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Here's What You Should—And Shouldn't—Wear to a Wedding

What colors are OK for guests to wear to a wedding—and what are off limits?

When it comes to weddings, guests shouldn't wear white. Right? Well, it turns out, that calls for some clarification.


By TAYSHA MURTAUGH, Country Living

A few years back, I attended a friend's wedding in a red dress. While standing outside the venue, waiting to toss sprinkles at our newly-wedded friends, I spotted her: a fellow guest who had worn a white, lace dress. Internally, I rolled my eyes. "What was she thinking?" I thought. "Doesn't she know proper etiquette?" Weeks later, the wedding photos went up on Facebook. There, in the pictures, it wasn't the white dress that bothered me anymore. It was mine. There, in a sea of white and black and blues, my classic red was more than a bit distracting. 

[post_ads]Traditionally, the only off-limits color for wedding guests has been white, for obvious reasons—no one wants to take attention away from the bride. But times are a-changin'. Now, many people simply don't see wearing white as a big deal. Some brides and grooms are totally cool with it. They might even request that their guests dress in white for a monochromatic color palette for the rehearsal dinner or the ceremony —a trend that can be traced back to royal and celebrity weddings alike.

Still, there are mixed opinions on the subject: "White, unless you know the bride and she's asked you to wear it or given you her blessing, is typically out," says Carrie Goldberg, the Digital Travel & Weddings Editor at Harper's Bazaar, "although I see no issue in a white skirt or top paired with something in color."

A good rule of thumb? Steer clear of the shade, just to be safe, unless it's patterned or paired with something else, as Goldberg suggests.

Context Is Key

But white is not the only problematic hue, as I learned. Overly bold colors (like fire engine red, neon green or yellow, hot pink and garish orange) can be just as bad, for the simple reason that they'll stick out like a sore thumb in wedding photos. 

Charlottesville, VA-based wedding photographer Jen Fariello's most-hated hues for wedding guest ensembles? Orange and hot pink. "Especially if you are family or the date of a family member," she says. "I think taking a cue from the invitation is always a great idea."


"If you get a paper suite with a vibrant, colorful theme, go bold," Fariello continues, "but if you get a crisp, classic vibe from the invitation, use that as a cue to go classy and subtle."

Take culture into account as well. It's worth noting that red is an especially risky choice for a Chinese wedding, where it's traditional for brides to wear red.
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Stay Away From Words

Beyond color, it's also considerate to think about patterns and logos. "I don't mind red," says Southern California wedding photographer Rebecca Yale. "I think it's a fun pop of color. I definitely agree with not wearing all white unless you're otherwise instructed to do so. I'm pretty open to any color or pattern. My biggest advice is just nothing with a big logo or words on it. You'd think it wouldn't happen too much at weddings, but I have seen it! Anything with a logo or words is very distracting and draws the eye. Otherwise I don't think there's really any color that's completely off-limits."


Bypass the Blue Jeans

Overall, though, the best rule of thumb is to simply make sure you clean up nice. To Denver, CO, wedding photographer Laura Murray, the biggest wedding fashion faux pas is not a color, but a code: "As a guest, I would avoid looking too casual," she says. "Even if it is a casual wedding, I think having a somewhat elevated sense of attire is a nice gesture. I have found it to be distracting in photos when one guest shows up in jeans, while everyone else is dressed more formally ... As for red, or other bold colors, I think it's great! I personally do not find bold colors distracting in photos."

As for me, I feel much better about that red dress now. I'll still probably refrain from wearing it to future ceremonies, but I also regret ever judging (however quietly) what other guests wore. You never know what's been cleared with the couple beforehand, and anyway, who cares? At the end of the (big) day, it's not about your dress or decorum but rather about celebrating the love of two people.

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Love Magazine: Here's What You Should—And Shouldn't—Wear to a Wedding
Here's What You Should—And Shouldn't—Wear to a Wedding
What colors are OK for guests to wear to a wedding—and what are off limits?
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