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Everything You Need to Know About Wearing White to a Wedding

Find out when it's fine (and totally not fine) to wear the color.
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.
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While marriage ceremonies continue to evolve, one rule of thumb remains: wearing white to a wedding should be avoided at all costs. However, with plenty of couples opting for unique dress codes, relaxed ceremonies or bold style themes, you might wonder: Can you wear white to a wedding? It's a common wedding etiquette question that still stumps guests 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 to share their insight on the matter.   

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." 

"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." 

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.

How Much White Can You Wear to a Wedding?

Some outfits with a subtle white pattern may be appropriate for guests to wear, so use your discretion as needed. "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. Think of it this way: If you're questioning whether an outfit looks a little too white, it probably is. Some popular brands (like Anthropologie, Show Me Your Mumu and Lulus) take the guessing game out of shopping by offering curated wedding guest outfit 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, retailers like 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. "However, I would definitely air on the side of caution out of respect for the bride." 

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. We break down everyone who can wear white to a wedding. 

The Couple

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. 

That said, tons of couples are embracing the white-clad wedding party look or asking their parents to wear something that coordinates with their outfits. Or, maybe you don't even care if your guests wear white, especially if you're not wearing white yourself (we're obsessed with non-white wedding dresses, by the way). If that sounds like you, give guests a heads-up on your wedding website to say you're cool with anyone donning frosty hues—it might save someone from needing to buy a new outfit.

The Wedding Party

A wedding party in all white always looks chic and polished. 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 copule before you buy. That way, you won't have any fashion faux pas on the day of the wedding. 

If, however, someone goes against your dress code and shows up wearing pure white, try to keep your cool. Hopefully it wasn't done to annoy you, so do your best to rise above it. It'll be nearly impossible to take the spotlight away from the happy couple anyway.

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