Can a Wedding Guest Wear White?

'Bride and groom toasting with guests, smiling'
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It used to be that no respectful wedding guest would ever wear a black or white dress to a wedding. Black looked too funereal, while white was in competition with the bride. But now you'll frequently see guests wearing a little black dress - so is wearing white okay as well?

Wearing a white dress to a wedding when you're not the bride is still generally frowned upon. The bride should get to stand out on her wedding day, and one of the ways she does that is by being the only one wearing white.

However, it's true that tradition ain't what it used to be, and not all brides wear white. Some don't like the virginal connotations, while others just don't think it's the most flattering or fun color. So can you wear a white dress to their weddings? I know someone who wore a red and black wedding dress with flames along the bottom when she got married -- I can't imagine that she would have been traditional enough to care about what one of her guests were wedding. And yet, you never know - she might be concerned that guests who hadn't met her would mistake the white-wearing guest as part of the happy couple.

So the safest answer is to not wear white, even if it is your favorite dress, even if the bride is non-traditional, and even if it's the marriage of two men.

There is some gray area, where you can make your own judgment call:

  • If it's a very non-traditional wedding, and you've spoken to the bride to make sure she's truly okay with you wearing white.
  • If your dress is only partially white - for example a white bodice with a colored skirt.
  • If your dress has a white background with an all-over print of a different color.
  • And of course, every once in a while, a couple will request that their wedding guests all wear white. Beyonce and Jay Z did just that for their 2008 wedding in New York. And it's always good to follow what the happy couple specifically request.

    Read more suggestions about what to wear to a wedding.