What to Wear to a Semi-Formal Wedding

Dressing for a wedding can be complicated, but when the invitation suggests “semi-formal attire” you may be more confused than ever! You know that flip flops and ball gowns are a no-go, but there’s a pretty big range of options in between to choose from.

Many weddings with a “semi-formal” dress code leave guests wondering if they should be donning a little black dress or tea-length floral dress (with a black or tan suit for your date, respectively.)

Without guidance, it’s easy for someone to end up wearing heels to a lawn wedding (and cursing “semi-formal attire” as their heels sink into the grass with each step) or show up to the Nixon Library in a floral garden-party dress. Unless the bride and groom send a Pinterest board with appropriate attire ideas, how should you pick the right outfit?

The key to semi-formal is to dress to impress. You will likely end up in photos that your friends or loved ones will reminisce over for years to come. You’re attending a wedding, the biggest day in someone’s life, not a party or club, so make sure you dress respectfully (and no wearing white unless specifically requested by the bride!). Be comfortable and confident in whatever you choose to wear – after all, this is a celebration and you should enjoy it!

Before you decide what to wear, take a peek at the location and time of the wedding and reception. If you aren’t familiar with the location, look online for photos and a description of the venue. Semi-formal dress can apply to both day and evening weddings, but day weddings might be a better setting for lighter fabrics and colors.  Darker colors and more vibrant textures would be more appropriate for an evening wedding in a ballroom or other elegant event space.

Don’t forget to choose your shoes thoughtfully. If you are sure the wedding and/or reception is outside on sand or grass, wedges may be more comfortable. Save the stiletto heels for sturdier surfaces.

Most importantly, just be you! The bride and groom invited you to share this special day with them. It’s likely that they won’t recall what you wore, but they’ll remember that you were there to support and love them.

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