Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? An Etiquette Expert Explains

Wearing Black to a Wedding


Everyone has an LBD hanging in their closet that’s fit for any occasion. The company holiday party? Check. An anniversary dinner date? Obvi. Your birthday party? Wore it two years in a row. But when you find yourself invited to a wedding, you might be wondering if that never-fail frock is appropriate for such an event.

Back when your mom was fielding wedding invitations from all her friends, black was often right up there with white when it came to what not to wear. But times, and wedding etiquette norms, are changing. “In many instances, especially here in the United States, wearing black to a wedding has been seen as a fashion faux pas because typically the color black is associated with mourning,” wedding etiquette expert Elaine Swann tells Brides.

Meet the Expert

Elaine Swann is a wedding etiquette expert and the founder of The Swann School of Protocol.

But we’ve got good news for fans of coal-colored ensembles: “It is absolutely acceptable for a female to wear a black dress to a wedding,” says Swann. However, there are a few things all good guests should keep in mind.

“Always avoid wearing anything that's too low cut, too short, or too tight,” advises Swann. And while black dresses and gowns are perfectly acceptable for most formal weddings, you might want to consider another hue if you’ve been invited to noontime nuptials or a casual, seaside ceremony. “My recommendation is to avoid wearing the color black if it’s a destination wedding with more of a tropical vibe,” says Swann.

For daytime weddings, Swann similarly advises avoiding stark black. Instead, opt for a lighter shade, pastels, or rich jewel tones. Alternatively, you can make the midnight hue more daytime appropriate by choosing an ensemble that features a black base, but also bright pops of color or a lively print.

The best rule of thumb? Always pay close attention to the dress code indicated on the wedding invitation. Even if a dress code isn’t listed, Swann says that the wording and style of the invite can indicate what may or may not be appropriate. “The wedding invitation is a good indicator of the type of style the wedding will be,” she explains. “If you receive an invitation that is printed with a formal font and the location is a more formal location, such as a grand hotel ballroom, that would be a good indication that perhaps the wedding itself is black tie and a formal gown is acceptable and expected.”

Need some inspiration for the next nuptials on your docket? These black wedding guest dresses are dark and dreamy—and won’t get you any side-eye from the bride!

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Reformation Butterfly Dress

Butterfly Dress

Courtesy of Reformation 

Now, this is how you do black in the daytime! If you’re invited to a wedding that’s earlier in the day, you can still don a dark hue by choosing a dress with a black base that’s adorned with summery florals or a bright and punchy pattern. It’ll keep things from looking too dramatic or drab.

SHOP NOW: Reformation, $278

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ASOS DESIGN One-Shoulder Belted Dress

ASOS Dress

 Courtesy of ASOS

For a semi-formal dress code, a shorter cocktail-length black dress is appropriate—and so much fun to wear! The asymmetrical details and waist-cinching belt on this ASOS midi dress are so French-girl chic.


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Anthropologie Montreal Dress

Montreal Dress

 Courtesy of Anthropologie

For a black-tie wedding, you can’t go wrong with a classic black gown. We love the parents-of-the-bride-approved high neckline on this frock that still lets you show off your sexy shoulders and a bit of back.

SHOP NOW: Anthropologie, $220

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Rachel Zoe Embellished Halston Jumpsuit

Rachel Zoe Jumpsuit

Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

If you prefer pants to dresses (all the better to break it down on the dance floor in!), a black jumpsuit is also acceptable. Just be sure to pay attention to the fabric. Silk, satin, or hardware details will keep the look luxurious and from veering too casual.

SHOP NOW: Bloomingdale's, $595

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