Semi-Formal Attire for Men

Learn about the ins and outs of semi-formal attire for men with this wedding style guide. Read on to find out more.

By Jennifer Prince

Semi-Formal Attire for Men
Photo by Freas Photography

Most guys know what formal attire is, but it’s a whole different ball game when you throw in the word “semi.” Add in the fact that the prefix 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 to do with semi-formal attire for men, but let’s clarify its meaning.

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

In short, the word “semi” means half, so semi-formal lies somewhere in between casual and formal. A better way to define the prefix, in this case, is “sort of” or “somewhat” formal. So, 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?

Suits, blazers, and pants are all en vogue. However, pay special attention to how you accessorize, as it doesn’t merely come down to a jacket and trousers. Shoes should be in pristine condition, and the shirt—long-sleeved, preferably—should be neatly pressed. A belt and socks are also necessities.

If you’re unsure of the formality when going to a wedding that suggests semi-formal attire for men, adding a pocket square and neckwear will 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 to a holiday party or office event, which is a normal semi-formal event. In short, you’ll most likely wear your semi-formal 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.

  • Look at the style. Often, classically designed invitations—such as plain and embossed with script font—are reserved for more formal events.
  • Read the wording. Traditional stationery that “requests the honor of your presence” generally denotes a more upscale event.
  • Note the time of day. Customarily, a daytime wedding will range from casual to semi-formal. At the same time, evening events tend to be ritzier.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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, ensure that your dress shirt is pristine, and don’t forget your socks.
  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 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.

For some guys, date night consists of a jacket and tie. 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.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola