Everything You Need to Know About Wearing White to a Wedding

We answer your most-asked questions.
Monica Mercuri - The Knot Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
by
Monica Mercuri
Monica Mercuri - The Knot Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
Monica Mercuri
Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
  • Monica writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in fashion commerce content
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Monica was an assistant style and market editor at House Beautiful
  • Monica holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs
Updated Mar 25, 2024
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Though marriage ceremonies and receptions continue to evolve, one rule pervades: Generally, guests shouldn't wear white to a wedding. But with plenty of couples opting for unique wedding dress codes, relaxed events and out-of-the-box themes, you might be wondering: Can you ever wear white to a wedding as a guest? It's a common wedding guest attire etiquette question that still stumps attendees to this day. And while each wedding is different, there are some standard guidelines to follow. To help you navigate the rules regarding what not to wear to a wedding, I've consulted industry experts and my fellow fashion editors at The Knot to share their insights on the matter.

In this article:

Can a guest 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."

Can men wear white to a wedding?

Another question we often hear is whether it's wrong for guys to wear white to a wedding. Looking to wear a white suit or tux? "Unless specified in the invitation, men should also avoid wearing white to a wedding," fashion editor Lauren 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 shirt underneath your suit or tuxedo jacket is completely acceptable."

Why can't you wear white to a wedding?

For brides in many cultures, the color white holds a special meaning. "That color is reserved for the bride to wear at the wedding," says Anthony Navarro, Creative Director of Liven It Up Events. "It is an unsaid rule that you should not wear white." Essentially, wearing a white dress or outfit to a wedding (as a guest) is usually considered improper.

Are there any exceptions?

There are some instances when it might be okay to wear white to a wedding. For example, 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, wearing an outfit that's white or one that even features a white pattern is a bad idea, as doing so can appear rude or disrespectful to the couple.

If you find yourself stressing about the color of your wedding guest attire, it might be easiest to pivot. Need outfit ideas? Check out our comprehensive list of the best places to buy wedding guest dresses and our guide to men's wedding attire.

How much white can a wedding guest wear?

Wondering if it's alright to wear white shoes as a wedding guest? What about a white jacket or pants? 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, Reformation 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.

Can you wear beige or 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," says Whalley. "If the couple does request guests wear a neutral color palette, look for a medium-tone beige or champagne."

Can you wear black and white to a wedding?

As we said earlier, we advise steering clear from wearing white, off-white or ivory unless the couple says otherwise. That said, if it's a mostly black dress, top or skirt with just a bit of white, then that should be okay. And of course, the classic suit formula—a black jacket and pants with a white shirt—is always acceptable. If you're unsure, you can also check in with friends and family—and even the couple—if your intended attire is appropriate.

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 prominent white pattern or 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 look white in photographs. When in doubt, opt for a vibrant floral print or a darker hue so there's no confusion.

Who can wear white to a wedding?

So, when can somebody wear white to a wedding? 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's allowed to wear white to a wedding.

The Couple

Yep, we're stating the obvious. The couple sets the tone and the marriers are fully entitled to be the only ones in dazzling white numbers, if that's what they want.

The Wedding Party

Tons of couples are embracing the white wedding party look and are asking their family and friends 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 attire based on a white palette, in which case it's best to run your picks by the couple before you buy. That way, you won't have any fashion faux pas on the day of the wedding.

Sarah Hanlon contributed to the reporting of this article.

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