Can Guests Wear a White Dress With a Print to a Wedding?

Experts weigh in on the fashion faux pas.

wedding guest wearing a white dress with a blue print

Photo by Jessica Mangia Photography

Finding the right outfit to wear to a wedding event always presents a bit of a challenge. First, you have to observe the dress code and find a style that will match the formality of the day. Next, you want to choose something for the day that you love and feel comfortable in. As a final check, you should keep to tradition and avoid wearing white to not pull attention from the bride. Although not all brides wear white, it is a tradition most people in the Western world agree upon. However, here comes the gray area... What do you do if you have an outfit that is white with a colorful print?

"I think it all depends on the amount of white, and if the bride is in white as well," shares destination wedding photographer Perry Vaile Adams. "I had a rehearsal dinner recently where the bride were a vibrant sherbet orange rehearsal dinner dress and I can tell you no one was looking at or worried about white patterns that day."

"That being said, after working in this industry for so long, if anyone shows up in anything with too much white, it’s cringe and I generally avoid photographing them too much. I still remember when a member of the vendor team showed up in an all-white ensemble on my own wedding day (in 2010!) and it still annoys me 12 years later."

Ahead, we chatted with industry and etiquette experts to help you determine whether or not you should pull that printed dress out of your closet for the next wedding on your calendar.

Meet the Expert

Put Away the Print

The general consensus of our experts? Say no to the dress. "As far as I am concerned, if the dress is white with a print over it, it still is white," shares etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. "There is very little wiggle room when wearing a white dress. There will be multiple other times a guest can enjoy wearing her beautiful dress, but not on the bride's wedding day."

However, the degree of white can make a difference. "If a guest wants to wear a dress that is predominantly a variety of other colors and only a small thread of white throughout the dress, it would be acceptable because it’s not the predominant color," Gottman continues. Yet, you should still be apprehensive with your fashion choice. "If you are spending any time analyzing the difference—don’t wear it," advises Nathalie Cadet-James, founder of Luxe Fête Event Planning and Design Studio. "Hundreds of years of loving tradition tells us that only the bride is in white. Let her shine."

Luxury wedding planner and designer Nicole-Natassha Goulding agrees. "White is always a tricky color for weddings and every bride may have different feelings on what guests can and can't wear on their wedding day," she says. "My rule of thumb usually is, if you have to question if the pattern or print has too much white, I would err on the side of caution and avoid it."

Goulding notes that this rule should apply to all wedding events, including bridal showers and rehearsal dinners as well. "I always suggest guests stay away from white for all wedding activities unless prompted to do so by the couple i.e. all-white or themed parties," she adds.

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