Can You Wear Red to a Wedding?

We’ve got the answer.
Illustration of a woman wearing a red dress
Design: Natalie Romine
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Sofia Deeb
sofia deeb headshot
Sofia Deeb
Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
  • Sofia writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide with a specialty in fashion and e-commerce.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Sofia was a writer for Santa Barbara Life and Style Magazine.
  • Sofia studied cultural anthropology and journalism at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Updated Jun 18, 2024

You probably know the cardinal rule of wedding guest attire which is, of course, that you should never wear white, but what if we told you that there was another color that might earn you a few disapproving looks from fellow guests? Believe it or not, there are some people who think you should avoid wearing red when attending a wedding. Surprising as it may sound, they're not *totally* wrong. But wait—don't go getting rid of your favorite red dress just yet. Stick with us as we break down the answer to the controversial question: Can you wear red to a wedding?

In this article…

Can You Wear Red to a Wedding?

Why can't you wear red to a wedding? As you probably could have guessed, the answer to this question is a bit complex. While red is typically considered an appropriate color to wear to most weddings, there are certainly some instances where you'll want to avoid it (we'll dive into those more in a bit). But if it's okay to wear red to secular weddings in Western society, why are some people so adamantly against it? What does wearing red to a wedding mean?

The controversy surrounding the question stems from social media, in which creators attempted to decode the 'hidden meaning' behind certain wedding guest dress colors in several viral clips. Some users revealed their belief that the color embodies 'lust and seduction', while others went as far as to say that wearing red indicates that you've had a fling with the groom in the past. Convincing as these ideas may be, we're here to assure you that they are nothing more than wives tales. When it comes to wedding guest attire, there is no underlying meaning behind the color red (or any color for that matter).

Another argument against wearing red is that the color seems to say 'look at me' at a time when all attention should be on the couple. Sure, red may be an eye-catching color, but so are other shades, such as pink, orange and yellow (all of which are acceptable options to wear to a wedding). Our advice? Don't overthink it. If the outfit you're considering feels a bit too flashy—whether it be the color, silhouette, or embellishments—it's best to save it for another occasion. On the other hand, if you have a red dress that seems to be a good fit for the dress code, season and venue, we say go for it!

3 Times When Wearing Red to a Wedding Isn't Appropriate

As mentioned above, red is an acceptable color to wear to most secular weddings in Western society (the key word here being 'most'). There are some instances where you'll want to avoid the color, and we're breaking them down here:

Indian, Pakistani and Chinese Weddings

In some cultures, such as Indian, Pakistani and Chinese, or religions, such as Hinduism, the color red plays an important role in wedding ceremonies. It symbolizes love, commitment, and prosperity, and therefore, is typically worn by the bride or groom. These traditions date back centuries, from before the time it became customary to wear white. Because of this longstanding history, showing up in red as a guest might make it seem like you are trying to overshadow the couple. Of course, many modern couples, even within these cultures, are choosing less traditional routes when it comes to their wedding attire. If you're unsure what colors you should wear, and which ones you should avoid, talk with the couple or refer to their wedding website.

White-Tie or Black-Tie Weddings

While red attire certainly isn't off-limits for weddings with more formal dress codes, such as black-tie and white-tie, it isn't necessarily the best choice. For these types of events, it is recommended that guests stick to darker shades, like black and navy. The exception, however, is burgundy. An evening gown in this rich red hue is sure to fit right in at a formal affair.

Weddings with Specific Dress Codes or Color Schemes

Unique wedding dress codes and color schemes are becoming more and more popular, with some couples even creating vision boards via Pinterest for their guests to reference when planning their look. So, if you're attending a wedding with attire requirements that don't include the color red, it's essential to avoid wearing it. Not only is sticking to the color scheme a sign of respect towards the couple, but it also helps ensure you won't stick out in photos. Trust us when we say you won't want to be the one person in a red dress at a black and white attire wedding.

How to Wear Red to a Wedding

If you've recently received the go-ahead to wear a red dress to a wedding, you might be wondering how to style it. Don't stress—we have plenty of tips. Since red is already an eye-catching color, our advice is to keep things pretty neutral with the accessories. Nude-colored heels and a champagne clutch are sure to offer exactly what you need to complete your look. However, if you're looking for something a bit more unique, try metallic accessories. They're totally on-trend right now, plus they'll pair perfectly with your jewelry.

As for shades, let the season guide your choice. For fall and winter weddings, opt for a darker shade of red, such as burgundy or maroon. For spring and summer events, you can't go wrong with a bright cherry red or scarlet shade. If you're looking for even more styling tips, be sure to check out some of our seasonal attire guides.

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