Everything You Need to Know About Wearing White to a Wedding
While marriage ceremonies continue to evolve, one rule remains true: Wearing white to a wedding should be avoided at all costs. But with plenty of couples opting for unique wedding dress codes, relaxed ceremonies and out-of-the-box themes, you might be wondering: Can you wear white to a wedding? It's a common wedding guest attire etiquette question that still stumps attendees to this day. And while each wedding is different, some rules don't change. So, is it ever okay to wear white to a wedding? To help navigate this tricky topic, we've consulted industry experts and our fellow fashion editors at The Knot to share their insights on the matter.
In this article:
Can You Wear White to a Wedding?
In general, it's not appropriate for guests to wear white to a wedding. "When you're a guest at a wedding, the most important thing to keep in mind is not to upstage or upset the bride," says wedding dress designer Madeline Gardner. "It's safe to stay away from any outfits that are predominantly white, cream or ivory."
Why can't you wear white to a wedding?
"That color is reserved for the bride to wear at the wedding," adds Anthony Navarro, Creative Director of Liven It Up Events. "It is an unsaid rule that you should not wear white." There are a few exceptions to this, such as the couple requesting guests to wear white.
How Much White Can You Wear to a Wedding?
Think of it this way: If you're questioning whether an outfit looks a little too white, it probably is. Many popular brands (like Anthropologie, ASTR The Label and Lulus) take the guessing game out of shopping by offering curated wedding guest collections. By using these lists, you'll discover wedding-worthy outfits that don't conflict with traditional guest etiquette. Or, if you don't want to buy an outfit, rental sites like Nuuly, Rent the Runway and The Black Tux offer outfits that you can wear for a few days before returning.
Before you buy a new wedding outfit, try polling a few friends to see what they think of the color. (Bonus points if they're engaged or married so they know what it feels like to be on the other side.) If no one else seems to have qualms with it, you've got a winner. However, if you're still on the fence, we'd suggest you look for something else. "Some white-based prints can be suitable to wear as a guest at a wedding," advises Jacobs. We go more into wearing white floral printed dresses, below.
Who Can Wear White to a Wedding?
So, when is wearing white to a wedding acceptable? As previously mentioned, it depends on the dress code, but your role in the wedding may also play a part. Below, we break down everyone who can wear white to a wedding.
Yep, we're stating the obvious. As the couple, you set the tone. You're entitled to be the only ones in dazzling white numbers, if that's what you want.
The Wedding Party
Tons of couples are embracing the white wedding party look and are asking their parents to wear something that coordinates with their outfits. If you're a bridesmaid or groomsman and the to-be-weds want you decked in a creamy shade, you're good to go. You might be allowed to choose your own dress based on a white palette, in which case it's best to run your first choice picks by the couple before you buy. That way, you won't have any fashion faux pas on the day of the wedding.
Can a guest ever wear white to a wedding?
In some instances, couples may ask all guests to wear white for a themed party. Such requests will be made clear on the wedding invitation and the couple's wedding website. Unless all-white outfits are explicitly required for the wedding day, it's best to avoid wearing an outfit that's white or one that even features a white pattern.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wearing White to a Wedding
We know that you might have even more questions about wearing white to a wedding, including whether white accessories and off-white colors, like cream or ivory, are appropriate. We've tapped our very own Lauren Whalley, The Knot's Fashion Editor, Beauty & Inclusivity, to share even more tips to prepare you for your next function.
Can you wear white shoes to a wedding?
"The rules of wedding guest fashion have really evolved over the past few years, so wearing white is not as taboo as it used to be," says Whalley. "If the couple is relaxed or if you are wearing a floor-length dress, white shoes may be doable. I always recommend erring on the side of caution if you're unsure, a cute pair of nude, beige or even silver shoes will look just as stylish."
Can men wear white to a wedding?
Another question we often hear is whether men are excused from the rule about wearing white to a wedding. "Unless specified in the invitation, men should also avoid wearing white to a wedding," Whalley explains. "If you want to wear a lighter option, try colors like tan, khaki or even a light grey. However, wearing a white button-up underneath your suit or tuxedo jacket is completely acceptable."
Can you wear a white floral dress to a wedding?
The answer is it depends. We would avoid floral wedding guest dresses that have a white or light pattern and/or white background. "As long as the outfit incorporates a colorful pattern or white only as a small accent color, you can wear it," says Shawne Jacobs, President and Creative Director of Anne Barge. Also, keep in mind that light colors, like blush, can sometimes be photographed as looking white. When in doubt, opt for a colorful floral print or a darker hue so there's no confusion.
Can you wear black and white to a wedding?
As we said earlier, we advise steering clear from wearing white unless the couple says otherwise. If it's a black-and-white dress with a hint of white or ivory, then that should be okay. If you're unsure, you can also check in with friends and family—and even the couple—if the color is appropriate.
Can you wear cream to a wedding?
"In general, it's best to stay away from any clothing that can be photographed as white or appear that way in person," adds Whalley. "If the couple does request guests wear a neutral color palette, look for a medium-tone beige or champagne."
The bottom line: If you have to ask, the answer is no.
If you find yourself stressing about the color of your wedding guest outfit, then it might be easier to just find another dress. Need outfit ideas? Check out our comprehensive list of the best places to buy wedding guest dresses, as well as our curated roundups for every dress code and season.
Sarah Hanlon contributed to the reporting of this article.