Clothes to wear to a wedding semi formal

What Is Semi Formal Wedding Attire?

What to wear to a semi formal wedding? It’s not casual dress, but it’s also not black-tie formal. So, what is it? Here’s all you need to know about semi formal attire wedding edition.

It is a textbook example of bad writing to begin an essay or speech with a dictionary definition. So, here we go. According to Webster’s dictionary, “semi formal” is “being or suitable for an occasion of moderate formality.”

When even the dictionary provides a written equivalent of the shoulder-shrug emoji, it’s no wonder no one knows what to wear to a semi formal occasion. In fact, “semi formal” attire is frequently defined by what it is not as opposed to what it is (i.e., it’s not cocktail, business casual, black tie, etc.). “Semi formal” sits at a crossroads of about twenty fashion avenues. Is it “lowkey dressy” or “upscale casual?” How different is semi formal summer wedding attire from semi formal winter wedding attire? Is semi formal dress for an indoor wedding the same for an outdoor wedding? Are we making all of this way too hard?

The quick answers to these questions are “yes to both,” “very, of course,” “sure, probably” and “yes, but also no.”

What the guests wear to a wedding is important. After all, the couple (and maybe their wedding planner) went through a great deal of thought to select their wedding theme. You don’t want to be the knucklehead who shows up at the wedding having interpreted “semi formal” to mean jorts and a t-shirt (quick tip: unless the invite says “jorts required,” don’t wear jorts to a wedding). If your outfit is more amusing than the wedding entertainment, you made a mistake. However, there’s a lot of runway space between jorts and a ballgown. Let’s once and for all define “semi formal.”

Wedding guest semi formal wedding attire

We think the most significant reason many people are confused by what to wear to a semi formal wedding is that they focus too much on the “semi” part and not enough on the “formal.” Semi formal wedding attire is still dressy. It’s just not as formal as “black tie” (there’s no need to be this guy at a semi formal event). However, just because you receive an invitation that requests semi formal wedding guest dress does not mean that you can kick back at the event in your best PJs and casual Friday flip-flops.

The location of the wedding and its venue provides a lot of direction about appropriate semi formal wedding guest dress. For example, an outdoor garden wedding dictates a different dress code than an indoor ballroom fete.

So, no elaborate floor-length gowns and tuxedos and no tights and t-shirts. What options does that leave you? A lot.

Semi formal wedding attire female

Little black dress

Ladies, this is it. This is that moment. It’s time to reach into the back of your closet, rip off the dry-cleaning plastic (also, you shouldn’t hang your clothes in that dry-cleaning plastic; it’s terrible for the fabric) and bust out the steamer because it’s time to put on that little black dress.

Watch any design competition, and inevitably some contestant tries their hand at an LBD. Also, inevitably, a judge mentions the LBD’s versatility, gracefulness, and timelessness during their critique and then evaluates the contestant’s creation against those criteria (usually unfavorably).

An LBD is the ultimate “don’t know what to wear, then wear this) garment. It’s versatile because it is appropriate for a variety of events (such as a semi formal wedding), graceful in a classic and understated manner and timeless because it is a style that’s older than your grandmother (the LBD is nearing its 100th anniversary, having made its debut on a 1926 Vogue cover).

Plus, it’s the one piece of clothing that nearly every woman can afford (not to say every LBD is affordable, just that there are many beautiful, affordable options) and is not consistently bombarded to update. Sure, LBD styles evolve and change, but that 20-year-old LBD in your closet is now vintage. (And it still fits? Girrrrrl.) The LBD is an excellent option for semi formal dresses for wedding days and nights.

Midi dress

A midi dress is defined by its hem, which ends midway (get it?) between the wearer’s knees and ankles. The midi dress first appeared in the early 1900s, once it became acceptable for women to wear dresses that didn’t scrape the floor. The midi style fell out of fashion when flapper dresses hit the scene in the 1920s but staged a comeback in the 1940s.

A midi is classic semi formal wedding attire for female guests because it’s appropriate any time of the year: spring, summer, fall and winter. In fall and winter, semi formal midi dresses tend to be a darker color, with a lower hemline and may be accented with sequins or sheer necklines and sleeves. For spring and summer events, midi dresses often feature floral or other patterns, the colors are lighter and hemlines are higher while necklines are lower.


Shocked? Sure, initially, the jumpsuit, which can conjure images of roller rinks filled with psychedelic paisleys and flared bellbottoms, may seem out of place on a list of semi formal outfits for ladies. However, the jumpsuit has come a long way from its disco-era, spandex gaudiness and even further from its frumpy origin.

The jumpsuit dates to 1919, where it originated for one purpose: to help parachutists stay warm as they jumped out of airplanes. The style’s name still honors the narrow focus of its origin story.

Despite its bagginess, the jumpsuit was more formfitting than other utilitarian workwear, like coveralls. Eventually, enterprising designers attempted to convert the style into fashionable everyday wear. The initial attempts to popularize the jumpsuit as fashion resulted in a great deal of industry buzz and little consumer interest. The style languished as workwear (think Rosie the Riveter as she riveted away).

It took until the mid-1960s for the style to become fashionable as eveningwear. The semi formal aspect took a hit in the 70s, as disco culture transformed it (and many other formal styles) into leisurewear (think: the leisure suit). The jumpsuit was reclaimed as a semi casual look in the 1980s (designer Geoffrey Beene even declared, “the jumpsuit is the ballgown of the next century”). Today, you can find a wide variety of jumpsuits that are perfect semi formal wedding attire and extremely comfortable, too.

Semi formal wedding attire male

For men, semi formal wedding guest dress provides a little more room to showcase your personality. This isn’t an invitation to walk into the event dressed like Macklemore (sorry, no one can pull off a fur coat like him). However, you aren’t locked into a strict dress code like at a black-tie event.

Suits and a fashionable blazer and pants combo are acceptable semi formal male attire. You can be a little bold in your selection of colors and patterns. Just don’t go too overboard (see the Macklemore example above). Accessories should complement the outfit and the wedding’s venue. For example, a classy pair of sneakers MAY be acceptable for a semi formal outdoor event but will most likely look out of place at an indoor fete. A tie may not be necessary, but it’s best to wear a dress shirt tailored for no tie to pull off the look.

When it comes to semi formal wedding attire, if you are concerned that something may be too informal for the wedding, you’re probably correct. Typically, it’s better to overdress than underdress. Hopefully, you now have all the answers you need regarding what to wear to a semi formal wedding. Remember, the venue can be a great guide in determining your attire, and there’s no better wedding and reception location than DFW Celebrations. We can’t wait to see how amazing you look and your guests. Please contact us here to schedule a tour of our Dallas wedding venues.