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Semi-Formal and Cocktail Wedding Attire for Men, Explained

If you've been invited to a semi-formal wedding or you're a groom in search of outfit ideas for your big day, this guide to cocktail attire for men will help you look your best.


Cocktail attire for men (and semi-formal attire in general) is one of the more ambiguous and often misunderstood wedding dress codes. For females, the answer is fairly obvious—you can easily distinguish cocktail dresses from more casual styles—but cocktail attire is a different story for grooms, male guests, or anyone who's planning to wear a suit. As confusing as it may be, many couples choose this dress code for their wedding day because it hits the sweet spot between everyday style and super-fancy attire. The good news? Once you know the main elements of cocktail wedding attire and how it differs from other dress codes, it's easy to ace. We're explaining the basic details and sharing our favorite ideas below.  

Here's the low-down on cocktail attire for men and semi-formal dress codes. 

Taylor'd Events Group

First of all, what is cocktail attire?  

Think of cocktail attire—also known as semi-formal attire—as the middle child between black tie (the most formal dress code) and business casual. Compared to a very formal dress code, cocktail attire gives you more freedom to branch out with colors, patterns, and accessories. When it comes to cocktail attire for men, the biggest difference is that you should skip the tuxedo altogether—those are only worn for formal, black tie, and (very rare) white tie occasions. Instead, a well-tailored suit will be the bread and butter of your look. Since semi-formal menswear is still a relatively conservative dress code, it's best to choose a suit in a darker color, like black, navy blue, or charcoal gray. With the proper styling, light-colored suits are appropriate if you're hosting a semi-formal wedding during the spring or summer. 

Seiichi's Photography

Midnight blue suit

While black is the most traditional suit color, it's not your only option, and wearing a colored suit for cocktail attire is actually encouraged. A midnight or navy blue suit will look just as sleek as black—plus, it complements a wide range of wedding color palettes, from neutrals and pastels to glamorous jewel tones. A two- or three-piece navy blue suit is a year-round alternative to a more formal black style, and if you're purchasing your wedding suit, it's much easier to re-wear a blue suit for special occasions.  

Jenna Bechtholt Photography

Emerald green suit

Fashion-forward grooms can branch out even more by donning a dark green suit. This is a great option for the couple who wants a sophisticated event with a twist—we recommend it if you're hosting your wedding at a trendy art gallery, swanky loft space, or a chic hotel ballroom. In order to keep the look from feeling too casual (the colored suit is enough, trust us!), stick to minimal accessories and avoid mixing and matching patterns or colors. 

Erika Grace Photography

Plaid suit

A plaid suit is another stylish alternative for men's cocktail attire. This charcoal gray suit is perfect for the groom who wants to look good without feeling too buttoned-up. The darker color gives it a dressy feel that's appropriate for a semi-formal wedding, but overall, it feels less formal compared to a black or dark blue suit. Pair this option with a white dress shirt and a solid color tie to balance out the look. 

Danielle Love Photography

White jacket for groom

For an updated take on a classic wedding look, go with a white dinner jacket and navy blue dress pants. You'll stand out as the groom by outfitting your wedding party in shades of navy blue and blush. This is one of our favorite ideas for a semi-formal springtime wedding.

The Groomsman Suit

Identical suits

Dressing your groomsmen in matching suits will create a seamless look, no matter your wedding venue or wedding season. Burgundy is another accent color that's appropriate for cocktail attire for men—it pairs perfectly with navy blue for a modern-meets-timeless vibe.  

Irina Turkova Photography

Light suits

A suit in a lighter color, such as beige or tan, is on the more casual end of semi-formal menswear, but it's not out of the question. By choosing the right style and adding appropriate accessories, you'll ensure that the suit feels dressy enough for a cocktail wedding. Look for suits made from silk or wool blends, which will appear more formal than a linen or cotton style. Finish with traditional leather dress shoes, a white shirt, a boutonniere, tie, and a pocket square. 

Erika Grace Photography

Dress shoes

Don't forget about your footwear. Oxfords and brogues are the two most popular types of shoes when it comes to cocktail attire for men, and they're also the most classic options. Brown shoes are traditionally paired with blue suits, but don't be afraid to mix navy and black for an edgier vibe. If you're really looking to put your own twist on cocktail attire, consider wearing loafers instead—but keep in mind that this ultra-trendy shoe will make your outfit feel slightly more casual. 

Square 8 Studio

Patterned tie

With cocktail attire, you're not limited to a plain bow tie or necktie like you would be with a more formal dress code. Take the opportunity to showcase a bit of your personal style with a colorful patterned tie.