events.

2. Read the wording.

Traditional stationery that “requests the honor of your presence” generally denotes a more upscale event.

3. Note the time of day.

Customarily, a daytime wedding will range from a casual to semi-formal dress code. At the same time, evening events tend to be ritzier.

4. Research the venue.

A barn wedding can call for a less formal look. However, an urban hotel reception will require something a bit more posh.

5. Consult the wedding website.

Couples utilize their wedding website to answer a whole host of questions that can’t be addressed on the invitation alone. Head to their online invitation or FAQ section for clarification on their requested dress code.

Dos and Don’ts of Semi-Formal Attire for Weddings

Semi-Formal Attire for Men | Zola Photo Credit // Jessika Feltz Photography
  1. Don’t arrive underdressed. To reiterate, wear items such as a tie and pocket square, which can be taken off if you feel overdressed.
  2. Do wear colors that correspond to the time of day—light for day and dark for nighttime.
  3. Don’t wear extremes. As in, forego the tux, but don’t wear jeans, either.
  4. Do pay attention to your details. Wear a belt and cufflinks, ensure that your dress shirt is pristine, and don’t forget socks for your dress shoes.
  5. Don’t be afraid to mismatch your suiting. You can wear a suit, but a jacket and dress pants are also a perfect combo.
  6. Do be respectful of the dress code. If an invitation requests semi-formal wedding attire, it’s best to adhere to the directive and not go rogue.

A Quick Guide to Dressing the Wedding Party

Hopefully, if you’re getting married or are serving as a wedding attendant, you already grasp what semi-formal attire is. It’s appropriate for the groom and the wedding party to wear less-than-formal clothing. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • The groom should be more formal than the male attendants. Saying “I do” on the big day garners extra attention, so take the opportunity while you can. Go a bit more formal than the groomsmen, in subtle ways. Opt for a bow tie instead of a traditional necktie. Wear a suit instead of separates. However you choose to express yourself, let everyone know that it’s your wedding day.
  • Male attendants coordinate with—not match—the groom. Yes, the guys can be matchy-matchy, but let the groom stand out on his own. Coordinating colors and patterns for neckwear and suiting works well to create a cohesive look.
  • Double grooms don’t have to match each other. In this case, each groom can choose to express themselves individually. However, be sure not to clash. Even if you both love bold colors, try to coordinate them with other elements of the wedding.

10 Semi-Formal Wedding Attire Ideas for Men

1. Classic Black Suit

A classic black suit is always in style, and it's a perfect option for semi-formal affairs that are happening in the evening.

Modern Fit Wool Blend Suit, $199.99, Saks Off Fifth

2. Navy Suit

If you want something that's as sleek as black but a little bit different, navy is a great color choice for any cocktail dress code.

1905 Collection Tailored Fit Suit, $159.99, Jos A. Bank

3. Light Colored Suit

If you're looking for semi-formal wedding attire for a Southern or daytime wedding, go for a men's suit in a lighter color.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Men's Slim-Fit Stretch Linen Suit, $395, Macy's

4. Lightweight Suit Jacket

Choose a fabric like linen for a lightweight suit jacket option, and wear it with your go-to pair of chinos or dressy khakis.

JOE Joseph Abboud Linen Slim Fit Suit Jacket, $199.99, Men's Wearhouse

5. Chinos

If you're going to a daytime wedding with a semi-formal dress code, chino pants are a comfortable, easy option.

Clark Straight-Fit Stretch Advantage Chino, $118, Brooks Brothers

6. Khakis

Are khakis more your thing? Pair these light-colored pants with your favorite navy suit jacket for a high-contrast, semi-formal outfit.

Stretch Weekday Warrior Dress Pants in Khaki, $119, Bonobos

7. Dress Shoes

A great pair of men's dress shoes are a must-have in any semi-formal wardrobe arsenal. A color like brown is so versatile - wear them with navy, gray or khaki suit separates.

Vince Camuto Lamson Cap Toe Oxford, $79.99, DSW

8. Loafers

For a slightly more elevated dress shoe option, try a pair of loafers.

Johnston & Murphy Everett Suede Loafers, $149.99, Men's Wearhouse

9. Button-Down Shirt

When it comes to semi-formal wedding attire, you can never have too many button-down shirts. A patterned one is an easy way to show off your personality under your suit jacket.

Button-Down Collar Stripe Shirt, $39.95, Charles Tyrwhitt

10. Cufflinks

Cufflinks are one of the easiest ways to make any semi-formal wedding attire just a little more elevated.

Gold Round Cufflinks, $119, SuitSupply

For some guys, date night consists of a jacket and dress shoes. Others grab their favorite t-shirt and best-loved jeans to head out on the town. Depending on the circumstances, either outfit can be appropriate, yet only one qualifies as semi-formal attire. Suiting isn’t the norm for some, but a wedding is the absolute best reason to kick it up a notch.

Up next for you

Should the Groom Wear a Tie or Bow Tie

Should the Groom Wear a Tie or Bow Tie for Their Wedding?


The style of a groom’s suit will help determine whether a bow tie or tie should be worn on their wedding day.

Garden Wedding Attire

What to Wear To a Garden Wedding + 15 Outfit Ideas

How To

Garden wedding attire blends comfort and style with light fabrics and floral touches. Discover perfect outfits for an enchanting outdoor celebration.

groom and groomsmen in light grey suits

The Groomsmen Duties: A Full Breakdown


To help your groom’s crew achieve wedding party perfection, here’s a total rundown of both traditional and lesser-known duties that the groomsmen can handle to make your day a breeze.

A Guide to Children Attire at a Wedding

A Guide to Children Attire at a Wedding

How To

Kids can be just as hard to dress as grownups. Check out Zola’s useful guide to kids’ wedding attire to make sure your little ones look spiffy.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.