Wearing white to a wedding is one of the oldest fashion taboos — but are times changing? For as long as brides and happy couples have been wearing white, attendees have been avoiding the color at all costs. (Almost 200 years, to be exact!) But with non-traditional weddings on the rise, the rules against wearing white to a wedding might need some updating, too. And we’re here to help!
Keep scrolling for all the must-know rules about wearing (or not wearing) white to a wedding — including a few tips for how to do it in style!
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Is it disrespectful or tacky to wear white to a wedding?
In general, it is considered disrespectful or tacky to wear white to a wedding — after all, the last thing you want to do as an attendee is upstage the happy couple! Think of it this way: there should never be a question about who is getting married. By wearing white, you may cause confusion for the other attendees. Or worse, steal the thunder from the bride!
However, weddings are changing, and dress codes aren’t as black and, ahem, white as they once were. While traditionally the question of “can you wear white to a wedding” was a hard no, these days there are some exceptions. Some modern couples are totally fine with you wearing white to their wedding, and they may even specify that all-white is what they prefer. (We’ll get into these exceptions in more detail down below!)
But when in doubt, always play it safe. If the couple hasn’t specifically expressed that you can wear white to their wedding, then it’s best to steer clear of this hue. A soft pink or pastel yellow will give you the same soft vibes as white, without the fashion faux pas.
Why You Can’t (Typically) Wear White to a Wedding
Typically, you can’t wear white to a wedding because this color is reserved for the couple tying the knot. In Western culture, it’s tradition for the bride to wear head-to-toe white on the wedding day, so wearing anything that matches this shade might unintentionally steal the spotlight away from her.
Remember: it’s the couple’s moment to shine and stand out from the crowd, and you don’t want to do anything that distracts from this!
When can you wear white to a wedding? What scenarios break the rules?
While it’s almost always a safe bet to avoid wearing white to a wedding, there are some exceptions to this rule. These days, more and more couples are shaking up tradition and doing their own thing, and this often applies to what they ask attendees to wear. Including requesting attendees wear this “off limits” color on the wedding day. (See: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s wedding!)
We’re also seeing more couples rock unique looks on the big day, including colorful designs that step away from that classic white aesthetic. In these cases, the couple may want you to steer clear of an entirely different color. For example, if the couple is wearing pink, the dress code may request that you don’t wear pink to the wedding — but white is totally fine!
Ultimately, you should always refer to the dress code to determine if you can wear white to a wedding. Unless the couple explicitly states that white is fair game, it’s best to steer clear of it. And even if the love birds do say that you can wear white, avoid any attire that resembles a wedding gown. We’re talking: tulle gowns, delicate lace details, and floor-skimming hemlines.
On the other hand, if white isn’t the primary color in your outfit — for example, a navy outfit with white polka dots — then it’s typically acceptable to wear to a wedding. Which brings us to our next point…
How much white is acceptable to wear to a wedding?
Although donning all-white attire is considered taboo, it is acceptable to wear white to a wedding when the use of white is more of an accent color, rather than the core focus of your outfit.
For example, you can wear a blue gown with a dainty and subtle white botanical print to a wedding — but you probably wouldn’t want to wear a white gown with a dainty blue botanical print. You should also avoid mixing white with other colors that are too similar to this bridal hue, such as light dusty rose, as this may look like an all-white outfit in certain lighting.
If you’re afraid your outfit is too white to wear to a wedding, layer it with colorful pieces to offset the stark white hue. Add a pink blazer over a white botanical gown — or pair your off white blazer with a chic navy jumpsuit. You can also avoid bridal vibes with statement accessories like a bright green pair of heels or a fancy metallic wrap. The result? A stylish outfit that still keeps all the focus on the happy couple!
Looking for some chic accessories to pair with your outfit (and add a pop of color)? Add a little personality to your look with these birthstone necklaces! We’ve found gorgeous styles for every month.
Can you wear off white to a wedding?
Because off white attire is so similar to white, you should typically avoid wearing it to a wedding. While colors like cream and ivory may not be as bright and classically bridal as pure white, they still fall within the white color family (and are still favorites of couples who are tying the knot). So although off white isn’t always off limits, we suggest skipping it just to be safe.
Do you have an off white outfit that you think might be acceptable to wear to a wedding? If you do choose to wear this shade, be sure to follow the fashion rules we’ve listed down below!
Can you wear white shoes to a wedding?
As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid wearing white shoes to a wedding. Similar to a white outfit, white shoes can feel too bridal and are typically reserved for the couple getting married. To avoid stepping on any toes (sorry, we had to!), we suggest swapping your white heels for a pair of classic nude sandals or glamorous metallic pumps.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the love birds say that attendees can wear white attire to their wedding, then white shoes are also acceptable. Heels that mix white with other colors (like these white and pink rose dotted sandals) are also a-okay, as are more casual white kicks for more casual dress codes (like these white wedges for a beach wedding).
If you want to wear white heels to an upcoming wedding, be sure to pair them with other colors to balance the bright hue. For example, rocking white mules with a colorful botanical number will tone down the white and make your outfit more wedding-appropriate.
Is it ok to wear white floral print to a wedding?
Yes, you can absolutely wear white floral prints to a wedding, as long as they’re mixed with other colors and the white hue doesn’t overpower the look. White floral patterns are especially stunning for spring and summer weddings and more casual celebrations — just be sure that the print isn’t predominantly white. If you’re worried that your outfit has too much white for a wedding, then it’s probably best to skip it!
Thinking About Wearing White to a Wedding?
These Are The Must-Know Rules To Do It Without Looking Tacky
So you’ve decided to wear white to a wedding — and we’re here to help you do it in style. These are some must-know rules to follow if the couple didn’t provide a super detailed dress code and you want to know how to wear a white ensemble without looking tacky.
Remember: if you have any doubt that the couple wouldn’t be happy with you wearing white to their wedding, then don’t risk it. But, if they’re more laid-back and non-traditional, then here are some tips for rocking this stylish hue on the big day.
1. Let the Season of the Wedding Be Your Guide
While the colder months call for darker hues, spring and summer are all about bright and light colors. Because of this, wearing white attire to a warm weather wedding feels more appropriate and on-theme.
As a bonus, white doesn’t absorb a ton of heat, which will help you stay cool for those sunny June ceremonies!
As mentioned before, you should still opt for white attire that incorporates other colors and patterns. White botanical motifs are perfect for spring and summer weddings, and you can also get away with wearing brighter accessories during the warmer months. Think: colorful heels, fun tassel earrings, and statement botanical necklaces.
We also suggest choosing more casual and breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen, and shorter hemlines, like midi gowns. Not only will this match the seasonal dress code, but it will also help distinguish what you’re wearing from a white wedding gown.
If you have a summer wedding on the calendar, don’t miss our list of the best gowns for the occasion!
2. Wearing White to a Wedding Makes More Sense for Mid-Day Ceremonies
Typically, mid-day ceremonies are less formal than evening weddings, which means you have more freedom with what you wear. Because of this, it is more appropriate to wear white attire to a mid-day wedding, especially if your outfit leans more casual. Mid-day events are also typically hotter than evenings affairs, making light colors (like white) a great option.
As always, if you do want to wear white to a mid-day wedding, be sure you’re following the rules and guidelines we listed above. Mix the white with other colors, opt for casual fabrics, and use your accessories to your advantage!
3. Directly Ask The Couple If It’s Okay
If the dress code doesn’t specify whether or not you can wear white to a wedding, never assume that you know how the couple will feel about it. Even if they’re super modern and non-traditional, it’s always best to get their go-ahead before you show up to the wedding in a white outfit.
If you’re close with the couple, you can directly ask them if it’s okay to wear white to their wedding. If possible, we also suggest sending them a photo of what you plan on wearing. After all, they may be totally fine with a white botanical midi, but not with a long silky white look that sweeps the floor.
If you’re not as close with the couple (or if you think there may be some awkwardness), you may want to reach out to a family member or someone in the wedding party instead. And when in doubt, don’t be afraid to just choose a different outfit!
4. Is the couple planning on wearing white to their wedding?
One of the rare cases where attendees are allowed to wear white to a wedding is when the couple has intentionally opted to not wear white. In this scenario, wearing white won’t take the spotlight away from the love birds, making it a more appropriate choice for the wedding day.
However, even if you know the couple isn’t wearing white, make sure you get explicit permission before you wear a white outfit to their wedding — whether that’s through their invitation or from the couple directly. Some couples may still want you to steer clear of this color because of its traditional wedding associations.
5. Remember: if you don’t have permission to go all-white, make sure white isn’t the focal point of your outfit
Even if you don’t have permission to wear white to a wedding, you can still wear some white — as long as it’s not the main color or focus of the outfit. Luckily, white goes with everything, so its easy to incorporate other pops of color and statement details to balance it out!
For example, this sparkly gown (pictured above) doesn’t read too white, thanks to the pink and green botanical print and all-over sequins. You can also wear your white outfit with fun accessories like a colorful headband or a boho kimono shawl, which will keep you from looking like a bride on the wedding day. A bright pair of heels is also a great way to draw the focus away from the white.
Ready to Look Amazing for Wedding Season? Our Guides Have You Covered.
Whether or not you choose to wear white to an upcoming wedding, we have all the styling guides you need to make your outfit shine!
For the mother of the bride, we also have you covered with these gorgeous MOB gowns, as well as these stylish pantsuits for a modern touch. And for the mother of the groom, we’ve also rounded up our favorite gowns for you!
What are you wearing to an upcoming wedding? Let us know in the comments below!