Unsure what ‘semiformal’ means on the wedding invitation? We’re here to help…
As with dress codes for other events, those for weddings are in a state of flux. The trend – particularly pronounced in Australia – for weddings at beach resorts, framed by a full program of activities with friends and family – has tended to further casualise wedding attire, or at least confuse a large number of the male guests about what exactly is required.
The daytime wedding/night-time reception can also create some guest stress when it comes to dress, particularly if the invite tries to breach the time difference with the words “cocktail” or “semiformal”.
Given the confusing state of wedding dress codes, here’s a brief run-down of the essential looks required by male guests.
White or Black Tie Wedding
Strictly, white tie is a black tailcoat worn over a white starched shirt, Marcella waistcoat, white bow tie, high-waisted black trousers, and patent leather black shoes. A top hat and white scarf can be worn as accessories and if you really want to ladle it on, you could also add white gloves, a cane and a monocle (though that last one will just make people thinking you’re taking the piss). Black Tie was once regarded as for wearing to events after 7pm, comprising a white dress shirt, a black bow tie (not a necktie), a cummerbund, a dinner jacket (a tuxedo) either black or midnight blue on which the shawl lapels and trouser braid are of silk, satin, grosgrain or a contrasting material to the jacket, and black Oxford dress shoes. You’re welcome to deconstruct both for a wedding, playing with the conventional forms. The only caveat when it comes to weddings? It’s not your day. It’s the happy couple’s day and they are not to be upstaged, so avoid dressing in a ‘statement’ way i.e. a wildly patterned jacket, which makes you the centre of attention rather than them. Use accessories such as your pocket kerchief, a scarf, a lapel pin or flower to convey interest and individuality.
The description can be confusing but is popular and has come to replace ‘Black Tie Optional’, which created all sorts of havoc. It still means a suit and a tie, in a suitably neutral colour (blue, grey, charcoal) with lace-up shoes and socks, but the challenge is in distinguishing it from what you’d wear to work. Again, accessories can help – a tie bar, nice cufflinks, a pouchette in a bolder pattern, a knitted tie or a special woollen one. If the invite says ‘Lounge Suit’, treat it the same way as ‘Semiformal’.
You’re still wearing a suit. And a tie. But you can perhaps be a little bolder with both, colour and pattern-wise. The whole concept has a looser feel than semiformal and suggests that after the formalities, they’ll be a serious party and possibly swing dancing, so dress accordingly. Same rules apply, however – don’t upstage the groom with something that verges on outrageous. Go beyond the traditional colours but keep them muted.
Casual or Resort Wedding
In our experience, people who organise three or four-day wedding extravaganzas involving stay-play-participate-and-party are control freaks and in all likelihood, you’ll be told what to wear. If not, think about the location, be it park, garden, beach, mountaintop. You can still suit up but you might want to consider a light coloured suit in a linen, cotton or blend. Keep your shirt light as well to convey a breezy, carefree approach, which is what the happy couple are after. This could also be the time to bring out the expensive white trainers. A fitted waistcoat can be handy for maintaining a dressy look once you take off the jacket for dancing.