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Mrs. Noble
Super June 2013

What the heck... Semi-formal vs. formal... ???

Mrs. Noble, on February 26, 2013 at 2:08 PM Posted in Wedding Attire 0 15
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I seriously don't understand the difference??? My dress is formal but is everything else "casual" if we wear converse??? I'm really confused!

15 Comments

Latest activity by Nicholas, on October 20, 2014 at 7:19 PM
  • Karen
    Super May 2013
    Karen ·
    • Flag

    Semi-formal and formal are designations so that the guests know how to dress. Technically, you're not supposed to tell anyone how to dress unless it's black-tie, which you can put on the invitations. I think that your wedding sounds semi-formal; you probably want the guests to be dressed well (i.e., not jeans), but not in floor-length gowns.

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  • Christine
    VIP September 2013
    Christine ·
    • Flag

    To add...

    Formal is typically cocktail attire, men in suits with ties or even tux, women in cocktail dress or floor lenghth gown...

    Semi-formal is dresses, maybe cocktail or more casual and for the men maybe no jackect and typically no tie necessary

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  • Mrs. Pitcher
    Expert June 2013
    Mrs. Pitcher ·
    • Flag

    I've had the same issue. My dress is formal but everything else is more casual. But I don't want people showing up in Jeans and a t-shirt so I'm telling everyone semi formal.

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  • MJ
    Master June 2013
    MJ ·
    • Flag

    What are the men wearing and your bridesmaids?

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  • Carrie
    Master December 2011
    Carrie ·
    • Flag

    This might help:

    http://fashion.about.com/cs/glossary/a/partydefinition.htm

    Formal usually means the same as Black Tie, but in some trendier cities like New York or Los Angeles, it could mean a black shirt, no tie with a tux. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

    Semi-Formal or After Five means that tuxes are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening wedding (after 6 PM) would still dictate dark suits for him, and a cocktail dress for her. Daytime semi-formal events mean a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her.

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  • Carrie
    Master December 2011
    Carrie ·
    • Flag

    And this from the knot:

    http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/attending-wedding/articles/wedding-guest-attire-cheat-sheet.aspx

    The invite says: "Formal" or "Black Tie Optional"

    The wording here suggests something slightly less formal than black tie. This means that a tuxedo isn't required but the event is still formal enough for one to be appropriate.

    He should wear: A tuxedo or a formal dark suit and tie.

    She should wear: A long dress, a dressy suit, or a formal cocktail-length dress in a dark, neutral tone like brown, gray, or black.

    The invite says: "Semiformal" or "Dressy Casual"

    Depending on the time of the event, you'll want to dress somewhere between formal and casual. Wear darker, more formal hues for an evening fete; opt for light colors and fabrics for a daytime wedding.

    He should wear: A suit and tie, dark or light depending on the season and time of day.

    She should wear: A cocktail dress or a dressy skirt and top.

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  • Mrs. Noble
    Super June 2013
    Mrs. Noble ·
    • Flag

    The BM are wearing short satin dresses, GM tux pants shirt and vest but maybe not coat. ceremony outdoors on a large new wood deck on a hilltop. Groom wants to wear white but this may change, maybe. We wanted to put "no jeans or rubber flip flops" on the invites but ended up with "semi-formal" placed at the bottom of the Reception card insert. The actual invite was a custom made large stamp and didn't say anything about clothing on it.




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  • IrishLove™
    Master October 2013
    IrishLove™ ·
    • Flag

    We are putting semi-formal on the invites because I will be damned if anyone wears jeans to my wedding

    I don't need anyone to wear a tux however slacks and a button down I want to see. Or Khaki's and a button down.

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  • Mrs. Castig
    Master September 2013
    Mrs. Castig ·
    • Flag

    I put resort casual on my invites. The guys are wearing polo shirts and Khakis. The girls are wearing sun dresses.

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  • Mrs. Noble
    Super June 2013
    Mrs. Noble ·
    • Flag

    I agree with Soon2beMrs.K...

    As for the pics i just posted, i think it will be the 1st one... if they do the 2nd, I dont care but as long as they know it looks really stupid. The 3rd is basically what I suggested in the beginning except with FH also in black.

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  • Jamie
    Super May 2013
    Jamie ·
    • Flag

    I live at the beach and majority of our guests are from out of town. That being said, just because I live at the beach does not mean this is a DW or a beach themed wedding. So we put Formal Evening Attire so NO ONE would show up under dressed ready for a freaking luau. I feel it is one step down from Black Tie Optional, however if they chose to that is fine with me. It is an evening wedding. The way I look at it better to be over dressed then under dressed!

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  • Mrs. Noble
    Super June 2013
    Mrs. Noble ·
    • Flag

    Ours is at noon, so i asume that means it us okay for the men to not wear coats? right?

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  • Mrs. Noble
    Super June 2013
    Mrs. Noble ·
    • Flag

    How about loudmouth golf pants for the groom and groomsmen? Is that totally inappropriate? Sorry, but I don't understand fashion.

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  • Jamie Q.
    Master May 2013
    Jamie Q. ·
    • Flag

    We put semi-formal attire. In our area and our friends, that means no jeans, a suit is normal but doesnt have to be a tux, girls dress nice.

    Honestly, you can do whatever you want. Most people know better to dress up for a wedding unless you tell them its like a BBQ or beach wedding, then they might change. But you need to tell them. If want them casual, say that. Your wedding website is a good place to explain this all too.

    If your wedding was at noon and outdoors, I would dress for like a garden party- sundress and my guy in khakis and a button-down, possibly a tie. But that's me. And if someone sent me an invite to a noon wedding in a fancy ballroom, I would dress for that in a fancier dress because that's what they are going for.

    Not sure if that helps but there is a lot of flexibility IMO

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  • N
    Just Said Yes November 2020
    Nicholas ·
    • Flag

    This is an old thread, but in case someone happens upon it I wanted to offer this advice...

    Your confusion is fully understandable, because the definitions have become heavily blurred/ignored over the course of many decades. Nowadays the mantrum seems to be "do what you want" and the cardinal sin against society is saying anything that might be interpreted as casting aspersions on another's "choice." If you subscribe to such a mentality, nothing I am about to say will convince you. If however you are interested in a more ordered way of doing things...

    First, there are several degrees of formality. Specifically, from the early 20th century on, these have been formal, semi-formal and casual. (Note that casual in the traditional sense does NOT mean "vacation wear," as it is often interpreted in our day and age where men put on a tucked-in polo and women black slacks and a silk T-shirt and they imagine they are dressing "up" for Church.) There are specific guidelines for what is acceptable at different times of day, as well. Really, there are three dimensions: formality, time and gender.

    **FORMAL**

    Daytime: men - morning dress; women - formal Church dress

    Evening: men - queue de pie ("white tie"); women - ballroom gown

    **SEMI-FORMAL**

    Daytime: men - stroller; women - semi-formal Church dress

    Evening: men - tuxedo ("black tie"); women - evening gown

    **CASUAL**

    Daytime: men - lounge suit (not black); women - Sunday Church dress

    Evening: men - lounge suit (black); women - cocktail dress

    A couple of things should be noted:

    1. The cutoff between "daytime" and "evening" is usually given at 6 PM; however, this is not a strict guideline but rather general advice. The bottom line is that black is not particularly suitable in bright light (it looks washed out) but that black and glitter add a nice jazz to an evening event.

    2. Black and/or excessive glitter are not generally appropriate for Church, as they tend to be associated with partying and the more "worldly" aspects of ceremony.

    3. A white wedding dress can double as formal Church dress and a ballroom gown.

    4. More generally, what you can wear to Church (daytime) you can certainly wear to a party (evening), but evening wear may not be suitable for the daytime. (Therefore to follow proper etiquette it is not necessary to follow the aristocratic tradition of changing from morning dress to queue-de-pie, even though conspicuous consumers or just highly enthusiastic partygivers might like to do so.)

    On a personal note, while I realize the tuxedo has become de rigueur for American weddings, I admit to being a non-fan, myself (as a man) of tuxedos. And not just for weddings, where they have with no justification but the misunderstanding misplaced morning dress. In general I dislike semi-formal, including strollers: the look is less flattering for men AND for women (all people look shorter in it, and for women semi-formal shows off their whole body shape, including what they might themselves consider "flaws") and not that much less expensive. To me it says, "I have a lot of money and not a clue what to do with it!" Lounge suits and cocktail dresses are infinitely preferable in that case: they smack of taste and modesty.

    Besides, given the vest and tie options for morning dress, these have the advantage of staying within a strict traditional encadrement, while yet remaining highly customizable. It's a good way of reining in the creativity without killing it off.

    So... what about your own wedding? I would ask how high or low-key it is. If it's something high-key, go for the formal along the lines I've detailed above. If it's lower-key, go for the old-fashioned casual standard. You'll have plenty of options for customization, and without the need to resort to something kitsch or off-hour. The perennity of such ceremonies will wow you AND your Better Half. Having been a witness in weddings where I persuaded a change in attire choice, I can attest to this personally!

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