Rules for Dresses at Weddings (not Rules for Wedding Dresses)

by Erin on May 30, 2005

I was lucky enough to attend a lovely, lovely wedding yesterday. The bride and groom were glowing with happiness; their families and friends were there to support them and share their joy; and the bride chose (and wore with élan) a perfectly suitable and elegantly simple gown.

I was also pleased to see how many people were following the rules for dresses at weddings (that is, rules for the dresses that are not the Wedding Dress–the Wedding Dress has its own rules that are beyond the scope of this blog). However, seeing so many people dressed beautifully and appropriately reminded me of the many weddings I've attended where many were not, so here is a refresher for those who need it.

One: do not wear black. I can hear somebody whining that she only has one nice dress, and it NEEDS to be black because she has to wear it on New Year's Eve, and besides, black is slimming. I am not listening to you. You do not wear black to weddings. You do not wear black to weddings because wearing black at weddings means you disapprove of the marriage. You do not wear black to weddings because someday, god forbid, you might actually WANT to wear black to a wedding in order to show your disapproval and your deep grief over somebody's ill-advised nuptials, and no one will know that this is what you intended because there will be a roomful of women in LBDs dancing barefoot to "We Are Family" and your grand gesture will be for naught. MARK MY WORDS. (Besides, black is BOR-ing. And not as slimming as you might think.) Black and white prints are allowable if they would be unsuitable for a funeral.

Two: do not wear red. Wearing red is an attention-grabber, and it is rude to try to take attention from the bride. (A corollary of the "do not wear red" rule is "do not wear dresses cut down to (or slit up to) THERE".) This rule goes double for the groom's ex-girlfriends. This rule goes triple for the groom's ex-girlfriends who are there as the "and Guest" of somebody else.

Three: do I even have to tell you not to wear white? And yes, ivory, candlelight, pale shell pink, and pearl grey all count as white. Better safe than sorry. If you have to ask why you can't wear white, you are no longer allowed to attend any weddings at all. If you are the mother of the groom and you wear white or a whitish shade, you will not be allowed to ask "why? why?" when the newlyweds move someplace you need a visa to visit.

Four: if you are wearing a dress with spaghetti straps or no straps at all, or one that is far enough off the shoulder to need special undergarments, AND the ceremony is in a place of worship, please bring a shawl, a wrap, or something to cover up with. Yes, I know that God doesn't care, but churches are usually cold (it's all the stone) and goosebumps are unbecoming.

The general idea is that a wedding is NOT simply a fancy party to which you wear your fancy-party clothes; a wedding is a wedding, and it has its own rules. (However — if you are a bridesmaid, and the bride asks you to break any of these rules, you suck it up and say "yes, whatever you like, it's your day." Without eye-rolling where she can see you.)

Now I can hear that same somebody asking, "Well, what CAN I wear?" Weddings, especially summer afternoon weddings, are the place to wear dresses. A simple sheath in a bright color or print is nearly always flattering, appropriate, and pretty. An A-line or full-skirted dress will be a pleasure to wear while dancing. (I myself use nearly every wedding as an excuse to sew a new dress–if they care enough to invite me, I should make my best effort, shouldn't I?) Summer weddings are one of the last places where a frivolously pretty dress is recommended, if not required — why ruin it by crowding out the dresses with sparkly cocktail gowns and business suits? They have their own turf.

{ 181 comments… read them below or add one }

ita May 30, 2005 at 10:46 am

Isn’t the most basic rule that whatever the couple thinks is okay goes? At least half the weddings I’ve been to had brides encouraging the wearing of black.And if the bride isn’t in white, is it still bad form for a guest to wear it?

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Beckster May 30, 2005 at 12:27 pm

I always held to the no black rule. Then at my nephew’s wedding this fall I was told that the rule no longer applied. 90% of the women wore black. The bride didn’t care, had never heard of the rule. I wore navy.

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blackbird May 30, 2005 at 6:21 pm

I am with you on everything but the no black rule. Which I get, but…I am not spending money on a dress (and I NEVER wear dresses) or formal-ish outfit that is not some form of black. I just can’t do it.

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Rosey123 April 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm

That’s exactly how I am. I mostly wear black. Why should I spend the money on a colorful dress that I will NEVER wear again? I understand where she is coming from. By times have changes and black looks well on everyone and it matches everything

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Erin May 30, 2005 at 8:01 pm

I know I’m fighting a retrograde action against the no-black thing. But I still think that, unless you have written dispensation from the couple, the rule should still apply. And even if the bride is in royal purple, it’s probably a good idea to hold off on the white. Because it just seems like it would be too much like a bad sitcom plot if someone got confused … I understand not wanting to spend money on something you wouldn’t wear, but perhaps a nice classic dressy suit in a non-black color? Just think about it. You’ll get more wear out of it than you think, I promise.

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Pretty Things May 30, 2005 at 10:01 pm

I totally agree with you about the red thing — I’d add another — BRIGHT GREEN! My boss’s “girlfriend” (read, girl 25 years younger than he is) wore chartreuse green to the wedding. She totally stands out in all the photos. We had a small wedding, 50 people or so, and the photographer had a GREAT idea of having a group shot, all of us on the steps of the Rotunda — well, this chippy in the green, I swear, I got more comments from friends when I gave them their picture about that awful green!

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blackbird May 31, 2005 at 4:42 am

Lori anderson designs – you are a smart cookie — hit those pics with photoshop!My FIL’s girlfriend wore a purple crochet peek-a-boo number which haunts a couple of our photos. fortunately that’s all that’s left of her.

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blackbird May 31, 2005 at 4:43 am

Erin – I do have a dressy suit in brown and BLACK, ellen tracy…

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Anonymous May 31, 2005 at 8:26 am

I’ve always wondered, though, about the no-black rule when it comes to Jewish weddings. The funeral thing doesn’t enter into it — we tear our clothes for mourning, we don’t necessarily wear black. So why should black represent anything in particular at a Jewish wedding?

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Erin May 31, 2005 at 9:12 am

Perhaps black doesn’t signify the same thing at Jewish weddings … I’ll have to ask around. I’ve only been to two Jewish weddings, and at one I was much too concerned with keeping my hat straight to notice whether people were wearing black!

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blackbird May 31, 2005 at 10:41 am

Hats are lovely at weddings. I think you should make a rule that we MUST wear hats at weddings. I hope you have rules for dressing at work as I really have a THING about armpits and sandals at the office…

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Erin May 31, 2005 at 10:56 am

Believe me, there would be many many new rules if I were Queen of All Things Sartorial. Of course, they’d all boil down to one rule, which would be “care about what you wear” … sort of like how all the rules for my little boy boil down to “be kind”.

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shawn May 31, 2005 at 11:06 am

I couldn’t disagree more! At the black tie wedding I went to last month, nearly all the women (and men, of course) were in black. It’s hard for me to imagine another color at a black tie that wouldn’t look tacky. Black is common enough now that it’s an unusual bride who takes offense; it is flattering; and it’s rewearable.

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Erin May 31, 2005 at 11:11 am

Black-tie weddings have their own rules … they’re so rare, comparatively, that I didn’t call them out as exceptions.

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Anonymous May 31, 2005 at 2:36 pm

I went to an evening formal wedding a couple months ago where I wore a black and red cheongsam, thus breaking *both* color rules you mention. But I see I’ve been exonerated with the black-tie wedding caveat mentioned here at the bottom. Whew! Here’s a pic, although I have to say it photographed just *wretchedly*.http://www.chernobylred.com/wedding.jpg–Lydia

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Erin May 31, 2005 at 6:26 pm

I do so love cheongsams. I think they always get a pass. I think I have three … plus a cheongsam blouse I made in sushi-print fabric.

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Amethyst June 1, 2005 at 10:34 pm

I think I love you. Thank you so much for posting this. Wedding guest attire is one of my pet peeves. I hope you don’t mind that I reposted it in my journal (with proper credit given and a link to your site).

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Sara January 22, 2006 at 3:53 am

I went to two weddings last summer — one was in a church and I wore a pink and black A-line shift dress. I didn’t feel that I stood out, and my boyfriend’s mother said it was appropriate (I was with my guy at his cousin’s nuptials).Another one I attended was outside, a very small, informal gathering, and for that I wore my absolute favorite dress — purple and white striped bias seersucker, full skirt, V-neck, waist detail. I have a picture of it here (I’m in the middle): http://www.flickr.com/photos/chickey/32300067/in/set-719506/It's so fabulous. But I need to start looking for other summer wedding appropriate dresses this year — I have FOUR to go to already!

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ladymadeana May 23, 2006 at 11:21 am

I know I am a year late in commenting on this – but THANK YOU. Black at a wedding is one of my top pet peeves. It’s this simple – as long as we are still wearing black to funerals, then, it’s not an appropriate color for a wedding. We only have so many social rituals left – let’s cherish what remains – is it really such a hardship to own one dressy outfit that is not black? In fact, the next dressy event you go to, wear a color – you will get compliments all night and look like a peacock among the crows.

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Kimone June 21, 2006 at 10:17 am

Hi I need some advice I’m tall so some dresses that fit other people decently tend to be too short on me. The wedding starts at 2:00 pm, the dress is black with white stripes, with a spaghetti strap that ties around the neck. I told the bride that my dress will be blackand also about the spaghetti and she was fine with it. what do you thinkthanks a lot

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Erin June 21, 2006 at 10:26 am

If the bride says “okay”, who am I to say “nay”?

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Anonymous August 23, 2006 at 10:32 am

I think it is perfectly fine for the mother of the groom to wear black especially if it is a white and black wedding. I think you are old fashioned to even consider not wearing black!

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Anonymous October 7, 2006 at 10:01 am

Rules, rules, who comes up with all these rules. I do agree that what you say were the rules. But now peoples are more relaxed and practical. Most of the weddings I have attended in the last few years have female guest in black. Especially the younger guest. Men are the most dressed up in black, why not women? I think black draws the least amount of attention than a lot of other colors. And when I die, please don’t think you have to wear black, wear what makes you feel good and looks the best on you. After all, both of these occasions should be celebrations!

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Anonymous October 10, 2006 at 4:56 pm

I’ve recently been to a wedding where the bridesmaids were wearing BLACK. Completely black gowns…yewww

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Anonymous October 13, 2006 at 11:50 am

I am going to a wedding Oct. 21, late afternoon and I am wearing a black lace dress w/ 3/4 length sleeves it is the best thing I have seen out there fashionwise; hope no one is offended. It does not look like a dress for a funeral…maybe I will use a fallish colored shawl w/ it; black heels w/diamonds on toes. Conservative but chic… I think; now I am concerned

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kemsmith November 26, 2006 at 9:38 pm

Yeah, let’s just all do “whatever makes us feel good”, Come on! Erin, I’m with you sister! Black at weddings-wasn’t that the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire? What’s next? Flip flops are O.K. as long as they have sequins on them? It is the couple’s day and one shows respect for the couple and the reverence of the event by showing up appropriately dressed-it’s not about you! One honestly couldn’t use a decent-looking colored ensemble for church, a tea party social, one of your children’s school plays/functions, a special date night? To me, this is the woman’s version of the man’s “every man should own a black suit and a brown one” rule.

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Susan December 2, 2006 at 8:11 am

Thanks for the rules! I never wear black to weddings, but when I was very young, I once wore a white dress (I didn’t have a mother or friend to tell me I was wrong). No comment was made by anyone at the wedding, but I was told by a co-worker the next day that it was wrong. Haven’t made that mistake again.I have worn red, though; I didn’t know it was a faux pas. I’m partial to red dresses – if I had a choice of a dress in different colors, I would always pick the red one.

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Anonymous February 7, 2007 at 3:19 pm

i know black doesn’t apply,but i’ll take any color or dress that will fit me. i haven’t worn a dress since 1996. i know thats pretty pathetic. i wear scrubs all day,i better get moving on this one. lol wedding is in june. ps my size is petite & shoe size is 5 man am i in trouble…

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Ashlee February 9, 2007 at 12:30 am

I am attending a Catholic wedding of a close friend from high school. As the years have passed, we have grown apart. Surprise surprise. Now deciding what is appropriate is a nightmare. I have nice summer/spring dresses but none for winter/fall. I have this simple, no strap, right below the knee length dress that I was considering throwing a belt and a shawl/cami over. But here’s the catch. It’s a blue. Kinda sky blue, very pretty with my blue eyes. But is this too much? Blue, it stands out. But I was going to put black pumps, black belt, black clutch and black shawl or cami with it to tone it down. Does this work!? The wedding is at 6:30 pm. PLEASE HELP!?–ashlee

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Erin February 9, 2007 at 5:08 am

Ashlee, good luck! I think a pale blue dress is pretty in winter, and of course black accessories are fine. The only thing I would be concerned about is bare shoulders in church — not only because you’ll be cold, but because more traditional Catholic churches require you to be covered up. If you have a little sweater, you should be fine.Have fun!

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Anonymous March 30, 2007 at 1:45 am

From a brides perspective: when my husband and I were married two years ago, the very last thing on my mind was whether the female guests were respecting us (or the rules) sufficiently in what they chose to wear…the fact that people we loved came together from all over the country to help us celebrate was far, far more meaningful and powerful. Thinking back, there were black and even whitish-hued dresses in the crowd, but it never occurred to me to be miffed. I am definitely on the dress-nerd side myself, but we invited our guests so we could have them around us, not their outfits.

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Sarah April 11, 2007 at 12:34 am

Wow! I’m getting married in 10 days in a very informal backyard sort of wedding and I came across this blog somehow when searching for wedding-related something or another! I don’t think I really would’ve noticed what anyone was wearing and if it was out there.. but now I’m afraid I’ll spend all my time analyzing everyone’s outfits, just because that’s the kind of person I am.

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Confused wedding Guest April 22, 2007 at 6:18 pm

Hi There,I am attending a wedding this saturday and i bought a white dress with gold pin stripes,it is stapless and comes down past my knees and is scuffled at the front which i can tie up…. now my best friend and my boyfriend thinks that i should be able to wear it and that i look good in it. But keeping to the rules – I don’t know what to wear now???!!! HELP

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Erin April 24, 2007 at 4:39 pm

If you don’t look like a bride, it should be okay … try to downplay the bride-i-ness of it.

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Anonymous May 29, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Hi, I bought a white sundress to wear to a wedding it has flower inprints in it but the dress is entire dress is white… even the ribbon which ties into a bow around my dress..the dress comes right about even with my knees… I was wondering if it would be ok?? Should I wear a longer brown beaded necklace or should I buy a new colored ribbon to tie around the dress??? HELP I don’t know what to do?

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Erin May 30, 2007 at 9:00 am

If the whole dress is white (even if it has a white-on-white pattern) I would NOT wear it to a wedding. If you’re comfortable with it or know the bride would be comfortable with it, then go ahead, but I would find something else. And no, a different-colored ribbon would not be enough, for me.

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Katja May 31, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Oh, I am so happy that customs, traditions and good taste have not entirely disappeared. I would never dream of wearing white, ivory, red or black to a wedding. It’s tacky beyond belief. Just because a bride has never heard of rules, does not mean that I will not abide by them. To the person who said that a black tie wedding cannot be anything else but black and white: Where did you come up with this idea? Black tie, also known as a dinner jacket, refers to the gentleman’s attire. He is the only one who is restricted to black and white. For a lady, black tie means a long evening gown (not a ballgown, those are reserved for white tie events) which can come in many different colors. Of course, in this day and age, people attend black tie evening weddings in black trousers and a wool pullover. I have seen it myself, otherwise, I would not have believed it.

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ketiw April 26, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Thank you, yes! This.

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Anonymous June 29, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Attending a wedding Sept. 8th. Wedding party will be in black with pink sashes. Favorite color of bride and MOB is BLACK. They prefer guests to wear black. Follow rules or make bride happy????

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Anonymous July 3, 2007 at 5:50 am

I have to attend a wedding soon. It’s in August, and I’ve chosen about 3 different outfits in 2 months, which is kind of annoying my mum because I keep buying new things as people keep telling me different things about what you’re supposed to wear. It’s my boyfriend’s brother’s wedding, and I don’t want to annoy his family either, obviously. But at the moment I’m wondering if a white gypsy skirt with black flowers is ok. Maybe with a black strap top? I’m very short of money at the moment and a bit confused :(Could someone please help me lots by telling me that a black strap top would be fine and that I shouldn’t be getting so worried :)Thankyouuuu!!

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Erin July 3, 2007 at 8:34 am

If it’s your boyfriend’s brother’s wedding, I’d casually ask his mother what she thinks most people will wear. Black-and-white is USUALLY okay, but there’s a lot I don’t know. How skimpy is the top? What time of day and where is the wedding? Is his family very religious? Once you have those questions answered you will feel more comfortable, I’m sure.

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Holly (aka anonymous) July 3, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Thankyou Erin!I’m very grateful for your advice.I’ll ask her. They are religious, but I’m sure they won’t mind as long as I ask :DI haven’t met the bride to be yet so I don’t particularly want to get off on a bad start :)thanks again :)Holly.

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Anonymous July 8, 2007 at 11:16 pm

The black rule I think, is a little staid and would depend on the situation. If people are wearing dark colors to a wedding then, suddenly wearing a light color would make one stand out. I think whatever one wears should be tied to the time of the year (i.e. you wouldn’t wear a bright green and pink number in winter.) But with photoshop now, one can dull or enhance the color of a person, heck you could even change the color of the gown if it bugs someone so much. That might be a bit drastic but, eh.The thing I don’t really care about color so much. It is only the level of formality like is when people show up in jeans to a wedding where they know the crowd is going to be more formal or wear an outfit that reveals just a bit too much. My, this is just one

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Anonymous July 13, 2007 at 8:26 am

Are we living in the 1950′s where all these stupid rules still apply? I don’t think so. You can’t wear black, you can’t wear red…WHO CARES? The couple just want you to be there and as long as you don’t take the spotlight away from the bride…what’s the big deal?

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Anonymous July 16, 2007 at 10:12 am

I guess this bears the next question, can you still NOT wear white after Labor Day? I think this is the same kind of question. From what I’ve heard, wearing white after labor day is OK now. So why isn’t wearing red, purple, black, white, green, etc. to a wedding not ok? My question is…what CAN you wear to a wedding? I just bought this great little wrap dress that’s black and white and it’s perfect. It does not stand out at all. I guess it’s a matter of how “proper” the couple is that’s getting married. If I wear a black dress to a wedding and someone says something…they obviously have TOO much time on their hands if they’re worrying about what a guest is wearing.

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Anonymous July 16, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Wedding Rules? Those will change depending on whose wedding it is. We are long past the days of “wedding rules” as weddings become less and less traditional and more personal. Most these rules were based on superstition and the long lost past. Less importantly then color i think the advice should be to dress appropriate to the type of wedding… is it a Traditional, Non Traditional, Evening, Outdoor, whatever? Point being YES you can wear black to a wedding. This is some of the most outdated fashion advice I have seen in a long time.

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Anonymous July 19, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Uhm..no black dresses at weddings went out with the dark ages…Get with it. It’s been acceptable to wear for the past 20 years. If the bride can wear black, if her attendants can wear black..so therefore can an person attending the event…

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Anonymous July 26, 2007 at 11:26 pm

I just got married two weeks ago. I took my veil off mid-reception and my mother wore my veil for about 30 minutes until a bridesmaid saw this tragic event a gave it back to me. I say anyone can wear black, white, yellow, green, or red, but VEILS are unacceptable! OBVIOUSLY!

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Anonymous August 8, 2007 at 1:21 pm

I really appreciate the advice provided here. I’ve known the rule about black at weddings for some time; I just found about red and white but didn’t know the rationales until I read this post. I would never wear black to a wedding; sometimes it’s more important to be considerate than to indulge one’s own desires. There are so many other colors to choose from, and so many kinds of dresses, that there’s no excuse for being stubborn about wearing black, red, or white. Besides, weddings are announced far enough in advance to give women time to look for flattering dresses that won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities.

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Anonymous August 14, 2007 at 12:08 am

what about a black dress with a beige/tan/salmon little floral pattern over it?

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Darcy Miller August 27, 2007 at 10:25 am

I feel like this battle will never be won by anyone. Just last weekend I attended my friend Susan’s wedding, which was held during the day, outside, at a restaurant in Tarrytown, New York. I had planned to wear a very cute, ivory-colored dress that hit at the knee and had very little embellishment, until Deb Puchalla, editor of Everyday Food (our sister publication), told me that it is unacceptable to wear white to someone else’s wedding. I decided to poll the office; overwhelmingly, everyone seemed to share Deb’s sentiment. But I still wasn’t satisfied.I checked several etiquette books and found that the answer varies depending on whom you ask. Emily Post (17th edition) says white and black are fine to wear, but the fabric and cut of a white dress shouldn’t be bridal at all. In the end, I think that any color goes. With weddings today, some rules can be seen as inspiration, allowing you to personalize and go with what you think feels right-whether you’re the bride, groom, or guest. But remember there are many people who still frown upon wearing black or white, even red, though there’s been no mention of red in the etiquette books I’ve looked in. They may give you looks, and you may become the talk of the town, but if you can handle the scrutiny, then go for it.As for me, I wore the ivory dress I had planned to wear. I knew Susan was going to wear a long, ivory gown and veil, so I wasn’t afraid I’d be confused for her; then again, I did joke with my husband that I might be bombarded by angry bloggers once I posted the photo of me in ivory. If people were talking about me, I don’t know, but I had a great time, and I know Susan wasn’t offended. And isn’t that what really matters, anyway?-Darcy Miller, The Bride’s Guide

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Allison September 5, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I wouldn’t wear white or mostly white without the OK of the bride. Unless you know what her dress is like, don’t assume that yours will be different. My wedding dress was a tea-length (just below the knee) white shirt dress out of translucent silk organza with ivory embroidery, worn over a white slip dress. Wedding dresses aren’t necessarily long or plain white (or even white for that matter), so if you’re not sure about your outfit, ask someone close to the bride for advice.

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Anonymous September 5, 2007 at 4:13 pm

I am with you on every line.At our wedding the one single girl wore a fire-engine red dress which resulted in the photographer using B&W on every photo of her in the album. Meanwhile my sister-in-law wore low sequined black dress and my father-in-law was so appalled they faught for 3 months without speaking. I’m only grateful that there were no whites

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fyrechika September 5, 2007 at 11:23 pm

My wedding was in the August of 2006. My color theme was (bright) red, (royal) purple, and black. All my bridesmaids wore black. The reason I chose black, is because 9 times out of 10 it looks classy. I went individually with my bridesmaids dress shopping to find a dressy-dress (NOT a “bridesmaid” dress) that would look good on HER, and that she could conceivably wear again. I have never seen the point of asking someone to spend up to $500 on a bridesmaid dress (often hideous and unflattering) that she will never wear again!On the invitations, we asked that each guest wear a token of red, black or purple. Some only wore a flower of that color, some went all out–and I was glad to see it! My (now) mother-in-law wore a bright-red dress, and my mother wore a bright purple dress.

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Emily September 6, 2007 at 5:56 am

I think it is important to be aware that people’s cultural associations may vary – I’ve never heard (in the UK) of not wearing red, but certainly the black and white thing would apply (though I’d agree with the comment from Darcy Miller).I had a situation of a wedding at noon, and friends saying I could wear a long dress. I couldn’t! All my inner ‘inapprpriate’ sirens went off! A knee length dress it was.

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laura September 7, 2007 at 3:00 pm

I attended a wedding several years ago, in which the “plus one” of one of the groomsmen wore a strapless, skin-tight fire engine red tube dress that ended just under her tushie. She looked ready to go clubbing.We have a fairly conservative family, so I think she realized her faux-pas from all of the disapproving stares. It actually made one feel a little badly for her…but really, what could she have been thinking?

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Anonymous September 7, 2007 at 9:23 pm

I wore black proudly to my husband’s brother’s wedding last summer.He, and his fiancee, showed up to my wedding in jeans, so I really couldn’t have cared less if it offended them.

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Anonymous September 17, 2007 at 10:26 am

Hi there, this is a great post! Thank you! I wish I had known this for the christian weddings I attended. I was never sure what to wear… :( If I may add, if you attend a hindu indian wedding, the rules of dressing are different: 1. Since the bridge generally wears red or very bright colors, and changes her sari a few times even during the ceremony, its unlikely you will ever outshine the bride. So guest wear bright colors and lots of gold jewelry also bead work, gold embroidery, even sequins etc. Nothing is too fancy, the bride will be fancier. Trust me, light colors will look washed out and drab. However,though the bride is wearing red etc. 2. Still, guests shouldn’t wear white. In India, white is the color you wear to a funeral. 3. Red or black are fine! Though wearing plain black with no embellishments looks too severe. 4. Nothing low cut or too short at the wedding OR reception, hindus tend to be more conservative that way. Though midriff showing and bare shoulders are ok!:) Most of the time, ladies dresses are floor length or we wear long tunics with pants underneath. 5. If the wedding ceremony is in the temple, you should wear a shawl to cover bare shoulders. For the reception, bare shoulders are fine. I wish I had thought to explain this to my mother-in-law, who’s american. We just told her fancy dress, I had no idea at the time what people wore to american style weddings. Your rules really would have helped me. :) She wore a lovely soft pink dress to the wedding and it looked washed out in the pics we took next to my saffron, red and gold sari. :(

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Anonymous September 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm

I’m sorry to say but the people that make up these rules for weddings or any other get together must be very self-consious of themselves, and can’t wear a little black cocktail dress or don’t have the confidence to stand out in red. It’s not 1900 anymore. I’m all about having respect for the Bride and family, but you can wear anything you want that’s tastful. To everyone out there not sure what to wear I say wear what your comfortable in, what makes you happy. Wear the dress white dress with the flowers, I’m sure you look great in it, that’s why you bought it in the first place right. To the girl that’s bought more then one dress because she keeps listening to everyone else…which one do you like the most. Myself I ‘m wearing Red and going to rock it!!!! But if the bride amd others are going to be speaking about me, then it’s not dresses they have to worry about, they need to get lives.

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Boo August 18, 2014 at 1:29 pm

You don’t get it. The point is that it’s not about you and whether you look nice, it’s all about the bride and the couple’s happiness. So you don’t wear anything that could divert attention from the bride and you don’t wear anything that might suggest you’re not happy. Some people can’t think for themselves what that means for their attire, so the “rules” are designed to help them. If you’re more concerned about looking good and wearing what makes YOU happy than you are about the bride, don’t go to the wedding.

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Rebecca December 29, 2007 at 8:31 pm

I am really wondering about black and have read all your comments. I am attending a winter wedding in February at a church in Seattle with some 300 guests. (my husband, myself and 2 children are attending the ceremony only). Kids will be in reasonably bright colors, but I have a black, short, a-line, cowlneck knit dress that I thought would diminish my presence just nicely. Is it going to be okay? I don’t disapprove of the wedding, I just don’t want to be noticed, much.

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skyler August 22, 2014 at 6:38 pm

i think u should wear it. u will look beautiful and u should match ur husband and kids

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theverycold January 24, 2008 at 7:48 pm

okay, i heard another new rule today. my dress isn’t black, red, or any kind of white-it’s gold. a bronzey, yellowy gold floaty polka dot cocktail dress. i’m going as the guest of one of the groomsmen. a friend of mine told me that gold is upstaging the bride and is inappropriate for family-oriented people, that it’s too flashy. what do you think? (p.s. the code is formal or semi-formal)

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Erin January 25, 2008 at 7:02 am

Is it actually metallic, or just gold-colored? I would shy away from a metallic dress, but just something gold-colored I would think would be fine. Do you know any of the bridesmaids? They might be able to steer you better than I can. Or, is it that your friend the groomsman doesn’t like the dress and is trying to put you off it?

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theverycold January 25, 2008 at 8:53 pm

it’s gold colored.well, doesn’t matter anyway. i went to get an estimate on tailoring the bust (it’s too big) and i can’t afford it on my budget. so sad, must return the dress to the store. i at least have a backup dress! :)(by the way, my friend who discouraged it isn’t the groomsman.)thanks for your time!

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Anonymous February 24, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Please help…I’m attending an afternoon outdoor wedding this Saturday (in Florida, so its pretty much a summer wedding!) and was just told it might not be a good idea to wear heels as much of the venue is grass. I was thinking of wearing a strapless reddish (softer than fire-engine) dress with a pinkish print all over it, since my original dress will look terrible without heels. This dress is also above the knee, but flares. I am very petite with absolutely no cleavage to speak of…is this dress inappropriate?? I don’t really have the $$ to buy another dress….p.s. I was told by the groom it will be “more casual” but I’m more worried about what the bride’s family will think.

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Anonymous February 24, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Please help…I’m attending an afternoon outdoor wedding this Saturday (in Florida, so its pretty much a summer wedding!) and was just told it might not be a good idea to wear heels as much of the venue is grass. I was thinking of wearing a strapless reddish (softer than fire-engine) dress with a pinkish print all over it, since my original dress will look terrible without heels. This dress is also above the knee, but flares. I am very petite with absolutely no cleavage to speak of…is this dress inappropriate?? I don’t really have the $$ to buy another dress….p.s. I was told by the groom it will be “more casual” but I’m more worried about what the bride’s family will think.

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Erin February 26, 2008 at 8:53 am

Can you wear wedges? They won’t sink into the grass.Otherwise, a soft red and pink dress should be fine. If it’s strapless bring a shrug or little cardigan in case you go inside where it’s airconditioned (or if any part of the ceremony is in a church). Have fun!

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Anonymous February 26, 2008 at 8:58 pm

That’s a great idea…although I don’t own any….I decided to just ask the bride, who said “Be yourself girl!!”Thank you so much for your response Erin!

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Paola Peruzzaro (DiStefano) March 13, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I dissagree with everything! I’m a newly wed and at my wedding I didn’t dissaprove with my guests wearing white or black, I didn’t mind if they had a long or short dress and I really thought it was awesome if everyone looked, and they did, very sexy in a tasteful manner. I feel if a bride feels so insecure about themselves or their looks, then they should care, but I’m very confident and no matter what, the bride will shine above all!!!! It doesn’t matter what any other woman is wearing. I felt beautiful and all my bridesmaids along with guests looked amazing. I feel it makes for better pictures and a fabulous video….. Paola Peruzzaro, San Mateo, CA

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Paola Peruzzaro (DiStefano) March 13, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I dissagree with everything! I’m a newly wed and at my wedding I didn’t dissaprove with my guests wearing white or black, I didn’t mind if they had a long or short dress and I really thought it was awesome if everyone looked, and they did, very sexy in a tasteful manner. I feel if a bride feels so insecure about themselves or their looks, then they should care, but I’m very confident and no matter what, the bride will shine above all!!!! It doesn’t matter what any other woman is wearing. I felt beautiful and all my bridesmaids along with guests looked amazing. I feel it makes for better pictures and a fabulous video….. Paola Peruzzaro, San Mateo, CA

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Anonymous June 8, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I’m vaguely familiar with “the rules” but haven’t really gone to enough weddings to test them out. Here’s my issue: I have to attend a wedding reception where I know neither the bride nor groom. Although I need to look like a regular guest, I will be working (no I’m not a hired escort), and thus need to be fairly modest. But of course, still want to look good in an outfit I can reuse. The reception is in early afternoon at the beginning of summer. HOw do I dress work and wedding appropriate?

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Erin June 9, 2008 at 5:48 pm

I would wear a linen suit in a summery color — something with a pencil skirt and a lightweight jacket. Or a linen shift dress with a matching jacket. If you can pull off a hat, add a hat — that should be both worky and modest.

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Anonymous June 24, 2008 at 2:45 pm

What are your thoughts on wearing a floral pattern dress to a wedding?

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Anonymous July 14, 2008 at 3:45 pm

1.) I go to weddings to celebrate the union of two people. Not to judge the guests’ attire.2.) If you can’t wear black, what do you wear to a black tie wedding? Surely a bright, floral pattern would not be appropriate.3.) This is not the 1950s.4.) Only tall, thin women can get away with the wedding attire you presented. For the rest of us, black, red, and other solids are most flattering.

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Anonymous July 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

I recently attended two weddings where there were a few skimpy, low-cut barely covering the bum dresses worn by guests. I was shocked, and told my DBF that if anyone showed up in inappropriate dresses to my wedding, Id ask them to leave!

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Anonymous July 25, 2008 at 5:03 pm

I am from the US and going to a summer (early August)wedding in England. At all the weddings I have been to in America, there have been guests in black so I bought a strapless, tea-length black dress that I will pair with black peep toe shoes and a aquamarine colored shawl for the service and the breakfast. After reading all these posts I am a bit paranoid that I should not be wearing a black dress at all, can someone please let me know if it will be okay? Will the other guests tar and feather me? And should I wear a hat or a fascinator? Will I look like an American who has seen Four Weddings and a Funeral one too many times if I do?

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Anonymous August 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm

I’m getting the “pre-wedding jitters”, but not because it’s my own wedding; I’m simply very concerned about what I should wear:) The details: An evening, August, very large wedding. The invitation was beautiful, but very vague on attire specifications. I prefer to dress very modestly, so I was leaning towards a smart, black or black/white dress. I think that it is appropriate to wear darker colors, since it is an evening wedding. If not black, what color? Royal blue, deep purple, or grey? The Bride and Groom are VERY laid back, but their parents are very traditional and the wedding is a huge production.Thoughts?

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Erin August 8, 2008 at 8:43 am

I think any non-black, non-white/beige color is fine for an evening wedding; gray is nice, as is deep rose, sage green, etc. I think a black-and-white print is fine if you wouldn’t wear it to a funeral!

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Anonymous September 7, 2008 at 3:10 am

These rules are old fashioned. Anyone (bride, family or guest) gets upset about the color of a guests dress needs to get a life. I can not believe how many people actually doubt their dress choices just by reading these rules! There is enough business feeding on peoples fear not having the perfect wedding. Lets spare the guests from this US wedding madness!! My advice to the brides: enjoy your wedding. You will shire and stand out no matter what.

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de3pblueyes September 8, 2008 at 9:33 am

I am having trouble picking out a dress for my boyfriend’s brother’s wedding in October. I have a big chest so anything I get will not cover that aspect… I found this one cocktail dress that looks superb on me.. but the fact that it is red and silky material is killing me and making me doubt. I don’t want to be rude and “take the attention” from the bride.. I do need to look stunning however because my boyfriend is the best man and this is the first time that I will be meeting his ENTIRE family, so I need to make a good impression, although, I don’t want the red dress to take too much attention… did I mention that this was a catholic wedding, i don’t think its too traditional, but it will be in a church. HELP!

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Erin September 9, 2008 at 9:11 am

Dear Blueeyes … have you asked your boyfriend? He’ll know whether his family follows tradition or goes their own way. If he doesn’t know, can you ask his mother? To be safe, I wouldn’t wear red. But that’s just me …

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Anonymous September 16, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I am attending a wedding for my boyfriends cousin in the middle of october at 3pm. I have a dress and it is an ivory, little below the knee strapless but very classy. I could add a black sweater to it or a black ribbon around it but it really doesnt look like a wedding dress at all. I wasn’t sure if this would work??

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Anonymous September 16, 2008 at 4:42 pm

what a bunch of outdated hogwash.This is 2008. Wake up and smell the 21st century.I’m wearing a lovely black dress with color accents to a late afternoon wedding, dinner afterward.

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Anonymous September 22, 2008 at 3:44 pm

So many RULES… Is there there anything that is appropriate to wear to an morning 10:30 church ceremony with reception immediately following at a lake club and also an late afternoon church ceremony with an adult reception to follow. I have two weddings to go to and a low budget. Anyone have any ideas?

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Erin September 23, 2008 at 8:38 am

I would wear a floral dress with low heels in the morning and higher heels for the evening ceremony …

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Anonymous October 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Is a platinum dress appropriate or is it too close to white?

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Katie H. February 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

I wore my only dress to my cousins wedding last September and it was black. And I will never do that again! I felt to bad and out of place. Next time I will buy an enexpensive dress thats not black.

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Mirthful February 13, 2009 at 1:57 am

Thanks for linking again to this, I wholeheartedly agree. It reminded me of something, though: Was I the only person on the planet who stared in open-mouthed horror at Queen Elizabeth II’s choice of outfit for her son’s second wedding? Surely, wearing pale grey, ESPECIALLY when the bride is also wearing pale grey, is not quite right? I never saw/heard anyone commenting on this, despite all the normal talk of “wedding attire” of the rich and famous and designer dresses and hats and so on.

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Katie March 2, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I went to a summer wedding in Charleston that was outdoors on a plantation. I wore a floaty brown dress with a light grey sash that (happy surprises!) fit the setting very well, and I was very happy with my clearance purchase (25 bucks on a sale rack for a Ralph Lauren dress in perfect condition….worth every penny. I wore it twice that month alone). However, my Mom and her best friend the MOB both had problems finding dresses, and both ended up in mostly black with a little brown dresses, which didn’t bother anyone. Several others wore black. It was a pretty laid back wedding, but it was a little strange to see black at an outdoor summer wedding. I wasn’t really a huge fan of it, myself. I think it mostly depends on whatever is going to keep the bride and groom happy, and it’s always better to be safe then sorry. They have to live with the photos, not the guests. Even if it might be OK, why take the risk? No one wants to be the girl in the skimpy hot pink number, or end up wearing black when everyone else is in pastels. Everyone should have one super-neutral-awesomely-beautiful-wedding-guest-dress in their closet to pull out when you just aren’t sure. It’s one dress and you’ll definitely wear it more than once, even if it isn’t appropriate for every wedding. Is it appropriate for a bride to put any form of dress code on the invitation that might make this clearer? Especially if it said what guests COULD wear, rather than couldn’t, suggesting the color palette of the wedding itself? It might be a better solution for brides and families who do mind than leaving it to chance and being disappointed by guests or having to photoshop their photos later.

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thatissophat March 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Hi I have a white dress with a bunch of blue and green and yellow prints on it. The blue and yellow are the follows and the green are the leaves. Can I wear that?

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Anonymous April 3, 2009 at 10:59 am

I totally agree with these rules. It is the bride’s day. My mother-in-law wore a cream dress to my wedding but the wedding was at her house and she helped with expenses. I recently saw pictures of her at her 50th anniversary where she and her husband renewed their vows and guess what, she was wearing that cream dress. Why she wore it to my wedding with her son I don’t know!

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Cookie April 22, 2009 at 6:49 pm

To the people posting guests should dress however they please at weddings: What’s being discussed here aren’t RULES, really, but COMMON SENSE. Of course there are exceptions: If the invite requests you wear red, black and/or purple (which sounds very fun), go ahead and pay that compliment to your hosts. But why would you otherwise risk offending someone at a wedding… either the couple, their family, or even other guests? I mean, really stop and think about that: why would you risk offending someone on a day like that? I’m not so sure asking the bride her feelings about it is even a good way to go. What’s she going to say if you’re hopelessly and cluelessly in love with an inappropriate outfit, especially if you’re traveling from out of town? She has enough on her mind without having to walk you through the basics of common courtesy.If you’re stuck for a dress, can you borrow one from a friend who’s your size? It’s just for a day. Do you have a pale colored dress you don’t mind dying? Wet it thoroughly, pop it in a large, zippered lingerie bag so it isn’t scrunched up, fill a washer with cold water, pour in 2 bottles or Rit dye in your color of choice, and let it mix. Stop cycle and add garment on gentle. Poke it every now and then so it’s rotating, and submerged. Drip dry dress, then drop off at dry cleaner to be pressed. (Run the machine again on HOT afterwards with a splash of detergent and a lot of bleach.) If that sounds daunting, can you spend $30 at the flea market for a neat vintage dress that’s not black, white or red? Again, it only has to live through one day.If you can’t get off your @ss to attempt any of the above, maybe ask yourself why you’re going to this event in the first place.

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Thea April 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm

When I got married, if people asked what to wear I suggested that they wear colour similar to the palate I had chosen (which was reflected in the invite). My motivation – the group photos would look better, and it would promote the atmosphere I was trying to create! As for black, so many weddings are outdoors during summer, and black/navy just doesnt fit. My mother-in-law wore navy because and it didnt look very fitting (at least she felt confident, but the bridezilla in me did think it was a little selfish as I’d told her the suggested colours).

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Duende May 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

I liked the article and the suggestions. Now i am in a different situation. I am Hindu, and going to attend a christian wedding this weekend. Can i wear a silk saree in white and fresh blue(saree is the beautiful dress indians wear to weddings!). Now is it okay to wear the saree? the wedding is at 2pm, reception 5pm onwards. So do i need to change for the reception? i can tell you that i look pretty classy and sober in that saree. please suggest asap. thanks :-)

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Erin May 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I say yes, wear the sari! (Unless you know that the bride is wearing one too, which seems unlikely.)Have fun!

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Anonymous June 8, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I saw another anons post (9/17/07) about Hindu Indian weddings which may have helped me out a bit. Im attending an Islamic wedding, which will be slightly different. The bride will have a red traditional with gold embroidery and lots of jewelry. She and my other Muslim friends have told me to wear bright colors and that it is impossible to be overdressed at a wedding like this. I asked if it was okay to wear red and they said yes (and so did anon). I have a fantastic old prom dress and I was wondering if it would be tacky to pull that out of the closet for this wedding. Thanks for any help in advance!

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Anonymous June 17, 2009 at 7:19 am

My wedding is in 3 days and last night my fiances girlfriend asked me if red was okay for the wedding. I said I really dont know how I feel about that trying to be nice. My wedding is at 4:00 PM on the beach and we are having only 15 guests. She showed me a chiffon and satin BCBG cocktail dress. Excuse me if I am wrong but she asked, I said I wasnt okay with it. Its my day and she should respect that. Instead I had it thrown in my face by my fiances brother that I have no respect for them and things they have done for me because they let me move in with them for a couple of weeks before I move out of state (No respect? I paid rent and cleaned up after them!)To me red should only be worn at weddings by the woman who is sleeping with the groom and is going to stand up and say I object! I really needed to vent to someone that feels the same way I feel about the subject. If the dress says Hey look at me! save it for the freaking bar!!

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sarah_boss June 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm

i need your views on this dress girls i been looking everywere about the black at wedding but its the only dress that i actauly like…its black and creammm but iv seen my friend wedding pick n what the guest wear and they wear black alone or with colour…its a 2.00pm wedding and the bride is my best friend but she says it ok but im just wondering will it look…u no what i mean hahahttp://www.asos.com/Asos/Asos-Cream-And-Black-Paneling-Bodycon-Dress/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=582050cid=5186sh=0pge=0pgesize=200sort=-1clr=Black+Longer+Lengthplease tell me if its a no no or a go go??? lol x

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3KillerBs June 22, 2009 at 6:59 am

This speaks to something that has been bothering me for years in womens clothing. Whatever happened to colors?Why would anyone even dream of wearing either black or white at a wedding when they could be wearing Carolina Blue, rose-pink, turqoise, salmon, coral, seafoam green, rust, teal, lavender, butter yellow, olive, goldenrod, navy, plum, sapphire, burgundy, or, most appropriately of all for a summer wedding, a marvelous floral print combing half a doze of the above?Summer, garden-party weddings are what floral print fabric is FOR! But if you have lost touch with your femininity to the point that you would die in a floral print, abstract and geometric prints work too.If you absolutely MUST fade into the wallpaper, there is every possible shade of brown, all the medium and darker-but-not-too-dark greys, taupe if you want to be both grey and brown at the same time, and that strangely muddy color known as clay which combines brown, grey, and purple.Black is a harsh, cold, unforgiving color that only really looks good on a fraction of the population. Why women want to dress in uniform black on all occasions, like so many soldiers in some evil overlords army, instead of embracing the possibility of expressing their individuality through the ability to choose beautiful and flattering color escapes me completely.Its bad enough that men are forced into the boredom of their black and khaki uniformity. Why should women do the same?And even if the requirements of a womans career path mandate that uniform why would you continue to wear it on festive occasions?

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3KillerBs June 22, 2009 at 7:22 am

@Sarah Boss,That is a very nice bar, nightclub, and casino dress with much more visual interest than the standard, boring, plain, black sheath.It would be absolutely wonderful for the bachelorette party but its not really suitable for the wedding itself either in color or in cut. An afternoon wedding calls for, to put it frankly and bluntly, a less sexy look. Especially if its a church wedding. Try for a longer skirt, maybe in a fuller cut. Think pretty rather than sexy. Sleeves and straps are optional, but a wrap to cover your shoulders is appropriate. And look for a cheerful, festive color to express your joy in the occasion without the sort of dramatic elegance look suited to after dark. :-) If pretty doesnt suit your build and personality, you could go for sophisticated. Michelle Obamas famous, yellow sheath with that retro, Jackie Kennedy look would suit an afternoon wedding well.

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Maria Alejandra August 5, 2009 at 6:48 pm

I am in desperate need of help. I am atending a formal wedding in october an found a beautiful long white and black drees to wear. but I don;t know if it will be apropiate. the dress is mostly white with a 3inch black ribon all around the chest (imperial cut) that ends in the back with a bow. And the rest of the dress is white with tiny black flowers embroided all over…would it be ok to wear it? and if it is… what color sandals should I use with it? thanks…

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Anonymous August 17, 2009 at 8:38 am

I am attending a wedding on the 22nd August 2009, and am undecided about the dress that I am bought to wear. It is a silk dress and has brown, black, bright orange and taupe in a palm leave print with a black sash that ties under the bust. I will accessorise with black shoes, black bag and a black bolero. Is this too stark or will the orange and taupe break the black? Opinions please!! It is a betty jackson Black dress.

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pampat September 5, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I have been a florist for 37 years; in fact I just had 2 weddings today. I cant tell you how many Bridesmaids wear black dresses, not to mention red! With nearly every wedding etiquite rule thrown out over the years, I dont understand what all the stink is about. Nearly everyone has a little black dress, and they look lovely at a formal wedding. There arent many colors left to choose from in formal attire if you cut out black, grey, champagne, maize, and red. What are you supposed to wear without looking like a lollipop kid? As long as it isnt white or ivory and you bring a nice gift, who cares?

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Lisa September 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Thats a pretty close minded blog. I am married, happily for 7 years, I wanted people to wear whatever they were comfortable in. I wanted them to come and have a great time, come and celebrate. I did not want them to feel like they had to go out and buy something. And no matter what the author of that blog made you feel, God doesnt care what you wear to a wedding, a reception or anywhere else for that matter.

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Anonymous September 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I walked in my cousins winter wedding, for her bridesmaids, she chose a halter style top with a floor lenght a-line skirt in a beautiful shade of red. The groomsmen wore tuxedos with black and silver vests. Her wedding was absolutley gorgeous. Some rules are made to be broken, and if the BRIDE AND GROOM invite you to a wedding, it is because they want you there because they love you and want to share one of the most important days of their lives with you. And as long as you dress decently, not like you are going barhopping on Bourbon Street, I think that most brides will be happy you are there not matter what color you are wearing

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Ruh Ro! September 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I had a Sunday Brunch at a lovely inn for my reception, and I pretty much left it open to everyone to wear their version of tasteful and appropriate. If that meant a black dress or red dress, that was fine with me. My ex-sister-in-law attended (my niece and my nieces half-sister were my bridal party) and she brought a date, who happened to be my brothers friend. He showed up in a flannel shirt and John Deere hat! Now Im pretty easy-going, but honestly, I didnt think I had to spell out tasteful and appropriate. After all, this was a wedding, not a day at the Combine Derby!

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Erica September 5, 2009 at 8:03 pm

THANK YOU for upholding the no black rule. I hate that people think it no longer applies. It is disrespectful, tacky and shows ignorance. I once saw a girl in stained t-shirt and sweats at a wedding (in church, not even the reception) and it was less offensive than the idiots wearing black.

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Anonymous September 5, 2009 at 9:57 pm

What if the bride wanted the wedding party in black?That being said, I had the best mans date show up in a WHITE dress two sizes too small…and wearing a bright blue thong underneath…she was quite the topic of the who brought the rent-a-date conversations.

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Gail Fritz September 5, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Your rules all sound fine IF you are not, A) poor and live in Disability, 2) are not full-figured In those categories, you get Black and Black!!! Even my girls on their incomes get choices in our small neck of the woods, Black and Black~!!! I did enjoy your Blog, however; made me laugh out loud a couple of times!

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Anonymous September 5, 2009 at 11:07 pm

We broke most of the rules at our wedding….my bridesmaids wore red and my mother wore a beautiful champagne gold. However, I was more than annoyed with my husbands ex, who showed up wearing a white mini-skirt paired with a white tank top. You cant convince me that wasnt on purpose.

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Anonymous September 5, 2009 at 11:19 pm

YEP! NEVER Wear BLACK to a wedding .. except seems like that rule is gone because at least more than half of the weddings Ive been to lately have had BRIDESMAIDs and even CHILDREN dressed in BLACK now!?!?WHY? Who knows? Especially children which used to NEVER be allowed to wear BLACK until they were at LEAST 16 or 18 years old!!!Times have changed .. and guess whatever makes the BRIDE happy really is ALL that should count.Many very good reasons were given by others for wearing black .. such as lack of funds for fancy dresses which couldnt be worn again… etc .. totally makes sense.

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coffeeflavoredcoffee September 5, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Im surprised at the lack of etiquette suggested in the comments to this post. Manners are not some complicated list of rules meant to distinguish the good from the tacky. If you are at any social occasion (this includes weddings) and someone commits an innocent faux pas, any response that is less than gracious is TACKY. This is especially true for the hosts of the event (the bride and groom). That means no hissy fits or throwing people out because of their clothes. If I attended a wedding where the bride or groom complained or stared daggers at a guest due to their attire, I leave early and make a note to avoid the rude snob. Its your wedding- not an opportunity to act like a classless brat.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 12:41 am

OK, Ive heard of most of these rules…but not wearing black to a wedding?? Ive never heard that. I got married in the fall and several of our female guests wore black dresses. I think wearing black looks elegant and classic. Besides you can wear anything with black so its easy to just accessorize with colored jewelry or pumps. Besides, it used to be traditional to wear only black to funerals but thats no longer true. So you say that black cant be worn at weddings seems very outdated. Especially saying that it means you disapprove of the marriage. Come on! And to the person who said wearing a stained t-shirt and sweats at a wedding is less offensive than wearing black– are you serious?

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 1:11 am

@ Sarah_boss comment from June 20, 2009. Seriously, that link you included must be a joke. That dress looks like something youd wear to a nightclub in Vegas or on the street corner to advertise your goods for sale. That dress is wholely inappropriate for ANY wedding. It screams SEX APPEAL and LOOK AT ME–neither of which is appropriate to a WEDDING where the BRIDE is the star, not her best friend or any other guest.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 5:30 am

Actually black is of all colors and very appropriate for celebrations such as weddings… white on the other hand I wear to funerals, so why would anyone wear a white wedding dress. Look to the older customs of your family if you want to be authentic in your wedding attire.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 6:23 am

for my wedding my hubbie wore his army greens and so did one of his groomsman, the other one wore his air force blues. my father walked me down in his air force blues and the usher was my uncle in his air force blues. SO with all this blue and dark green going on I had my bridesmaids in a long black dress that wrapped around their neck and left their shoulders bare. my dress was an A-line white gown, my flowers were calla lillies and mini roses with black silk wrapped around the stems holding it together and hanging down a little infront of my dress. i picked out my moms outfit which was a black and white tuxedo dress that looked beautiful on her. my brothers wife showed up in a black dress and since the wedding was black and white it looked GREAT in the photos even with the blues and greens of the mens uniforms. my little flower girl was in white with a black sash (complete with baby crown on her head) and had a black and white basket with black and white petals to throw, and the ring bearer was in a little white tux holding a white with black lace pillow. i had cousins showing up in jeans(she had called me before to ask if her wearing this would bother me and I was fine with this. She is a bigger girl and doesnt wear dresses or get dressed up, yes she wore jeans but had a very nice shirt on, hair done, and even make-up on for a change) BUT having one of my cousins show up in a strapless BRIGHT RED dress that had slits up to the thighs was like hmmmm but the part about that outfit that made me go WTF was the dark red/black pushup bra WITH straps that she had on underneath the STRAPLESS dress drew much attention. so now just make sure you dont show up looking like a hooker and you should be fine to wear black if the wedding is done in black and white. and if the redding is done in reds wear red to fit in with the brides colors.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 8:36 am

My DD got married in the 80s. Red is her favorite color, so she chose red lace tea length dresses for her attendants. The groom wore white tails with black pants and the groomsmen wore black tuxes. I found a $100 dress on sale for $13. It was cream lace and fit me perfectly. My DD encouraged me to get it, so I did. No one seemed to think it was tacky. Everyone said it was a beautiful wedding.On the other hand, my BFs DD had a rainbow wedding. The grooms mother wore a bright gold and black dress that did not match anything in the wedding party. Talk about standing out like a sore thumb.I also think you have to think about where you live. Here in the midwest things are much more relaxed than on the east coast. The only thing I have a problem with is jeans and a tee shirt.And for my funeral, bright colors can be worn. This is my going home celebration.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 9:15 am

September 5, 2009: I have a question for you: I am 55, my husband 62. We married in Las Vegas last year at the Chapel in the Monte Carlo Hotel. My matron of honor was my daughter-in-law my husbands son was his best man. We had 2 addl couples as guests to dinner in the hotel restaurant Andres afterward. I suggested everyone to wear a black cocktail dress for the occasion men to wear a dark suit. Since this was a 2nd marriage in LV very small (10-people) was this okay?

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 9:16 am

In wouldnt wear ANYTHING thats very bright! I had a friend get married and in all the pictures you could see this woman in a bright yellow dress with bright yellow shoes, and bright red hair! It was very distracting.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I found this to reinforce rules I knew, although I would clarify you are discussing no fire engine red, not a deep merlot or dark burgundy. And ivory or cream being off limits makes sense. I am also of the school of thought that too many women wear black. Summer weddings are for pretty pastels or lovely prints – say yellow or prink or lime floral on navy. Checks and medium plaids can be great casual alternatives. If you have a print dress with balck in it, then use another neutral or colr from it for the accessories like tan or metallic. Sinter wedding can use the same color pallette but with heavier fabrics. And for those who cant find the right dress, buy a great skirt and lovely top. I also think sleevelss should be out unless you are thin and under 30 or live wear both the temperature for the outdoor wedding AND humidity will be over 90. A little cap sleeve is okay and there are beautiful 3/4 sleeve tops and dresses with stretchy lace. I also agree that too much cleavage is being shown. Save it – men really do like the mystery. A little bit is fine but if youre not sure, dont ask your freind who has 3 kids with her still boyfirend not husband. Ask an older woman what she thinks is okay. Money should not be a problem. If you choose wisely you can also change up the accessories for going out. I love color and would like to see the guests in blues, pinks, peach, salmon, rose, greens, soft yellows, and deep khaki. For fall and winter think deep rich colors like royal blue, dark plum, and emerald green in velvet, lace, silk, amd cable knits. If the wedding is in a warm climate in fall or winter, use might be able to wear a medium or darker tone in a light fabic. I once wore a brown, tan black rayon graphic print dress with a tan jacket, belt and shoes. The same dress with a dark brown throw, boots and bag would have changed up the outfit for a different climate. Think ladies think. Just because the bride wants to be trendy and have her attendants wear black doesnt mean you should. A medium blue slack set in slinky fabric with 3/4 sleeves will get you through several weddings, job interviews, meetings at work, dinner parties, and parties or dates because it can be so versatile. Buy a couple basic outfits then learn to accessorize – long strand of pearls, one chunky fab bracelet, great handbag, pin and matching earrings in silver or gold (both changing the color of the jewelery and going from bold to delicate pieces will do the trick) or adding a scarf will expand the options for that outfit, You just dont want to wear the same clothes with the same items each time. That is how you rework a wardrobe.

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LaTejana September 6, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I agree with MOST of what you say about choosing appropriate clothing for special events- and weddings, funerals, and job interviews are among the few SPECIAL events still recognized by dress. BUT… two important things neeed to be said:1. the most important item to wear well is your attitude– smile, modesty,deference to the bride,guests and location, etc…2. Cultures have different customs. In Mexico, and among Latinos in the US, black is one of the dressiest and most appropriate things to wear at a wedding. Blatant Advertising immodest dresses are avoided; overly-casual I don;t care dressing is rude,Ex-girlfriends and those who disapprove of the wedding should just not come. Thats the only SINCERE form of disapproval, since the wedding is a celebration of the marriage, not a jury to approve or disapprove.

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Anonymous September 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm

re: a wedding I attended twelve or so years ago. The only thing I remember about the wedding is the attire of the mother of the groom. The wedding was held in a cathedral at high noon and the mother of the groom wore a scarlet red, backless (just below the waist) evening gown which plunged in front, as well. I, and all of the other guests were in shock. All other guests were dressed appropriately, and the reception included a sit down dinner, but what a douzy! I do not even remember who the bride was.

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Anonymous September 7, 2009 at 7:39 am

HELP! I have a wedding to attend in October. I live in South Dakota, where early Oct. can be warm or chilly. The wedding is at 2:00PM with reception at 5:00PM.The wedding colors are Irish green and white. What should I wear? With the ceremony at 2, and reception at 5, do I wear simple and basic, or long evening gown?

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Mercedes November 24, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I just have to comment on this: Besides, it used to be traditional to wear only black to funerals but thats no longer true.Thats a contradiction! Traditional is, by definition, what everyone used to doNowadays, people are choosing to BREAK WITH TRADITION… but that doesnt mean that what used to be traditional no longer is.

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Anonymous April 9, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Im going to a wedding today.Im wearing a shortish flouncy light grey (nearly white) dress with red cardigan and red accesories – Im such a rebel xD

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Anonymous April 21, 2010 at 7:48 am

The wedding I am invited to is a strictly black, red white wedding and the guests are expected to wear the colours!! So really breaking every wedding outfit rule available…I would like to say I approve and this was done purposely. However, I think the case is more that it is a young bride who does not always thinks things through.I personally will be wearing black and red (disapproval and attention seeking).

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Melanie July 20, 2012 at 2:46 am

Hi Erin, great post!Tthe very wise and sensible advice I learned was to not wear black because a wedding is a happy, festive occasion. You have been invited to celebrate with the couple, and your side of the bargain is to make the day fun, bright and happy for them. Save the black frock for cocktails and seduction.

This came in very handy when my sister asked if I minded if she wore a black dress because she didn’t want to buy a new one. I said yes I did mind, because as my sister she would be beside me much of the day and in my photos and I didn’t want a black crow hanging over me (ok, I said it way nicer than that). I’m sure she’s still annoyed about it – but she looked awesome in a red dress instead.

A wedding is about the couple, not you. Make it happy with colour!

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Elle March 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Erin, I’m glad you relinked this column. As I re-read the comments, I’m startled to see how many people insist that they need to wear black because it is the only all-purpose color. There are also many mis-interpretations of the rules/traditions. And yes, the rules Erin posted are for western cultures. I know other cultures have other rules.

The BRIDE can choose any color she wants for herself and her wedding party! And if she encourages her guests to join the color theme, that is HER choice. So using black (or red) bridesmaid dresses as an excuse for a guest’s choice to wear black (or red) is a red herring, not a logical argument. And people, “black tie” does NOT mean women must wear black! Very boring and lazy-minded. (Katja, 5-31-07 explained the traditional rule.) This year there are finally many more colors available in fashions in stores. Go try some, you might be surprised.

Or, here’s a thought — SEW SOMETHING! A plain sheath in your favorite color of cotton twill, or a flared skirt in a pretty print that you pair with a dressy blouse, is easy to make, does not cost much in materials, and you can dress it up with belt, scarf, shawl, jewelry, shoes . . .

Wedding attire rules for guests boil down to 1) do not compete with the bride, 2) do not look (nor act!) like a hooker, 3) do not dress as somberly as for a funeral, 4) wear something appropriate for the venue and time of day.
If you own no decent outfit, are truly dead broke and cannot even find something at a thrift shop or to borrow, at least be CLEAN AND NEAT.

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MrsMarlin March 14, 2013 at 2:45 am

***SIGH***
This post makes me sad. WHERE have all of our manners gone?
Many of the comments said, “The bride told me I can wear whatever I want to”. THAT is BS my friends. First of all have some couth. The bride who gives you that answer is simply taking the pressure off of you her dear guest/friend. (With friends like you, poor thing). She doesn’t want to hurt your feelings nor “force” you to spend money on a new outfit. After all you have already had to purchase a gift and take time out of your precious schedule to attend her wedding!
The brides who say, “Oh I just want my friends/family to be there – no matter what they are wearing” – tell me that in 10 years when you are looking at your wedding pictures with cousin Sarah dressed like a hooker. Apparently some brides don’t even have enough respect for the occasion *sigh*.
The guest who “only” has black-red, broaden your horizons. And stop being selfish for just one day!
Funeral appareal apparently seems to be changing as well. I went to one a month ago & was shocked at the utter TRASHY dress. Don’t get me started.
Back to weddings – one of my guests DID wear white. Not only was her dress white – the cut/design was exactly the same as mine – except she wore a bright colored sash on her waist and a matching shrug!!! This girl has more dresses than Imelda Marcos has shoes! I WAS shocked & a wee ticked off (I would have thought she knew better, I actually felt sorry for her for not knowing. Apparently another guest said something to her & she turned beet red). Did it ruin my day? No, but to this day friends that didn’t know her ask me, “Who was that girl in the WHITE dress at your wedding?”

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Marielle March 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Wow what a great article! I mentioned it on Urbanette.com ‘s tumblr page, Urbanetteofficial.tumblr.com
check it out and thanks for the tips!

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Mary April 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm
Elle April 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Since that neither looks like a bridal gown, nor is it solid mourning black, you should be OK.

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Mary April 29, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thank you, Elle, for your reply. I did wear the dress and shrug, but wore black wedge sandals with it instead. I did not feel like it was inappropriate. Actually, one lady wore an all white strapless form-fitting dress. I did not feel at all like I was dressed inappropriately. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in answering my question.

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Bobbi April 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Wow, a lot of people won’t speak their mind and use their names – so their opinions don’t much matter. If a person wants to be taken seriously they should at least have the courage to use their name!
When I got married almost every guest wore black. I honestly felt like I was dead and at my funeral. It was awful. I wear purple, floral, bias-cut dresses to weddings. They are pretty, dressy, comfortable – and I always stand out in the sea of black. I feel kind of bad for those who don’t have the confidence to wear color. Colors make people’s faces more alive!

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Clara May 5, 2013 at 6:15 am

At my winter afternoon wedding (second wedding for both of us) I wore a very pale cream suit with pearl embroidered collar and cuffs.We had invited the groom’s ex-wife and her new fiance,partly to show the groom’s small children that everyone could be civil and that they still had 2 parents.She wore an all-white suit and had her hair “done” up with white ribbons in it! I was too astonished to be annoyed.

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HannahDunning May 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Hi so I am going to my first cousins wedding on the 1st of June and i recently bought a shell pink dress (http://www.newlook.com/shop/womens/dresses/shell-pink-embellished-strap-grecian-maxi-prom-dress_274151772) Is this okay to wear and what color pashmina, clutch and shoes would look well with this. I can’t exactly wear high heels as I am already much much taller the the bride and groom. Can you please help me!

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Vicky Butts May 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

You could wear a darker pink or a white or off-white pashmina. Shoes could be the color of the dress or of the pashmina. Don’t worry about wearing flats; there are many reasons some women can’t wear heels.

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HannahDunning June 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Thank you so much vicky :)

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Sharon May 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I wish I’d seen this before I got married. I would have sent it to everyone with the invitations. My mother wore all black, my husband’s step mother wore pedal pushers(!) and scuffs, my brother wore jeans and the tattiest moth eaten jumper ever. One guest turned up in a denim skirt and doc marten boots, her son wore his school uniform, on Saturday. To the brides that said they didn’t notice what people were wearing – they must have got it right. All I can remember is what little respect these people have.

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Brittany May 26, 2013 at 2:43 am

This was really obnoxious to read, and nearly all of your rules are out dated. God forbid someone wears black or pale pink. You should judge people a little less at weddings.

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anonymous July 16, 2013 at 2:23 am

Amen to that Brittany! Everyone wears blk nowadays. At least to all of the recent weddings ive attended. And most ppl.don’t wear it for the rule this blog had. Ppl wear it bcuz blk looks classy. Be happy it isn’t white and that they look dressed nicely.

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Wendy May 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I am attending the evening of a friend of my boyfriend who iv never met before I have bought a yellow dress it is fairly bright do you think this will be appropriate?
Thanks

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Dee May 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Black for bridesmaids is fine…just have sashes ,or real colorful flowers to carry…

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Lisa May 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Hello,
My husband, son, and I are attending a 3:00 p.m. summer wedding (held in a church with dinner to follow at the civic center). Both my husband and son have only one black suit each and they also each have a very nice navy blazer. Will it be approriate for them to wear their navy blazers to the wedding? or do they need to wear suits? Thanks for any ideas.

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Sarah June 3, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Are you guys all 70 years old? This is 2013. When you go to a wedding, ALL eyes on the the bride. I don’t care if someone is wearing red, or bright green, or neon pink, or blinking lights for that matter. You should wear what makes you feel pretty… and it won’t matter because the attention is on the bride anyway – any bride who has a problem with her wedding guests wearing a certain color ( with the exception of white), is obviously not focused on the importance of her day.

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Sarah E. June 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I was just thinking the same thing as I read the article and most of the comments. It almost made me feel bad for wearing a black dress to a wedding a few weeks ago (I didn’t realize there was a “rule” against it). But then I remembered that culture changes, and nostalgia for the past, and all it’s “rules”, is useless. The rules are passing away whether anyone likes it or not. Let these women live in the past and judge others. The rest of us will enjoy the freedom of wearing what we want and celebrating, without antiquated restrictions, the weddings of those we care about.

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Rhonda White June 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Well, no wonder you dress so frumpy to weddings. You “sew” your own clothes! How “old” are you? Oops! I mean, old-fashioned? And why isn’t black a “slimming” color for you? Perhaps you wear a tent to a wedding? Not a white, circus tent, of course. And, if a bride is so insecure about what her guests are wearing at her wedding that they might upstage her, even though she looks like a cream puff with the cherry on top (provided she is a virgin who is allowed to wear white since we’re talking 1800′s bridal etiquette here, perhaps the bride shouldn’t invite anyone who is attractive.

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anonymous July 16, 2013 at 2:09 am

Helpful tips. But I’ve been to quite a few weddings and the no blk rule does not apply anymore (well obviously not in the cases of the weddings I went to) but the no white should ALWAYS apply. Everything else u mentioned. I’d disagree. :/

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anonymous July 16, 2013 at 2:25 am

Amen to that Brittany! Everyone wears blk nowadays. At least to all of the recent weddings ive attended. And most ppl.don’t wear it for the rule this blog had. Ppl wear it bcuz blk looks classy. Be happy it isn’t white and that they look dressed nicely.

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debbie July 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Help! My husbands daughter ( she was 24 when we got married, so not really my step-daughter) is getting married this Saturday. They are getting married in the church, so I will be wearing a lovely print street length dress.The reception is not until 3 hours later, and my ankles are very puffy by the end of the day, so I decided to wear a long dress to the reception, it is jade green, an empire cut, sleeveless and very flowing. Does this seem appropriate to you?

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hetx July 29, 2013 at 11:11 am

hey im going to a wedding in the middle of august and i was wondering whether this dress would be appropriate??
http://www.missselfridge.com/en/msuk/product/petites-299051/petite-dresses-299082/petites-jacquard-prom-dress-1917173?bi=1&ps=40
also not sure what sort of shoes to wear, and if i should wear something on top?? thanks a lot :)

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Anonymous September 12, 2013 at 8:23 am

I am going to attend a golden wedding, is it ok to wear tan/beige dress?

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MB September 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Check this one out to learn:

http://www.glamour.com/weddings/blogs/save-the-date/2010/10/wedding-etiquette-yes-you-can.html

These are the opinions of wedding and fashion experts.

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Sonya November 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I’ve read that the mother of the groom’s role in the wedding is to “shut up, show up and wear beige”! So, I think in keeping with that some mother’s will wear beige… but his mother isn’t lol. My son recently told me “mom, it’s not a traditional wedding. there are no rules and it’s just going to be one big party”. So, I decided since it’s just going to be an informal, relaxed, one big party out door wedding… I will wear what I want to wear! My son isn’t even wearing a tux. He’s wearing a suit with a vest, but no tie. I ordered my dress today. It’s teal. It’s lace. It’s knee length. and It’s what I want and what I will feel comfortable in. Am I wrong in ordering without consulting anyone? I don’t think so, not after what my son has told me!

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Anonymous March 9, 2014 at 7:10 pm

I agree with you Sonya. Have a good time.

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Anonymous March 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Not wearing red seems very outdated to me and is based in part of the sexist idea that a “lady in red” is of low moral standing. I am a 54-year-old woman and am planning to wear red to one of the summer weddings I am attending this year. I will not outshine the bride but I look good in red and the red dress I have is flattering and age-appropriate and perfect for a wedding.

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Sue April 3, 2014 at 8:10 pm

How old are u people. Are u kidding me. All weddings I go to 95 percent women wear black. As far as red goes it’s also fine. The only thing u shouldn’t wear is white or beige. Never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life. Don’t wear black and trust me u will be the oddball. Wear whatever makes u comfortable except white or beige. That simple.

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Margen April 9, 2014 at 2:07 am

My mother taught these rules when I was a child in the 70s but I frequently see them broken at weddings without causing disruption or offence. But I still keep them in case someone does mind, because it is the wedding couples day not mine. Any other day I would stand up for MY right to wear what suits me (well apart from funerals). And its really not that hard to find something tasteful to wear that doesn’t make me and oddball even if all the other women do turn out to be wearing black.

Good manners work both ways and I agree that it would be rude of the bride to ask someone to leave, or cause a scene, because someone was breaking these rules. But she shouldn’t be put in a situation where she has to put up with someone dressed inappropriately or do so. Enough people here have commented on the disappointment they felt when people turned up wearing inappropriate clothing to show that some people do mind.

I think it has become more socially acceptable to break these traditional rules, so don’t keep them if you don’t think it matters, but still use common sense – obey the dress code if there is one on the invitation, don’t try to compete with the bride, don’t wear something suggestive, or something that will stand out too much on the photos. If you wear black you can still find a way to include some element of colour even if it is only jewellery or a scarf.

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Margen April 9, 2014 at 3:05 am

This makes me think of another set of dress rules – what to wear to a funeral? I would love to see a posting about that. I am often astounded at the things people wear to funerals

As far as I am concerned, if you are asked to wear bright colours or the deceased’s favourite colour because people see it as a celebrations of the persons life, or of their afterlife, do so.

Otherwise wear something tasteful, respectful and somber. These days it is usually acceptable to break the “wear black” rule. In fact if the only black outfits you have are a strapless cocktail dress, a black sheer or lace blouse worn over a black bra, or a black minidress, wear ANY other colour. Being black does not make something suitable.

It is far more important to provide decent coverage of cleavage, and shoulders, not too much leg, and no underwear visible (and “decent” is probably more conservative in this case than everyday wear) and look like you made an effort. Don’t wear something that screams “look at me”.

People wear all kinds of colours – usually muted or dark shades (Purple seems to be gaining popularity for women) and look quite appropriate if the outfit is chosen carefully. Black is still probably the most worn and easiest to decide on – but PLEASE consider the style not just the colour.

PS. Writing the words “decent coverage” makes me feel like I am turning into my grandmother! But I don’t really think I am being old fashioned in this – it just seems like common sense to me (and its not like I’m advocating the wearing of hats!). But its common sense that doesn’t seem to occur to everyone . What do you think?

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JenL June 29, 2014 at 2:46 am

Apparently it’s a new trend for the bridesmaids to stand in a row exposing their behinds a little for a photo. One of my friends commented that it makes them look skanky. That totally made me laugh because it was basically what I had been thinking.

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Tara April 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I think these are the silliest, frumpiest rules I have ever read. When I got married, it didn’t bother me a whit what people wore. Everyone could have come dressed in black, white, or purple feathers. Whatever makes your guests comfortable and feel good about themselves is good etiquette. This isn’t Victorian England. A color doesn’t mean you disapprove of a marriage unless you’re deranged and read a bit too much into things. I actually thought this was a joke article until I realized it wasn’t. Tip: Being uptight about so-called “rules” and making your guests feel uncomfortable is never stylish. PS: It’s also A-OK to wear white after Labor Day. This isn’t 1922.

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JenL June 29, 2014 at 2:44 am

Totally disagree…but I guess I’m ‘old’ at 37. Most everything about weddings is based on tradition. Why shouldn’t the rules of tradition still stand?

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Season C April 22, 2014 at 6:47 am

I had to laugh when reading this. It reminded me of years ago when I worked at Fleur de Paris, in New Orleans. A customer asked the owner if it was okay to wear white to a wedding. He replied, “That depends on if you like the bride.”

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em May 29, 2014 at 10:05 pm

This is a dress I want to wear to an outdoor wedding!
What do you think?
http://www.themintjulepboutique.com/shop/Shape-Shifter-Dress-Black-White.html

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E June 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Hi I’m worried that I am going to stand out like a sore thumb. The only dress I could find to fit me without breaking my bank acct is a royal purple dress. It’s floor length and looks nice. Planned on dressing it up with jewelry. I have white shoes to off set it some. I believe it is an inside wedding. I just found out yesterday that the brides maids are wearing lavender dresses. I’m I okay with what I have or am I going to look like a fool? Please please help with opinions. Ty

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Shane June 28, 2014 at 11:25 am

Hi E,

Okay, so I’m going to give you a bit of advice based on my own upbringing. My family has been hosting and attending formal events, including weddings, for many years. I was raised on the very rules listed above, as they are standard proper wedding etiquette despite some of the less informed comments made.

Unless the wedding is a black-tie event or the bride has specifically stated that long formal dresses are requested, you may be overdressed in a floor length gown. I would check with the bride about the length of the dress unless you have been told otherwise.

Now, about the color … I have no doubt that you look lovely in your royal purple dress, but wearing a dress that flashy to a wedding can be viewed as a bit disrespectful to the bride. If your dress is bright and grabs the attention of the guests, then it is not appropriate. It is her day and no one should impose upon that. Obviously, it is not your intention to do that or you would not be seeking advice on this forum.

The issue some of the people above seem to be missing is that the bride is not the only person that may find a person’s attire offensive. It could offend either set of parents or grandparents, and while it is the brides special day, you can be certain that she will NEVER live it down if one of her “friends” looks inappropriate. Not to mention, your royal purple dress will undoubtedly stand out in every single picture, which detracts from the photos.

I understand that you are on a budget. I, too, am updating my wardrobe for an upcoming wedding where I am the aunt of the groom. Trying to find something budget-friendly, classy, understated, not white, not black, not red, not flashy, not trashy, not too young, not too old, but still makes you look and feel beautiful … is a difficult task.

The rule of thumb is … if you have to question what you are wearing, then you should probably choose something else. However, if you are still on the fence, I would take a photo of your dress and show it to the bride or groom’s mother. They will be honest with you about its appropriateness. I understand that these rules sound very formal, but trust me … as much as some of these women would like to pretend that anything goes at wedding as long as the “guests feel comfortable and good about themselves,” … That is both naive and unrealistic. Most brides care a lot. They may not say, “Don’t wear royal purple,” but if it is not one of the wedding colors and you are not related to the wedding party, chances are, it will not be well-received.

Ultimately, it is your choice, but now you know what others will be thinking. If you choose to wear it, then wear it with flesh-tone shoes, a matching bag, your hair up, minimal make-up and pearls. At the very least, cover your shoulders or dress with a neutral wrap during the ceremony. By doing these things, you will show respect and the people who are most likely to be offended will be appreciative of your efforts. Best of luck to you!

P.S. While I may sound like I was born in 1922, I am 40 years old. :) These rules may seem a bit old-fashioned and some brides are casting them aside in favor of less strict adherence to etiquette. However, weddings, like funerals, are meant to show respect to the intended. Unless the gathering is specifically non-traditional, it is best to observe the standard rules. Otherwise, you will most likely be viewed as rude and disrespectful. And while noble society is not the standard today, in the case of weddings, the rules of etiquette are still heavily applied. I do hope this helps. Cheers!

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Cath June 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm

The girlfriend of my husband’s best man wore a long white dress to our wedding! Guess she hadn’t read the rules!

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sue June 17, 2014 at 6:25 am

this year the dont wear black rule is a bit of a problem as trying to find an age approprat frock that not black in the shops is a bit a tall order.

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Alexa June 19, 2014 at 8:51 pm

My mother-in-law wore black to my wedding, despite my request that she choose any of the wedding colors: brown or jewel tones. OUCH! Still seething/stinging from that.

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Lyn July 8, 2014 at 7:20 am

Beige doesn’t count as white….right?

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Trish July 14, 2014 at 12:28 am

What does one do when the wedding colors are red and black? and you are the date of the groomsmen?

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Anonymous July 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm

My niece is getting married this summer and my 20 year old daughter, who has never been to a wedding before, is quite excited. She has chosen a strapless, short, very dressy, pale pink dress and I am worried that she will get some “looks” from the somewhat sophisticated guests who will be attending. Should I discourage her from wearing the dress?

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Anon July 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm
Elizabeth August 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I’m attending a wedding August 22. The ceremony is in a church and the reception is at a classy country club. I just bought a flattering navy blue dress with a tan belt and matching shoes. Is that appropriate for a summer wedding? I have a hard time finding dresses that aren’t too short on me and I fell in love with this dress. Any jewelry suggestions that may brighten it a bit?

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Juliet August 12, 2014 at 8:03 am

There are those who like black, want to wear it to weddings, and couldn’t care less about tradition or what others think of their attire. Times change and people need to stop being so “judgmental.” Others respect tradition and prefer a broad palette for wedding guest dresses since black is funereal and doesn’t reflect the happy occasion of a wedding. If you’re in this second group, it must be frustrating to see that black, and to a lesser extent red and white, have become increasingly more prevalent at weddings.

I’ve been invited to an evening semi-formal wedding. Not knowing what to wear yet forging ahead with information gleaned from the Internet, information that indicated I wanted a cocktail dress found at such and such store, I purchased an eggplant colored sheath with 3/4 sleeves and a v-neck. Turns out the dress is more navy than eggplant, has a sexy cut and shows my cleavage. I may someday happily wear it in drunk society but I cannot wear it to a wedding celebration and dinner. So I followed that buy with the purchased of a classic red sheath, thinking “This will surely brightened me up!” But as soon as I hit the pay button I realized that I probably made another faux pas. Naturally it was only then that I stumbled onto your article. So you may be happy to know that the third dress I purchased is a lovely polyester blouson in an abstract small print of cool colors: blues, whites, gray, silver and black. It’s a beautiful and quietly cheerful dress. I know it’s suitable too. So thanks for your help, Erin. It’s nice to have guidance that’s not self-serving.

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amber August 13, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I am planning my own wedding, which is in a few weeks, and I have been a Bridesmaid and also a guest in countless weddings, and I have never ever heard of the no black, or no red rule before. The no white thing unless you’re the bride is obvious and a rule I agree with, but no black or red? That’s f*ing ridiculous!! For the black “rule” of it showing disapproval of a marriage, if you don’t approve of a marriage, don’t go to that persons wedding!! And red as an eye catching color? Give me a break!! Yeah a female guest shouldn’t dress too slutty for that reason and because weddings also are family affairs, but I can tell you as a bride I do not care if other women wear red OR black OR any color (except for white of course!!).

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celia August 19, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I’m a wedding officiant based in nyc, which means I go to at least three weddings a weekend. I can tell you that there are black, white and red dresses at every one of them. Black is the official color of NYC.

Wear what you want. As long as it’s not long, white and lacy, no one will even notice. Including the bride.

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Skyler August 22, 2014 at 6:47 pm

im going to a wedding on the 30th of this months, i got a strapless orangy pink short in the front and long in the back. im 13 and looking for someone, i wanna look good. Is that fine?

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Deborah August 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

Summer wedding, outdoors. Colors are blue and tan. Would it be acceptable to wear a yellow flowered, chiffon type dress? It’s actually a skirt and top. Long skirt with a slight ruffle at the bottom, full top, short sleeved. Hope to get your thoughts. Thank you.

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Tayela November 13, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I’m going to my sister’s wedding in January, and it’s going to be a lovely garden wedding in summer here in Australia. Is it okay to wear lace to a wedding especially if the bride is wearing a full lace dress. This is the dress I want to wear with a flower crown.
file:///Users/tayelapetterwood/Desktop/10516696_1530407907179566_7908086368730427135_n.jpg

Thanks!

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