{Fashion Friday} A Reader Question: White to a Wedding?

A reader wrote to me and asked:

Do you think it’s still tacky to wear white as the guest of a wedding when you are CLEARLY not the bride?  I’m looking at a white shift.  I’d prefer it in a bright color but it only comes in white.

I’m certainly not Miss Manners, but I do have pretty strong opinions concerning fashion rules and basic etiquette. I thought it was an interesting question so I asked her permission to poll my readers.

I realize that nowadays people are throwing caution to the wind, and many of the traditional fashion rules now seem antiquated and no longer relevant.

For instance, I admit that I’ve gotten lax about wearing white only between Memorial and Labor Days. I wouldn’t wear white shoes in the dead of winter, but I am perfectly comfortable wearing them any time after Easter, no matter how early in the year Easter happens to fall. In fact, this year my girls both initiated their white “Easter shoes” on Palm Sunday because nothing else really went with their dresses.

I also love the idea of wearing white jeans in the wintertime, as long as they are paired with wintery colors and textures so they look intentional, not like a fashion mistake. Brooke Hogan does it right.

It is not unusual anymore to see ladies in black attire at a wedding — either the wedding guests or the bridal party.

These days you can feel free to mix black and brown.

Or silver and gold.

You can also (gasp!) mismatch the colors of  your shoes and handbags. (My grandmother is officially rolling over in her grave.)

But wearing white to a wedding is just one of those “old fashioned” rules of etiquette that I cannot breach.

In fact, my reply to my friend was quite adamant:

I would NEVER wear white to a wedding. EVER.

(Unless I was the bride. Which isn’t happening again any time soon.)

So I’m wondering. What say you, Dear Reader?

Would you wear white as a wedding guest? Is that rule still going strong, or has it gone the way of handwritten thank you notes and basic chivalry?

And speaking of weddings, did you see Kate Middleton’s dress yet? What did you think? Come see what I had to say about it over on All Things Chic.

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35 Responses

  1. I have to agree. Completely. And this is someone whose bridal party all wore black 7 years ago — dresses of completely their own choosing, even! And one of my husband’s attendants was female. So we clearly didn’t follow all the “rules”. I still can’t get past the gold and silver, though. Go figure…

  2. Well, having just watched the Royal Wedding and seeing the Maid of Honor Pippa in white… I”m gonna say, it’s still a NO. It’s just not the appropriate thing to do, in my opinion. Even cream and off-white are inappropriate, in my opinion.

    1. I’m not a huge fan of bridesmaids in white either BUT. I think originally, they all wore white – something about trying to disguise the bride so they all dressed alike? I read that somewhere.

      1. That’s true – historically bridesmaids all wore white to protect the bride from evil spirits. Since everyone was wearing white, the evil spirits would get confused, and the idea is that the true bride would be protected.
        Still, I was shocked when I saw Pippa in white… but after a while it kind of grew on me. It complemented the bride’s gown so much, and didn’t at all steal the show like some more colorful bridesmaids dresses are apt to do…

        1. The only reason I think it’s okay that Pippa wore white (as if I’m some sort of ‘expert’ – ha!) is that the BRIDE chose that for her. Someone wore white to my wedding and I’m still a little bitter about it 13 years later. Of course, I would never say anything to anyone about what they chose to wear, but I do think this person (the date of a groomsman) did it on purpose b/c she was desperate for her own big day and didn’t mind at all stealing a bit of my thunder. (Bitter, anyone!?)

          1. LOL. I’d be bitter too. And I agree, if the bride chooses it, well then, that is totally acceptable.

        2. Yeah, I agree. I kind of liked it. And yes, that’s the theory I heard about bridesmaids wearing white.

  3. No, definitely no white except for the bride or maybe little flower girls. I still remember the woman who wore white to my wedding and then expected/demanded to be included in the bridal pics…..we didn’t buy any of those pictures for our album.
    Can I say it loudly enough-no white…even if you swear to everyone its “winter white” (in July?!?!). No No No
    Can you tell I have issues-even after almost 17 years;-)

  4. I am with you. I think it should not be done. I thought it was interesting that the maid of honor was wearing a white dress today. It looked like a scaled-down version of a wedding dress. But I have no idea how things work for royalty, so who am I to judge?

  5. If you are not the bride and if the bride did not pick your dress (i.e. bridesmaid, flower girl) your should NEVER wear white or off white to a wedding. I’m looking at you Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom!

    1. What if it is a winter white suit (jacket and skirt) with the jacket open to reveal a jewel tone blouse? True winter white, not bright white.

  6. Last year this question came up and I did the research. As you pointed out, many of the old rules have been broken over the years, yet wearing white to wedding has NOT. It is still considered a faux pas.

  7. I say no but I do agree black is acceptable as in a cute little black dress with colorful accessories. I think white is showing up the bride.

  8. I say NO as well to wearing white to a wedding!

    *I bet Brooke Hogan isn’t used much as an example for the “right” way to do fashion! She does look nice here though!

    1. Heh. Well, I really don’t even know who she is. But that picture was perfect for the illustration I needed! 🙂

  9. I agree with you. I would never wear white to a wedding unless maybe it was a super casual wedding that required only a sun dress that had lots of pattern to it. But I also don’t usualy do lots of pattern so it would probably never happen…
    It seems disrespectful to the Bride.

  10. I have a hard time wearing sandals and white pants before Memorial Day much less to a wedding! My southern mother’s voice rings in my ears: No black (too morbid) No red (too trampy–doesn’t apply much now but that’s what she used to say) and certainly not white!!! Of all the fashion rules that are broken I can’t seem to get on board with this one.

    Agreed with the earlier comments…the royal bride’s attendants have always worn white, although they are not typically called “maid/matron of honor.” Some other title that escapes me now as I’ve been up since 4:30. I liked Pippa’s dress. She did compliment Kate very well without detracting. Let’s face it, she could have worn a clown suit and it would not have taken away from Kate today!!!

  11. On the View, Shari Shepard said that Pippa outshined Kate, and said to Elizabeth Hasselbeck, “I’m putting you in a freaking muumuu” – ha! I’ve always heard that a guest should never wear white to a wedding.

    1. That’s funny. I haven’t really seen Pippa’s dress, except in that one photo of her holding Kate’s train. I need to google and see some photos.

  12. I seriously have to weigh in here – I am in TOTAL agreement with you on the white thing, with ONE exception. I was shooting a wedding at 7 months pregnant, and the only thing I had that was fit to wear (and that fit me) was a sweet little white maternity dress. BUT I DID ask the bride for her permission to wear it before I waltzed in wearing white….

    Just a note to say that there ARE emergency situations. *grin*

  13. NO!!!! I would never wear white to a wedding unless I was the bride or unless I was in the bridal party and the bride is making me wear it.

    As for Kate’s dress – I was disappointed. I thought the lace made it look fit for an old-fashioned bride and the cones made it look fit for Madonna. On the other hand, I LOVED Pippa’s dress! Heading over to All Things Chic to see what you thought.

    1. I agree, Beth! Though I thought Kate looked gorgeous, & that dress sure did show off her figure, I didn’t think much of the cones or lace.

  14. My mother-in-law wore a bright white suit jacket to my wedding. I think wearing white is totally inappropriate. When you look at the big family picture she competes with me. I am going to have my photographer photoshop it. She claimed she didn’t know that wedding rule, which I think is silly.

    1. My mother in law worn an off white dress to my wedding 13 years ago too. I’m quite certain that she knew the rules but, oh well. It WAS pretty obvious who was the bride. 🙂

  15. I say NO, out of deference to the bride. If the rule were made for any other reason, maybe I’d be flexible. But it’s her day, and she wears white for deeply symbolic reasons, reasons other women in the room shouldn’t mess with. Just me. But I do think that, the way fashion is going these days. that rule is already on the way out.

  16. As I watched the entire wedding (the evening afterwards, since I worked that day), the thought that came to me about Pippa’s dress was that there was so much color in the uniforms and clerical garb that a color on the attendant would have been jarring. As it is, she seemed truley to be serving her sister as she care for the train and children. I think it made her LESS noticable.

    I loved Kate’s dress. With her figure, she was elegant and, to my old-fashioned mind, appropriate for a future queen. Modest.

  17. I agree with you. I wouldn’t wear white to a wedding either. I see it as “competing with the bride.”

    I often wear black to weddings though – usually paired with a pretty cardigan or jacket. I don’t see black as being a “mournful” color at all. Other words come to mind – like “classy” and “sophisticated” and “mysterious.”

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