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Can Guests Wear Black to a Wedding?

We asked the pros to find out.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated May 21, 2020
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Wedding guest style trends may come and go, but one question seems to remain: Can you wear black to a wedding? It depends—traditional etiquette rules continue to evolve, meaning the do's and don'ts of wedding attire can be harder to decipher. Plus, with the rise in popularity of unique dress codes like "dressy casual" and "beach formal," it can be tricky to find something appropriate to wear. Wearing black to a wedding is a common wedding guest dilemma, but it's important to let the wedding dress code guide your style choices. What's more, the location, time of year and type of wedding can all be factors that determine if it's okay to wear black to a wedding. To eliminate any confusion around this popular etiquette question, we've tapped industry pros to weigh in on whether or not you can wear black to a wedding. 

Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? 

Generally, wearing black to a wedding is appropriate. "Guests can absolutely wear black to a wedding," says Shawne Jacobs, President and Creative Director of Anne Barge. "In the past, black was a color typically worn for mourning. However, over the years couples have been more open to breaking the rules and opting for non-traditional, modern wedding dress codes. Today, there are so many attire options to choose from, especially in black." 

This is applicable to all guests as well. While a black dress or jumpsuit is appropriate for women, black suits and accessories are perfectly fine options for men as well. "Anything from a black tie, a black shirt or a black suit is definitely appropriate to wear to a wedding," says Onyx Martinez, Lead Stylist for The Tie Bar. "Wearing black is a way to make you simple yet stylish without commanding large attention that should be saved for the bride and groom." 

Whether you're a frequent wedding guest or you'll be attending your first ceremony, there's a chance you may already have appropriate attire in your closet. But, if you'll be attending a formal ceremony (or the dress code requires pieces you don't already own), retailers like Rent the Runway or The Black Tux are great options for renting wedding clothes you don't want to buy.

Get Inspired by Wedding Season and Location

Since every wedding is different, though, there are a few ways to determine exactly what to wear. First, the location and time of the wedding can guide your fashion choices. "Know your environment when going to any event," suggests Martinez. "Is it going to be daytime? Is the wedding in a barn? Is it a casual wedding? These are all things you need to take into account. Clothes not only affect the way a person sees you, but also the way you set the environment you're in." 

Adds Jacobs: "It's important for guests to consider what type of wedding is being held before making any decisions on a color and fabric. This will ensure that the guest is dressed appropriately for the formality of the wedding." 

Seasonality can also play a role in determining what color to wear. You might wonder: Can you wear black to a summer wedding? The answer depends on your preference. You can wear a black dress or suit to a summer or beach wedding if you want—but if you'll be spending time outside, black might make you feel too hot and uncomfortable in the heat. Alternatively, you could wear all black to a formal winter wedding if you think it would fit the venue and the theme. Generally, though, black is versatile enough to wear to any type of nuptials. Consider a loose black midi dress or shirt-and-slacks combo for a casual wedding, or opt for a sleek black jumpsuit or suit for an upscale dress code. You can also use accessories to accent any black look, or dress it up for more formal events. "There are so many ways to accessorize a great black dress, jumpsuit or an evening suit," says wedding dress designer Madeline Gardner. "You can pull in some colorful jewelry, like earrings or bracelets. I also love a great shoe, especially in a color or print. A colorful wrap or stole can add drama to the look, as will a beautiful handbag. Another way to accent black is with lucite, whether in jewelry or other accessories." 

If you're still unsure if wearing black to a wedding is appropriate, check the couple's wedding website for more details. While the wedding invitation will likely include the dress code, many to-be-weds will use their website to expand upon their request. If you're still confused after receiving the invitation, check their site before reaching out directly.

When to Avoid Wearing Black to a Wedding 

There are, however, some exceptions where black is an inappropriate color to wear. The dark hue is often discouraged at traditional Indian and Chinese weddings, for example, as it represents mourning. Conversely, a couple could request that guests avoid black to follow a specific theme. To get more clarity on if you can wear black to a wedding, it's best to consult the couple's wedding website. 

Ultimately, wearing black to a wedding is generally appropriate. What matters most is that you take the time to research the couple's dress code and pick your outfit accordingly. In doing so, you'll be appropriately dressed to spend the day celebrating your loved ones. 

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