Why it’s not OK to wear white to a wedding

Why it's NOT OK to wear white to a wedding

A small sample of the keyword searches which recently led people to The Fashion Police:

Can you wear white to a wedding?

Is it bad to wear white to a wedding?

Should you wear white to a wedding?

Is it wrong to wear white to a wedding?

Is it STILL wrong to wear white to a wedding? 

Can you wear white to someone else’s wedding?

Why is it wrong to wear white to a wedding?

And just about every other variation of that question you can possibly imagine.

OK, people, listen up, because this is the last time we’ll say this: NO, YOU SHOULD NOT WEAR WHITE TO A WEDDING.* Yes, it is STILL considered to be a faux pas to do so.     Many aspects of wedding etiquette have changed over the years (Wearing black to a wedding, for instance, is no longer a sign of imminent social death, for instance, and wearing green is perfectly fine unless you happen to be Pippa Middleton), but the “never wear white rule” still stands, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.

Although “never wear white” is almost as enshrined in wedding culture as “I do” and “you may kiss the bride”, however, there still seems to be a lot of confusion about WHY this rule exists. Well, we’ll tell you why…

Why is it wrong to wear white to a wedding?

The reason many people believe it’s “bad form” to wear white to someone else’s wedding is because white (or ivory, or off-white, or cream, or any of the many variations of this shade…) is traditionally a “bridal” colour, which means it’s reserved for the bride. She should be the only person to wear white – assuming, of course, that she chooses to do so. Even if she doesn’t, however, it is STILL considered poor etiquette for anyone else to wear white and, again, this is because it’s the colour traditionally associated with brides. Put simply, if people see a woman in a white dress at a wedding, they will assume she is the bride…or that she WISHES she was the bride. You will appear to be trying to steal the bride’s thunder, in other words, and that would be very poor form indeed.

But what if my dress isn’t remotely bridal? 

It doesn’t matter. It’s the colour people’s eyes will go to, not the style. White dress at a wedding = bride, to many people.

What if I’m wearing a white trouser suit, not a dress?

Still doesn’t matter. It’s still the bride’s colour, and it’s still something a bride could conceivably wear.

But Pippa Middleton wore white to Kate’s wedding! Why can’t I?

Pippa was the chief bridesmaid: that means her dress was chosen for her by the bride. If your dress has ALSO been chosen for you by the bride, then you can also wear white. If not, pick something else.

Can I wear cream to a wedding?

This would possibly be a lesser evil than bright white, but if in doubt, it’s best to steer clear of the bridal colours altogether.

What if I look fantastic in white, and rubbish in other colours?

Suck it up, sister. The fact is, it’s not about you. It’s someone else’s day, and it’s someone else’s opportunity to be the centre of attention. It won’t kill you to wear another colour for one day: we promise…

What if I wear white with another colour, or as part of a pattern?

This could be OK, but it would really have to be decided on a case-by-case basis. In general, a pattern which includes white should be absolutely fine, as would white trousers/skirt with some other colour on top. The key is not looking like you’re trying to be the bride: if you can do that in white, then more power to you. If you have any doubts about it, it’s best to choose something else.

What if it’s a gothic/punk/themed/other alternative wedding, and the bride couldn’t care less about stupid traditions, and what other people wear?

In these cases, while wearing white is obviously going to be much less of an issue, it’s probably still best to avoid white dresses, and other very “bridal” outfits: the bride may not care, but other guests might (think elderly relatives and other guests who aren’t as familiar with the chosen theme or culture as you might be), and you still run the risk of inadvertently making yourself the centre of attention. Of course, if it’s a small wedding, and you know no one will care, then that’s a different matter, and you can judge the situation accordingly: it wouldn’t be true to say that it’s NEVER appropriate to wear white under ANY circumstances, so if you think you have a set of circumstances in which it’s perfectly fine to do it, then good for you. Just maybe leave the veil at home this time.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that you are ALWAYS free to wear whatever you like: these guidelines are merely a guide to what people might think about your choice, based on current etiquette and social convention. Obviously not everyone cares about those things, so if you’re happy to fly in the face of convention and really don’t care what anyone thinks, wear white. If you’re at all worried about it, the good news is that you don’t HAVE to wear white to someone else’s wedding: there are more than enough other options out there…

*Unless you are the bride. If you’re the bride, by all means, wear white…


  • August 16, 2012


    I agree completely! Why risk it when there are about a million other colours out there? That being said I think there are worse faux pas, like being way too underdressed…

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  • White color is not neccesary. If the wedding day have 2-3 days, many people may wear various color, but the wedding is only one time

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