Men's Clothing Forums banner
21 - 40 of 70 Posts

· Registered
Joined
·
147 Posts
If no response from the host or reliable close friends of the host, wear a dark suit.

I recently attended what ought to be a very formal event. The invitation specified semi-formal. Hoping that they meant black tie, but not holding my breath, I asked the organizer if this was the case.

"Oh, no. Well, maybe it used to mean black tie, but now that would be very formal. Semi-formal for this event means khaki pants with a shirt. And maybe a tie."

Ugh. Thankfully, few (if any) others asked her to clarify and most were in black tie and almost all the rest in dark suits.

pbc
 

· Registered
Joined
·
282 Posts
Cruiser has it right as to the advice for a civilian in this case.

However, his statement about the uniform equivalent needs a little clarification, in my opinion.

Dress mess, at least for the U. S. Army, can be either white tie (formal) or black tie (semi-formal). A white piquet vest is worn with the white piquet tie, or a black (or branch color - only to unit "dining in") satin cummerbund, with the pleats down (!), is worn with black satin tie. That goes for either Blue Dress Mess or White Dress Mess (summer) uniforms.

Class A, which used to be the Army green uniform, and now is basically the same as the old dress blues, can be worn with a black bow tie to semi-formal events after retreat (6:00 p. m., cummerbund superfluous, as the coat is never worn unbuttoned, even while sitting). However, that uniform can't be worn with a white tie to formal events.
Could someone explain why the cummerbund here should be worn with downward-facing pleats? Thank you.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,992 Posts
In the U.S. Navy and I think the Royal Navy also, mess dress is equivalent to white tie while mess undress is the black tie equivalent.

Probably because most think that isn't what the hosts mean, despite the wording. In the U.S. very few people would interpret semi-formal to mean black tie. The issue isn't who is right or wrong, but what is the most appropriate thing to do when it's someone else's wedding.

My fear would be that my showing up in a tuxedo would be embarrassing to the hosts if everyone else is in a suit because I would then be compelled to explain the meaning of semi-formal to people (because they are going to ask about the tuxedo) which would make the hosts look like they didn't know what they were doing. And even if they didn't know what they were doing when they said semi-formal, I would not want to publicly embarrass them this way by drawing attention to their lack of sartorial knowledge.

The best thing to do is to try to find out exactly what is being requested. If I couldn't find out ahead of time I would wear a suit because that is what most will wear even if the hosts mean black tie. I would much rather be wrong this way than to risk being the only person in a tuxedo at someone else's wedding.

Cruiser
You may be right on the mess dress/undress distinction in which case military people attending would be wearing mess undress to the wedding while others would wear civilian black tie. That is assuming the hosts knew what they were doing when they indicated semi-formal. As the bride is purported to be a well bred lady and I assume she is marrying an officer, they probably understand the traditional intent of semi-formal.

As it seems at least one guest and many forumites are still trying to divine some other intent based on some all to common misconceptions, an email or phone call is surely in order.

Cheers
 

· Registered
Joined
·
282 Posts
Over the past 60 years I have lived in Beaufort, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida; in addition to spending a considerable amount of time in Atlanta, Georgia. The majority of guys that I know do not own tuxedos and I have routinely seen semi-formal interpreted to mean a suit. I can only assume that you hang with a very select group of people, but they certainly aren't the norm.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the invitation doesn't mean black tie. I'm just saying that based on my personal experiences I would not interpret it that way. And like I said, I am very familiar with the South East.

Cruiser
I agree that the majority of guys in metro Atlanta may not own dinner jackets, but I don't think it's possible to use metro Atlanta as a worthy paradigm for the South. In the Buckhead-Sandy Springs area, I'd be hard-pressed to find a man who is unaccustomed to wearing his dinner jacket after 6, and evening weddings certainly require one. I would lump Jacksonville in with Atlanta in this regard. There are parts of the city where black tie is customary and (more) parts where it is not.

As for smaller towns like Beaufort (or Savannah, with which I am most familiar), it depends entirely on the crowd or the location of the event. If it is held at any sort of social club or historic venue, black tie after 6 is the rule. If not, the rules slide into ambiguity. I have always found it easy to tell from the social standing of the party's host, however.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,992 Posts
Over the past 60 years I have lived in Beaufort, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida; in addition to spending a considerable amount of time in Atlanta, Georgia. The majority of guys that I know do not own tuxedos and I have routinely seen semi-formal interpreted to mean a suit. I can only assume that you hang with a very select group of people, but they certainly aren't the norm.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the invitation doesn't mean black tie. I'm just saying that based on my personal experiences I would not interpret it that way. And like I said, I am very familiar with the South East.

Cruiser
A suit would be
Business attire (US)
Lounge suit (UK)
 

· Registered
Joined
·
1,992 Posts
If no response from the host or reliable close friends of the host, wear a dark suit.

I recently attended what ought to be a very formal event. The invitation specified semi-formal. Hoping that they meant black tie, but not holding my breath, I asked the organizer if this was the case.

"Oh, no. Well, maybe it used to mean black tie, but now that would be very formal. Semi-formal for this event means khaki pants with a shirt. And maybe a tie."

Ugh. Thankfully, few (if any) others asked her to clarify and most were in black tie and almost all the rest in dark suits.

pbc
See what happens when people start inventing their own definitions rather than consulting an authoritative etiquette guide. Or simply being specific ie "Blazer or jacket and tie requested", or "shirt required, tie optional". The latter approach cuts the ambiguity and helps the uninitiated not embarass themselves.
 

· Site Creator
Joined
·
11,799 Posts
ss1088:

There are strict and set classifications for men's wear! You'll want to review the article linked from the Home Page, Cracking the Dress Code:

EVENING SEMI-FORMAL: Black dinner jacket or white in summer (tuxedo).
You just have to hope the host knows the Dress Codes!
 

· Registered
Joined
·
36 Posts
Discussion Starter · #28 ·
ss1088:

There are strict and set classifications for men's wear! You'll want to review the article linked from the Home Page, Cracking the Dress Code:

EVENING SEMI-FORMAL: Black dinner jacket or white in summer (tuxedo).
You just have to hope the host knows the Dress Codes!
That's where to problem lies. I know what semi-formal is but based on my experiences, I do not think the majority of the people that may show up to this event do. If that is the case, I will be the one who appears to be in the wrong. I wouldn't want to spend most of me evening explaining myself to people.

In addition, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet now. Most articles will tell you semi-formal means a suit or even less.

I think I will play it safe and show up to the wedding in a suit. If most are in back tie I think I will skip the reception to avoid embarrassment.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
I agree that odds are, the host is thinking suit and tie. But unless you ask him (which would be ideal, obviously) you can't really be sure of that, and showing up in a suit when everyone else is in dinner jackets would be worse than the other way around, I think. Moreover, I don't know the crowd you're dealing with, but it's quite likely that at least some men will show up in black tie. So even though it's quite unclear, it's always better to be overdressed than under.
 

· Site Creator
Joined
·
11,799 Posts
That's where to problem lies. I know what semi-formal is but based on my experiences, I do not think the majority of the people that may show up to this event do. If that is the case, I will be the one who appears to be in the wrong. I wouldn't want to spend most of me evening explaining myself to people.

In addition, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet now. Most articles will tell you semi-formal means a suit or even less.

I think I will play it safe and show up to the wedding in a suit. If most are in back tie I think I will skip the reception to avoid embarrassment.
Easy! Just print off copies of my article, Cracking the Dress Code, linked on the Home Page and hand them out to the ignorant!! :icon_smile_big:

It will be an educational event then.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
In the U.S. Navy and I think the Royal Navy also, mess dress is equivalent to white tie while mess undress is the black tie equivalent.
Maybe things have changed, but "mess dress" in the Navy refers to the black tie uniform known as "Dinner Dress Blue Jacket" which consists of high rise trousers, pleated shirt with a turndown collar, black bowtie, gold cummerbund, and mess jacket with mini medals, gold studs, and cuff links. White tie events however require "Formal Dress" which consists of the same uniform with a white waistcoat (minus the cummerbund) and a white bow tie to replace the black one.





My personal advice (I know I'm new here so my credibility can't go too far) is to wear a black suit. You can get away with it if most are wearing black tie, but I'd say that the chances of "most" interpreting semi-formal as black-tie are slim to none. You would be much more likely to look out of place in black tie... As an aside, I went to an evening wedding in Manhattan in which the dress code was "black-tie welcome" only to see very few "tuxedos." I was wearing the Navy's summer equivalent for black tie, the brides father was wearing a conservative one button PL, my brother was wearing the ever popular notch lapel with a FIH, and I think one of the guests was wearing some form of "tux" with colorful tennis shoes as some type of "hip" fashion statement.

I would also like to believe that any good host who knows the meaning of "semi-formal" would never choose that as a dress code on his invitation because of the ambiguity which would result. To believe that by nature a military officer knows the rules of formal wear is a stretch (look at our Commander in Chief).

Unfortunately for those of us who work with the military on a daily basis, since this is a time of war, they pretty much wear flight suits (coveralls) and Army Combat Uniforms to the office w/ chunky boots, looking pretty sloppy. I believe the people I work with have been given carte blanche to wear BDUs/ACUs, or battle dress uniforms, which are barely office wear and more appropriate for outdoor use.
Out of curiosity, is that with the Army/Airforce? In my experience the Navy and Marine Corps are stricter in their uniform standards.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
135 Posts
Well isn't Semi - Formal meaning that you don't have to dress up so much?

Like I could just wear a suit, black dress pants, and casual/dress shoes. Like meaning that the shoes aren't so dressy.

Also, a shirt of any color would be great.

I wouldn't want to be wearing a tie though... I would just button to the second button. Not all the way up to the top.

For me, I just find a nice shirt to wear when I go to formals or weddings :) I don't dress up too much anyway..

Isn't that what semi-formals mean? you don't have to be dressed up so well..
 

· Registered
Joined
·
2,865 Posts
In the Buckhead-Sandy Springs area, I'd be hard-pressed to find a man who is unaccustomed to wearing his dinner jacket after 6, and evening weddings certainly require one.
I live in Buckhead.

I'll grant you that on the occasion of a black tie party at the Cherokee Town Club, it's unlikely to see any rentals, or any nondescript dark suits. At the spring debutante balls, the gentlemen will be in white tie without exception.

But to suggest that all of my neighbors, from Deering Road to Club Drive, from Piedmont Avenue to Defoors Ferry, make a regular habit of wearing dinner jackets, is not even a quaint notion now gone with the wind - it's just false.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
"Semi-formal" implies that the hosts and all invitees have a common definition of "formal." Clearly, the original poster doesn't think that they do.
Exactly, which leads me to believe a host that knew the true meaning of "semi formal" would never affix it to an invitation because of the confusion it would cause.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
416 Posts
There is no more confusion over that term on a wedding invitation than over what the word "is" means during a cross examination.
And there is no way someone went to the trouble to put it on the invitation without knowing precisely what it means.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
416 Posts
Yes. It shows the range of confusion that this silly, vague term causes.

"Semi-formal" implies that the hosts and all invitees have a common definition of "formal." Clearly, the original poster doesn't think that they do.[ /QUOTE]

But formal and semi-formal are precise terms. They specify exactly what to wear down to the color and style amd cloth and how many buttons to what shoes to wear. They mean the samething in every country in the world.
 

· Registered
Joined
·
416 Posts
Even wikipedia has this information!
The only people not wearing a dinner jacket will have to only not know what the term means, but also not even have internet access!
 
21 - 40 of 70 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top