Perhaps one of the most popular dress codes for weddings is semi-formal attire, but searching for a dress that fits this ambiguous label can be hard to pin down. Is a sundress too casual? Is a satiny midi too dressy for a beach wedding? What hemline is appropriate? And with all these questions running through your mind, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the right look. The good thing is that, while there are many interpretations of this dress code, it is probably the easiest style to shop for; and popular online retailers like Shopbop and Revolve have pages upon pages of semi-formal dresses to peruse.
A spring or summer wedding is a great opportunity to play with brighter colors and fun patterns. You may also choose to pair your warm-weather look with heeled sandals or even a flat shoe if it’s outdoors. For winter or fall nuptials, go ahead and break out the jewel tones dresses in lush fabrics like velvet.
To help narrow down your search, scroll on for the best semi-formal dresses for wedding guests. We have options for whatever style, budget, and season you may need.
Best Wrap Dress: Zimmermann Silk Wrap Mini Dress
Size: 0P-4 | Materials: Silk charmeuse | Length: Mini
A classic wrap dress is always a go-to for semi-formal occasions, and we love this pink blush option from Zimmermann. Style with gold jewelry and a pair of nude pumps.
Best One-Shoulder: Baobab Marea One-Shoulder Satin Mini Dress
Size: P-L | Materials: Polyamide | Length: Mini
This satin number is the perfect balance of sexy and chic, making it appropriate for any semi-formal wedding you may be attending.
For the Sophisticated Guest: Michael Costello x Revolve Marisol Mini Dress
Size: XXS-XL | Materials: Viscose, Rayon | Length: Mini
While this dress seems formal at a glance, the short hemline adds a bit of whimsy to this sophisticated look.
For a Spring Wedding: Self Portrait Yellow Floral Silhouette Midi Dress
Size: 0-12 | Materials: Chiffon | Length: Midi
Heading to a semi-formal wedding this spring? You won’t want to miss this stylish pleated midi from Self Portrait. Style with black heels or a sleek black clutch for an edgier look.
Best Print: Saloni Rina Dress
Size: 0-14 | Materials: Silk jacquard | Length: Mini
Get ready to swoon over this charming mini dress, that features shimmering jacquard patterning in a romantic baby blue color.
Best Floral Print: Reformation Twilight Dress
Size: 0-12 | Materials: Viscose | Length: Midi
Reformation is known for its semi-formal dresses, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. However, this purple floral print number is definitely a winner.
Best Color: Reformation Scottie Dress
Size: 0-12 | Materials: Silk | Length: Midi
Another Reformation pick, this midi dress comes in a striking grape color that is undeniably eye-catching. We also love the yellow option for a daytime summer wedding.
Best Budget: Lulu’s Lavender V-Neck Dress
Size: XXS-XL | Materials: Polyester | Length: Midi
Shopping for multiple dresses to wear to different weddings can get expensive, but luckily there are tons of budget-friendly options out there. Consider this stylish and under-$100 tiered midi dress from Lulu’s.
For a Daytime Wedding: Yumi Kim Petra Dress
Size: XXS-XL | Materials: Viscose | Length: Mini
This floral-printed mini is a sweet and romantic option for daytime wedding festitivies. The puff sleeves add a bit of drama to the look.
Best Mini: Nanushka Blue Maila Satin Mini Dress
Size: XXS-XL | Materials: Satin | Length: Mini
Inspired by the ‘90s, this classic mini dress is elegant enough to wear to a semi-formal wedding while still having a bit of an edge.
For a Fall Wedding: Amy Lynn Amelia Ruched Satin Dress
Size: S-L | Materials: Polyester | Length: Midi
Deep wine colors are always a favorite when it comes to fall weddings, and they can easily transition from day to night. This chic Amy Lynn gown has a fresh asymmetrical neckline for a unique fall guest look.
Best Ruffles: 1.State Shelia Ruffle Tier Maxi
Size: 0X-3X | Materials: Polyester | Length: Maxi
For a playful, summer semi-formal wedding ensemble, don’t miss this ruffled maxi. The blush pink adds a romantic element to this sweet dress.
Best Asymmetrical Hemline: AllSaints Alexia Kuroyuri Cinched Slip Dress
Size: 0-12 | Materials: Viscose, silk | Length: Midi
If you’re looking for an edgier semi-formal ensemble, we recommend this moody and fashion-forward slip dress from AllSaints. The asymmetrical hemline allows you to have some fun with your shoes, so try out a funky platform or studded heel.
Most Classic: Sachin & Babi Harper Dress
Size: 0-14 | Materials: Stretch Crepe | Length: Mini
This elegant and conservative dress will stun at any semi-formal spring or summer celebration. The unique flutter sleeve adds a bit of surprise to this blue mini.
Best Sleeves: Sachin & Babi Everly Smock Dress
Size: XS-XL | Materials: Polyester | Length: Mini
We can’t take our eyes off of this charming Sachin & Babi mini dress. The topaz blue color is perfect for any time of year, but our favorite part is the dramatic puff sleeves.
Most Relaxed: River Island Green Floral Shift Midi Dress
Size: 14-24 | Materials: Viscose | Length: Midi
Comfort is key when it comes to searching for dresses during wedding season, which is why we are such fans of this relaxed number from River Island.
Best Cutout: Significant Other Jacy Dress
Size: 2-12 | Materials: Viscose rayon | Length: Midi
While cutouts may be a daring choice for a wedding, we love the simplicity of this dress. The brown color is a chic and fashion-forward option this year.
Best Jumpsuit: Eloquii Halter Neck Palazzo Jumpsuit
Size: 14-22 | Materials: Chiffon | Length: Floor-length
Semi-formal doesn’t mean that dresses are required. Get comfortable while looking effortlessly cool in this jumpsuit by Eloquii. Style with metallic or nude heels, and a pair of dangling earrings.
Best Little Black Dress: Sau Lee Remi Silk Mini Dress
Size: 14-24 | Materials: Stretch velvet | Length: Mini
No closet is complete without the perfect LBD. This flirty option is an elevated staple and will be a fit for any semi-formal wedding you have this season.
For a Winter Wedding: Closet London Tie Waist Velvet Mini Dress
Size: 0-8 | Materials: Silk Chiffon | Length: Mini
For a winter wedding, consider this velvety piece from Closet London. The jewel tone adds a luxe feel to this under-$100 option.
Best Slip Dress: Cali Satin Charmeuse Midi Dress
Size: 0-26W | Materials: Satin charmeuse | Length: Midi
When in doubt, a slip dress is always a safe bet for a semi-formal affair. This midi comes in 15 different colors, so there is an option for any and every style.
Best Off-the-Shoulder: Eloquii Off The Shoulder Dress With Puff Sleeves
Size: 14-28 | Materials: Knit cotton | Length: Midi
We love the statement sleeve on this off-the-shoulder dress from Eloquii. Plus, the stretch knit cotton will keep you comfortable through all the wedding festivities.
Best Maternity: Pietro Brunelli A-line Maternity Slip Dress
Size: XS-XL | Materials: Polyester | Length: Ankle-length
Mom’s to be no longer have to sacrifice style for functionality. This satiny maternity dress shows off your belly and is effortlessly chic.
Most Simplistic: Susana Monaco Crew Slit Sleeveless Dress
Size: XS-L | Materials: Nylon, spandex | Length: Midi
No frills needed with this simple and sweet midi dress from Susana Monaco. The cheery yellow shade is perfect for a summery daytime wedding.
For a Beach Wedding: Staud Landry Dress
Size: XS-L | Materials: Cotton | Length: Midi
Heading to a semi-formal beach wedding? This dress has a relaxed and beachy vibe without being too casual.
Best Lace: Self Portrait Pink Abstract Guipure Mini Dress
Size: 0-10 | Materials: Polyester | Length: Mini
Pretty in pink! We can absolutely picture this abstract lace mini at a semi-formal garden wedding this summer.
What to Look For in Semi-Formal Guest Attire?
When it comes to semi-formal affairs, the most important thing to keep in mind is the setting and time of day. As we mentioned before, semi-formal can have many different interpretations, so considering these specifics can help you determine what dress is appropriate for the wedding you’re attending. For example, opt for brighter colors and fun patterns during the day. For evening nuptials, cocktail dresses and polished jumpsuits are both appropriate options. Essentially, you will want to look elevated but not in a ballgown.
Material is also something to look for in semi-formal attire. Satin fabrics, lightweight chiffon, or viscose are good choices for a semi-formal dress. However, more cottony materials may be too casual for the occasion, while overly embellished fabrics will likely be too dressy.
Where can I shop for a semi-formal dress?
You can find a wide selection of semi-formal dresses at department stores such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, or Macy’s. In addition, brands like Reformation and Lulu’s are also great options for this dress code.
How should I style my semi-formal look?
Accessories play an important role in semi-formal attire because they can completely transform a look. If you’re worried that your ensemble may be too casual, add a statement clutch and heels. On the other hand, if you're hoping to dress down your look, you may want to opt for flats or chic sandals, depending on the time of day and the location of the wedding.
Is there a difference between cocktail and semi-formal attire?
Semi-formal and cocktail have been known to be interchangeable, but in some cases, cocktail attire is a small step above semi-formal. While semi-formal can include elevated sundresses, this may not be appropriate for a cocktail dress code. If you are genuinely stuck on whether your dress is suitable, consult with the hosts to see what they recommend.
Why Trust Brides
Contributing writer Melony Forcier is a recent graduate starting her career path in beauty and fashion journalism. Before graduating, she interned with both Boston Magazine and Foundation PR. Additionally, she served as a fashion editor for Boston University's lifestyle magazine, The Buzz.