Can You Wear White to a Wedding? Etiquette Experts Explain

Wearing White to a Wedding

PHOTO BY K.R. MORENO

When it comes to wedding guest attire, wearing white has always been considered the ultimate faux pas. But with changing traditions and brides making their own rules, is this still the case? We consulted with the experts to find out.

The General Rule of Thumb

“Although many traditions are getting reinvented or excluded altogether, a constant is the bride is the only person at her wedding who is allowed to wear white,” says bridal consultant LauraLee Baird.

Off-white and neutrals are best left alone as well. “We see many brides opting for light blush, champagne, and ivory dresses,” adds Kirsten Gutowski of Willoughby Golf Club. “So it’s safer for a guest to just choose a colored dress of some sort.”

However, white is acceptable under a few circumstances...

  • If the bride wants her bridal party in white and you are a bridesmaid
  • If you're attending an all-white wedding, which would be specified on the invitation
  • If your outfit has a pattern with subtle hints of white

Use the formality, venue, and season to gauge whether white incorporated into patterns and stripes would be acceptable.

“We had a yacht club wedding in June and one of the guests wore a maxi dress with nautical blue stripes,” explains Erica Simmons, owner of Elite Events. “It looked wonderful and was seasonally and venue appropriate. Being mindful of the occasion is going to be key here.”

What About Other Wedding-Related Events?

While the consensus is that white is a big no-no on the big day, does this rule stand for all wedding-related events like the bachelorette party, bridal shower, and rehearsal dinner?

While pairing a white top with a maxi skirt or donning a neutral dress to brunch might seem innocent, it can really throw the bride off. With so many other colors to choose from, leave anything white at home for all wedding events. “It’s almost a sign of respect to let the bride carry that tradition of white as her shade for every event leading up to the wedding,” says Revelry Marketing Director Alena Davis.

“Some of these events have friends and family of the groom who might not have been able to meet the bride yet and could lead to some confusion,” adds Baird. Avoid stepping on the bride’s toes and wear another shade. If you’re questioning it, ask a bridesmaid (never the bride) whether the look is acceptable.

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