22 Guest Looks for a Semi-Formal Wedding

Here's how to nail this in-between dress code.
collage of semi formal wedding attire outfit ideas
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Mar 31, 2022
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So you've received a wedding invitation that says "semi-formal," but what exactly does that mean? While semi-formal wedding attire is an extremely popular choice as far as dress codes go, it's also one of the more ambiguous ones. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, which surveyed more than 15,200 newlyweds who were married in 2021, 61% of couples opted to have a semi-formal wedding—probably because it's not too fancy or too casual.

In short, semi-formal, which is sometimes known as "dressy casual," falls in between cocktail attire and black tie optional. While you won't need to show up in an evening gown or tuxedo, it's not the kind of soirée where anything goes, either. Below, we're outlining exactly what semi-formal wedding guest attire means for men and women, including some of the most common questions about this tricky dress code. We've also hand-picked a few looks to inspire your outfit for a semi-formal event if you're ready to start shopping.

In this article:

Semi-Formal Wedding Attire FAQs

Is semi-formal wedding attire the same as cocktail?

Semi-formal and cocktail dress codes are relatively similar, but they're not the same. You can think of semi-formal wedding attire as a slightly toned-down, business-esque version of cocktail attire. These two dress codes overlap in the sense that shorter dress hemlines (think midi-length and high-low skirts) and suits—versus tuxedos—are both appropriate. While cocktail attire is all about eye-catching patterns, colors and statement accessories, semi-formal wedding attire is a little more understated. Solid, darker colors and subtle patterns, such as a classic floral print or stripe, are always safe bets for this dress code.

Can I wear a floor-length dress to a semi-formal wedding?

Traditionally, formal attire, black tie and white tie are the only wedding dress codes that require floor-length gowns. When it comes to semi-formal wedding attire for females, we'd recommend mid-length or knee-length hemlines instead, which are more on-par for this level of formality. If you do wear a floor-length dress, avoid choosing a style with beading or other fancy embellishments, since those indicate a swankier affair (and you run the risk of being overdressed).

What shoes do you wear with semi-formal wedding attire?

Women should wear high heels or pumps—dressy wedges and heeled booties also work. If you're not a heels person, a nice pair of embellished sandals or classic flats are appropriate. Leather brogues, oxfords, loafers and dress shoes are all good footwear choices for men attending a semi-formal wedding. Avoid sneakers (even if they're brand new), flip flops or casual boots.

Can you wear jeans to a semi-formal wedding?

Even though semi-formal is interchangeable with "dressy casual," you shouldn't take the phrase too literally. In general, we don't recommend wearing jeans for any type of wedding (even the most casual weddings, unless the couple explicitly allows denim), and especially not for a semi-formal dress code. Opt for dress pants or khakis instead, paired with a blazer or suit jacket and tie.

Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Women

When you're shopping for this dress code, you can skip the evening gown and wear a cocktail dress instead. Dressy jumpsuits, rompers and separates are also appropriate semi-formal wedding attire options. Finally, use accessories to your advantage: matching jewelry can elevate something on the casual side, while block heel sandals (versus rhinestone-covered stilettos) can tone down a fancier ensemble. Here are some shoppable outfit ideas we love when it comes to semi-formal wedding attire for female guests.

Lulus Take a Glance Tiered Mock Neck Midi Dress

navy blue midi tiered dress

This tiered navy blue dress is an alternative to your basic LBD. The high neckline, satin finish and midi-length keep it feeling more formal, while ruffled sleeves add just the right amount of festive detail.

City Chic Lace Touch Dress

burgundy sleeveless midi dress with lace

For semi-formal wedding attire in the fall and winter, we love the idea of rocking a seasonal hue. This burgundy dress, available in sizes XXS to XL, is topped with a lace bodice to elevate the basic silhouette.

Show Me Your Mumu Eden Midi Dress

sage green stretch midi dress with slit

Choose a fitted midi dress to act as your blank slate for shoes and other accessories to complete your look. This classic sleeveless number has a hint of Spandex to hug your curves, and it's available in eight different colors (although we love this muted sage hue).

Abercrombie & Fitch Halter Maxi Dress

black maxi dress with halter neckline

When in doubt, rock a timeless black dress. This one feels a little more luxe than your everyday style, thanks to the notched bodice, halter neckline and silky fabric.

Oleg Cassini Plus-Size Metallic Brocade High-Low Gown

high-low metallic brocade wedding guest dress

While you don't want to go too short with your hemline (keep dresses at knee-length or below), you don't have to limit yourself to ankle-skimming styles. A high-low skirt is the perfect compromise. This gorgeous brocade dress is a perfect example of how you can branch out with a pattern while still falling in line with a semi-formal wedding dress code.

Norma Kamali Diana Dress

one-shoulder ruched bodycon dress

This one-shoulder dress doesn't need much else to make you look fabulous. Keep the rest of your outfit toned down with simple heels and a matching clutch.

Hello Molly Whisper to My Heart Midi Dress

blue midi slip dress with floral jacquard print

A monochromatic patterned style is another way to incorporate a bit of detail into your look without overdoing it on the dress code. This flirty slip dress is finished with a polka dot floral jacquard and cowl neckline.

Reformation Twilight Dress Es

plus size green midi dress with tie shoulders and slit

Available in a stunning emerald green hue, this chiffon midi dress keeps you comfortable and looking polished. Adjustable tie straps and a smocked bodice help you get the perfect fit.

Favorite Daughter The Anywhere Dress in Navy

navy blue short sleeve midi dress

With a barely-there cutout at the midriff, this dress incorporates one of the biggest trends of the moment in a tasteful way. The navy blue color is versatile and classic, so you can easily re-wear this piece again and again.

Eloquii Satin Bishop Sleeve Wrap Dress

long sleeve teal satin wrap dress

Need a wedding guest dress for cooler seasons? This long-sleeve wrap dress has you covered (literally). We love the regal peacock blue color and ruffled skirt that was made for the dance floor.

Lulus Off-the-Shoulder Wide Leg Jumpsuit

black off-the-shoulder wide leg jumpsuit

Go ahead and skip the dress for pants instead. This structured jumpsuit is a perfectly sophisticated alternative for semi-formal wedding attire, and the off-the-shoulder neckline helps it feel fancier than a basic sleeveless option.

Lulus I'm Impressed Mauve Satin Sleeveless Midi Dress

satin light pink midi dress with tulip hem skirt

Lighter colors are totally appropriate for daytime and summer weddings. This pastel pink dress is chic and classy, and the simple silhouette can be dressed up as much or as little as you prefer.

City Chic Hypnotize High-Low Dress

fit and flare navy blue dress with ruffle skirt

Consider this your new go-to dress for special occasions. A ruffled detail down the front of the dress complements the off-the-shoulder sweetheart neckline, perfectly framing your décolletage for a statement necklace or earrings.

Mac Duggal Satin Long-Sleeve Gown

black and white polka dot satin maxi dress with long sleeves

With semi-formal wedding attire, you can also consider a pattern you might have overlooked for fancier dress codes. This polka-dot maxi bridges the gap between spunky and sophisticated.

Lulus Alluring Dream Navy Blue Floral Mesh Lace Trumpet Midi Dress

navy blue lace dress with trumpet skirt

Amp up your ensemble with a fitted lace number. This one has a flared trumpet skirt for extra sass—it's a great pick for an evening wedding at a swanky venue, and the timeless navy blue color keeps it from looking too bold.

Semi-Formal Wedding Attire for Men

Don't know how to dress for a semi-formal wedding as a male guest? No need to worry about donning a tux or bow tie. The formula is super simple: a suit with a button-down shirt and dress shoes. For daytime events, you might be able to get away with a blazer and slacks or a lighter suit, but for evening weddings (or if you want to err on the side of caution), we suggest wearing a classic dark suit. Finish your look with a standard necktie—other accessories, like cufflinks, a pocket square or a vest, are optional. Shop our examples below if you're still wondering what to wear to a wedding with a semi-formal dress code.

Pronto Uomo Platinum Wool Modern Fit Suit in Black Herringbone

black herringbone wool suit

You can't go wrong with a classic black suit jacket and matching pants. This 100% wool, slim-fit suit is woven with a subtle herringbone pattern to switch things up a bit.

Suitsupply Light Gray Custom Made Suit

suitsupply light gray cashmere-cotton blend suit

Let the season inspire your outfit color palette—lighter suits are a smart pick for warmer weather. We like the modern, slim design of this one, and the cotton-cashmere blend is breathable for sunny days.

Ted Baker London Jay Trim Fit Plaid Wool Suit

navy blue plaid suit

If black isn't your color, or if you want a slightly more casual look, consider a dark blue suit instead. It has a subtle plaid print while remaining versatile enough to wear again and again.

Topman Slim Suit in Stone

light tan slim fit suit

Light-colored suits are appropriate semi-formal wedding attire for men, but it's important to be mindful of your accessories if you're going this route. In order to avoid your look from becoming too casual, we recommend sticking with a plain tie, dress shoes and white button-down shirt.

JOE Joseph Abboud Executive Fit Vested Suit

plus-size navy blue three piece suit

A semi-formal wedding is the perfect opportunity to break out a three-piece suit—or invest in something new if you don't have one already. This dapper suit is available in a range of regular and plus-size options, up to 58XL.

Opposuits Blazing Burgundy Two-Piece Suit with Tie

burgundy slim fit suit

If your personal style is more fashion-forward, try a burgundy suit instead of black, gray or navy. This slim-fit design has a contemporary, tailored look that you can accessorize with a plaid tie or simple dress shirt.

The Tie Bar Herringbone French Cuff Non-Iron Dress Shirt

white herringbone dress shirt with french cuffs

Last but not least, a white button-down is a closet staple you'll wear all the time (especially if you have a lot of weddings to attend in the near future). This French cuff option gives you a chance to show off a favorite pair of cufflinks.

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