Lady In White.

Can a guest wear white to a wedding discussion post

I’m willing to hedge my bets that the vast majority of you reading this post are not only planning to get hitched this year but are also attending the nuptials of another couple too.

I’m attending three this year, a considerable reduction from the seven I attended in 2012, but I’m still experiencing the sartorial struggles that come with being a guest at a wedding.

Since many of my friends are marrying their other halves within months of each other it’s inevitable that I’ll be drinking, dining and dancing the night away with the same familiar faces at each of these weddings.

Call me vain, hell call me spoilt, but I just can’t bring myself to turn up to each of these special days in the same outfit. These girls (and boys) are important to me so I want to make a real effort for them and this includes dressing up for the occasion especially if there’s a theme for the day too.

So the task of finding something to wear begins…and folks I’m in a bit of a pickle.

You see the high street is awash with frocks, suits and skirts in ivory shades. Milky whites, soft creams, the crispest of alabasters – you can blame fashion forward folks such as Ms McCartney, Mr A Wang and The Row for the popularity of these hues for Spring/Summer 2013 – literally everything leans towards the neutral end of the spectrum. So after hours of traipsing through the shops – both online and in person I’ve found my outfit of choice.

And it’s white.

And lovelies therein lies the rub.

White Dresses Wedding Guests Sartorial Choices Inspiration

Because you’re not supposed to wear white to a wedding are you. For this colour palette is the preserve of the bride and hers alone. Or is it?

K-Mid and Pippa demonstrated just how beautiful and unifying an all-white entire wedding party looks. After all utilising neutral shades is not only incredibly flattering but is a surefire way to imbue your day with a distinctly modern edge too. So could this colour palette be extended to guests too?

Should we frown upon guests who wear white? Ivory and cream colour palettes are clean and contemporary and perfect for summer so you can’t help but see how some folks might want to wear them to a special occasion. Just how likely is it that a guest in a pale frock will overshadow the belle of the ball anyway? And who decided that guests – namely of the female variety – shouldn’t wear ivories and creams anyway since the ‘white’ wedding dress is a fairly modern concept.

It’s not just white that gets the short end of the stick either. The wearing of any shade of black is generally frowned upon too because of the connotations it has with funerals, death and grief.

Personally I think this is a shame. We’re no longer a nation of Victorians devoted to demonstrative displays of mourning and thus I don’t think that the same associations should be made. In fact, I remember attending one wedding of a friend of mine where a guest wore a jet black silk shift and thinking how chic she looked.

It was a lightbulb moment for me. A moment of dawning realisation that actually I didn’t have to compromise on my personal style when attending a wedding. That it was actually ok to wear what you wanted to wear…within reason.

With coloured wedding gowns – such as blush pink, baby blues and the mellowest of yellows – gaining popularity would it be/ is it deemed acceptable to wear white because the bride is sporting a candy hue. Consequently, does the shade that the bride is wearing then become taboo, off limits?

Black Dresses Wedding Outfit Inspiration Guest

In the end I decided not to go for the white dress that I fell in love with. Instead I’ve opted for a blocky number a la Audrey Hepburn because I don’t want to risk upsetting my friend nor do I want to be subject to ominous stares from those guests who don’t approve.

How do you feel about the wearing of white to a wedding when you’re not the bride?

Would it bother you if a guest turned up to your big day dressed in an ivory get-up or would you be unfazed – you’re the bride after all.

Would you encourage your guests to dress monochromatically to tie in perfectly with your wider colour theme?

Have you worn black to a wedding? Were you subject to ‘what was she thinking’ stares from across the dancefloor?

I want to know all about it…

All my love Lolly xxx

Author: Lauren Gautier-Ollerenshaw
Lolly is a self-professed frustrated florist and styling maven with an endless passion for all things pretty.

43 thoughts on “Lady In White.

  1. If I was going to wear white (or cream or ivory) it’d probably be a long floaty maxi dress. If the bride goes for something understated or a slinky Jenny Packham number then that could be seriously awkward…

    In answer to your question, no, I wouldn’t wear white (or cream or ivory) to a wedding. I know my friends feel the same too so I wouldn’t want to risk offending anyone!

  2. I wore a white dress to the reception part of a wedding last year, it was a tight peplum dress that I jazzed up with red and purple colour block shoes and similar coloured necklace. I didn’t get any funny looks and my friends said it was fine so I wore it! On another note, I’m planning on having my Bridesmaids in mis -matched short white dresses for our wedding accessorised with pops of turquoise blue chunky jewellery – hopefully getting married on a beach so I think this works quite well?!

    I think if someone turned up to my wedding in a long white flowy dress then it might be over step the mark a little! xxx

  3. I went to a wedding a few years ago in Malta & wore cream! I didn’t even think about the fact that I was wearing the wrong colour! Ooops!
    I don’t think I got any dodgy stares, but not sure I’d do it again!
    (note, I did have a blue cardie over the top, so maybe that helped my case!!!)

    As for black – I completely agree, a cute LBD can look just as fabulous as a colourful dress & should not be frowned upon!

    I have a wedding 3 weeks after our own & I am seriously considering getting this amazing skirt!
    Well, really I want to get it as my ‘morning after the wedding’ outfit for our big day, but the boy has stipulated that if I get it I HAVE to wear it plenty of times! So our friend’s wedding it is!
    Just look at it!!!

    Too much?!!!

  4. Hmm – I think it’s ok but you should check with the bride first perhaps – for example the first image top right is hugely similar to my wedding dress, and I would be a bit miffed if that happened! But if someone was to ask me f they could wear something white/cream, and I thought it didn’t look too similar, then that would be fine…

  5. My bridesmaids and my Mum will be wearing shades of ivory for our wedding in August. I love the all white look. I chose a fab ivory Prada dress for my Mum to wear – at first, she wasn’t sure whether she could get away with wearing white as mother of the bride, but I assured her that there was no need for her to stick with tradition. It was absolutely stunning on her and now she can’t wait to show it off and be a bit different to other mothers of the bride. I don’t think I would have a problem with guests wearing white to our wedding – we are pretty relaxed and we are already breaking loads of the rules…

  6. Oooh – I NEED the cream lace skirt in piccie 2 – where is it from?? We are having a party for our 1st Wedding Anniversary and my husband thinks its weird if I wear a white dress to that…do you?

    Oh and i think its a bit weird wearing a white dress to a wedding espesh if you are not sure the style the bride is going for…


  7. I’ve noticed as well how popular white/cream/ivory lace is on the high street. I think this is a major no-no as lace wedding dresses are so popular at the minute!

    However, I think a funked up pale number is acceptable, but like Rachel – I think a white flowy number isn’t appropriate!


  8. Erm, I am planning to wear black (short shift type) to a wedding in August and have worn black to a wedding before. I had no idea anyone considered it inappropriate!

    And on the white issue – I was so happy and excited in my wedding day I didn’t care at all what colour anyone wore and couldn’t tell you of anyone wore white. I think only someone turning up in a veil would have caught my attention!

  9. It’s a no no! It’s just rude. Everyone knows you shouldn’t wear white so going against the rules is disrespectful, me and my bridesmaids are the only ones allowed to wear white at my wedding.

  10. As a guest at a wedding I would never wear white / cream or black – it’s different for the wedding party though for sure.

  11. Well I’m going to go against everyone here and say that if anyone turns up at my wedding in anything resembling white I will be extremely upset. I’m sorry, I know we are in modern times, but not every bride (myself included) is wearing a super-bridey bridal gown and consequently something from the high street could well upstage the simple look I have decided to go for. Yes, everyone will know who I am and I will be the one walking down the aisle etc etc, but I don’t want any confusion here at all!! I have no problem with bridesmaids in white/ivory/neutral shades if that is the decision of the bride, but beyond that I’m afraid I am a strong no. I guess I could compromise slightly if the outfit had a bit of white and lots of other strong colours, but it would have to be quite the outfit. On the black side of things though I have no problem, and quite often wear black shoes, tights, hats etc to weddings (although no head-to-toe black yet).

  12. I’ve worn black (to my mothers horror) to a friends wedding, accessorised it with creams and golds to ‘wedding’ it up. Would never wear white though, that should be saved for the bride!!

  13. Hmmmm The black conundrum – I have indeed wore black to a very good friend’s wedding. With a black hat. I was slightly nervous before the day, but on the day itself felt great. Until I saw the wedding photographs and there was pale old me with a black dress AND a black hat, just a white as white grinning face poking through. Being a stunning August day with the other female guests sporting beautiful colourful attire, I do stand out like a sore thumb. Maybe had I worn a fascinator, so the whole concept wasn’t so stark, or maybe if it was a winter wedding, I might not cringe every time I see the photos.

    As to wearing white, I am firmly in the hell to the no corner. Not that I believe anyone could upstage the bride, It is her one special day, so not wearing her colour is just a way of showing respect. Although I am rather partial to a neutral tone, I tend to veer towards champagne or oyster tones if that’s what’s tickling my fancy.

    Another guest matter is accidentally wearing the bridesmaids’ dresses. Super embarrassing for the guest (in my experience), but with many brides (including myself) preferring the high street option and opting for shorting hemlines it is an occurrence I hear often. I would like to think I would go home and change my outfit, however I would probably steal some flowers out of a display, whip my hat off, and promote myself to bridesmaid.

  14. I had this exact problem with finding a dress for a wedding in April. I bought a dress that was white on top but a purple skirt from under the bust down. But didn’t wear it. There is something nice about teh bride having her own colour I reckon. Plus I wouldn’t want the evil looks all day..

  15. I would be a bit put out if a guest wore white or ivory to my wedding to be honest, I feel that it is the brides colour and to me is still inappropriate. That being said I know two of my friends have worn cream/ ivory dresses to weddings in the last year, so I guess it is not as much of a big deal to some people. I have no issue with black at a wedding, a chic LBD is never out of place!

  16. My grandmother turned up to my uncles wedding in all black with a black hat. She is from an older generation and is extremely traditional in her values and therefore it did cause huge offence at the wedding and even now 20 years on people still remember and comment on it. So I really don’t personally think black is acceptable at a ‘traditional’ wedding, when it is perceived as a taboo why would you risk it and rock the boat? It isn’t exactly very limiting to be not allowed to wear black.

    In regards to white or creams etc.. I personally had an issue with my sister wanting to wear a white strapless floor length dress which had flashes of teal on the bottom. I felt that it looked like an actual wedding dress, as did others, and therefore would not be very happy if she had worn it.
    However in regards to creams and neutral colours it really depends on the shape and style of the dress. A long white dress personally I feel is off limits.

  17. wore a black trouser suit as a bridesmaid at my sisters city chic wedding in the 1990’s. though she was wearing a custom Dolce Gabbana white trouser suit so it tied in. the elder generations were a bit nonplussed but we all looked great if i say so myself!

  18. My auntie was telling me of a beautiful outfit she had seen for my wedding but refused point blank to wear it because there was white on it! – it doesn’t bother me one bit if she wanted to wear white – I’m sure my husband to be won’t confuse us! As long as my guests aren’t turning up in a wedding dress then I’m fine with any colour! That said I understand why people would be upset if their wedding dresses are very simple.

    I also don’t get the whole idea that only the brides mother can wear anything close to the colour scheme! I have heard so many people be told they cant wear a certain colour because the mother of the bride is wearing it.

    I want my guests to feel comfy and uber glam and if that means them being in white, black or camourflage I’m not fussed as long as they are happy!

  19. I once work an ivory tea dress to a wedding- but I made sure to ask the bride’s permission first. She wasn’t bothered at all. My dress, despite its colour looks nothing like a wedding dress and it wasn’t a ‘traditional’ type wedding anyway. I personally don’t think there’s any problem with it, but I would always ask the bride first just in case.

  20. I almost wore a short cream dress to a wedding last year, but a couple people starting giving me doubts so I wore a coloured dress instead. Though when I got there quite a few girls were in light and neutral shades so I really don’t think it would have mattered! As long as you tie in some colour with a blazer, jewellery, belt, or shoes I think it can easily work. I ended up wearing the original dress to another wedding later that year and it was absolutely fine!

    I’m getting married this year and my bridesmaids are all in light shades, blush pinks and champagnes. I have already said I have no problem with anyone wearing light colours (or black for that matter) because I am sure everyone will recognise me as the bride. That being said, the one no-go is if anyone tried to wear a floor-length white dress to the wedding – that is a bit too close for comfort. Screams of attention-seeking, and most guests would be more critical of them than me or the groom I bet!

    I think it really comes down to what you are comfortable in. I also think it helps if you know the style the bride is wearing and how she feels about the no-white tradition. (More brides are OK with it than you might think!) Try to think of the outfit in terms of, would you be comfortable if a guest wore this to your wedding? Does it look like you are trying to show up the bride? Would you be uncomfortable if you got looks from other guests?

  21. I really do not understand the issue with guests wearing white. It’s not even a traditional bridal colour so how can the bride claim it as hers for the day?
    Echoing someone else here an actual bridal dress would be a bit much but I think I would feel more concerned about someones state of mind to turn up to a wedding in a wedding dress than anything else!
    Because I think that being angry about guests wearing certain colours to your wedding is nuts it didn’t cross my mind when I attended a wedding last year in a lace cream top – until I met some of the other guests outside who made me feel like a complete moron and I ended up keeping my coat on all day and night. I would not want to be responsible for making someone else feel like this at my wedding!

  22. For me wearing white to someones wedding is a big no-no! I guess that in most cases the bride won’t mind, but I think it’s polite not to try and take away from the bride in any sense on her big day.

  23. It’s not OK to wear white, the wedding is not about you, remember that you are lucky to be invited to their wedding. Black is fine though.

  24. Fantastic thoughts and comments from you girls! I’m fascinated to read them all.

    @Becca you should totally get that skirt!

    @JB I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for me – your musings that you have no problem with anyone wearing light colours because you’re sure everyone will recognise you as the bride.

    Knowing how the bride feels about the no-white tradition is perhaps the best yardstick – if she sincerely doesn’t mind then I don’t think anyone else should really have a problem.

    Keep the comments coming girl – we love a bit of healthy debate!

  25. I have never worn black or white to a wedding, although I certainly wouldn’t rule out black, white I would be very unsure of. It would have to be something I absolutely loved and I would have to ask the brides permission first. As has been said in a few of the previous comments its more about respecting the bride and her colour.

    On my own wedding day my bridesmaids wore black and most of my guests knew this so I was a bit miffed when someone turned up in a similar dress but ultimately it made no difference. That being said whether you are wearing black, white or any other slightly controversial colour you should always run your thoughts by the bride, both parties will feel much happier after being asked and given the brides blessing.

  26. Hmmm. This is interesting. My maids all wore ivory, as did my Mum – I clearly wasn’t bothered about not standing out colour wise 🙂

    However, I wonder how I would have felt if guests all showed up in similar garb…..not sure to be honest, but I’ not sure I would have minded, I guess it’s the “design” as much as as the shade that could potentially make the dress look bridal.

    The other day I bought a lovely cream short dress for a friends wedding from French Connection, but when it came down to it I thought…, you know what? maybe this just isn’t quite appropriate? And as Nicky said above, there are lots of other shades out there so even if the bride didn’t mind, why even put yourself in the position of controversy/potentially upsetting someone if there’s no need.

    I don’t see an issue with black at all though.


    Charlotte xxx

  27. I don’t have any issues wearing black to a wedding- I think it’s such a timeless classic that you honestly can’t go wrong in black! As for white, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still think it’s a faux-pas to wear white to someone else’s wedding. Perhaps that’s, in part, due to my classic attitude about everything, or perhaps it’s the memory from my own wedding of standing at the altar with my betrothed and looking out at our friends and family, only to see my husband’s cousin dressed in a white minidress. Oy.

  28. I’d never ever wear a completely white dress/outfit to a wedding, only because when I get married I know I’d be mortified of one of my guests turned up in a white frock! Call me old fashioned but I think it’s the brides special day and said colour palate should be avoided if you’re a guest. As others have said, there are plenty of other colours out there! Having said that if its a coloured dress with white on it or white accessories then I don’t think that’s a problem. Black on the other hand isn’t so bad, though I guess with any outfit no matter the colour there should be a level of modesty (Just saying, a black plunging halter neck gown with a lot of cleavage out is not okay in my books – I’ve seen it happen and it’s very awkward) I think common sense is the key idea, no upstaging of the bride and all the rest of it. So yes, no all white dresses, but black is fine, as long as you’re wearing a smile it’s all good.

    p.s just noticed the tiny smiley face on the bottom of the site, how cute!

  29. Forgot to add, is it unheard of to request that no one wears an all white get-up to your wedding? Or is that OTT?

  30. Personally I would never wear white/ivory/cream to a wedding, and I would hope nobody would wear those colours to mine, it’s just one of those things you don’t do… I wouldn’t worry about being overshadowed, obviously (hopefully) no guest is going to wear anything bridal gownesque, but still, I think it’s quite rude, especially if they just assume it’s fine & don’t ask – though even asking I wouldn’t feel comfortable with because you don’t really want to tell them what they can & can’t wear! I would just hope my guests would know not to wear white. I have had this conversation with my friends in the past & we’ve all agreed its a no go x

  31. A very long legged young lady wore a pretty white dress to my wedding and I didn’t mind at all, she looked stunning.

    When I watch my wedding dvd I always notice how the back row of people at the church were all wearing black and it looks more like a funeral not a wedding.

    To be honest, I’d be more gutted if someone had shown up wearing a tracksuit and trainers.

  32. And like Charlotte, my maids wore ivory and so did my Mum. I helped choosing their outfits and it’s what they looked best in (at the time).


  33. I did once wear a short cream dress to a wedding, but accessories with hot pink cardigan, heels and fascinator. I still worried about it but no one seemed bothered. Thankfully the ride wore a very beautiful long ivory lace gown that looked nothing like my dress and so it wasn’t a problem.
    I nearly wore the same dress to a friends wedding later, and even asked the bride first would she mind…… she said no, but I’m so glad I didn’t wear it as her dress was a vintage short number with long sleeves, worn with a gorgeous birdcage veil, and while she would always have been the bride, I would have felt awful.
    Having got married just a few weeks ago, with no guests in white or cream, I have to say I was quite relieved.

  34. I would have loved my mum and bridesmaid to wear white /ivory but they are against it (so it seems are wearing navy!)

    But about guests wearing white, i’m in the no no NO camp. I went to a friends wedding where a fellow friend wore ivory (with the brides permission) and it just looked so wrong! (The bride was wearing a tealength dress). Its unfair to ask the laid back bride for permission.

    My wedding is going to be a tiny one, and of course it wouldn’t upset me, but I would be a little miffed if they did wear white! I better start dropping hints around my friends…

  35. We have been talking about this and I am shocked by the number of people who have never heard of it.

    At my step sisters wedding last year her brothers beautiful and very tiny girlfriend wore a skin tight white body con dress. And when I mentioned to family that I hoped she wouldn’t wear it to mine nobody had heard of the rule.

    I am firmly in the no all white to a wedding, because I have heard of the rule and other friends have been upset by it in the past. I’m sure on the day it won’t matter but I hope nobody does.

  36. I have made a couple of comments to friends that I would prefer the bridal party to be the only ones in ivory, white, cream, nude, peach etc. It might sound over the top (that’s me through and through), and noone is going to get us confused but I’d really rather we were the only ones in this colour palette on the day. I just feel like we’d have spent time and money putting a look/theme together and I don’t want anyone else looking like a rogue bridesmaid. Also I’ve seen a few people at weddings in paler shades and thought why? I can’t explain why I feel like this about it, and I appreciate some people might think it completely irrational but there it is, and that’s what happens when the zilla of all things starts planning a wedding… 🙂

  37. I’m a ‘bride that has been’ as I got married back in 2010, but I’m still addicted to Rock My Wedding.

    The what to wear to a wedding conundrum is always a difficult one. Black can look OK if it’s done in a fun way. I heard about one woman who went to her daughter’s wedding in a black business suit. Each to their own, but if I had been that bride I would have been disappointed. White and cream are tricky ones too. A little bit of white, or cream is OK but I think it needs to be mixed in with some colour to tone down the bridal connotations. And I think anything white or cream which vaugely resembles a wedding dress is definitely out.

    The other struggle is trying not to choose the same colour as the bridesmaids outfits. The last thing you want to look like is a wannabe bridesmaid.

  38. DO IT Lolly! The old ‘no black’ and ‘no white’ is over! The colour clichés are moving into the 21st century baby yeah!

    There are so many worse things people can wear to a wedding. I would certainly take a guest in a white dress over a bag woman. I went to a wedding here in NZ and someone actually turned up in a singlet (a ‘vest’ to us UK’ers) and 3/4 jogging pants… no it wasn’t a beach wedding. I was so embarrassed for him! Either he thought the rest of us looked like nincompoop’s dressed to the nine’s or the rest of the wedding didn’t get the ‘casual attire with armpits showing memo’.

    If someone wore white to my wedding I wouldn’t care, mainly because I don’t intend on wearing a white dress 🙂

    I wore black to a friend’s wedding once (with hot pink shoes and nails) and no-one batted an eyelash!

  39. I am firmly in the no white at a wedding camp – while a bit of white/cream is ok if it is part of outfit and there is a lot of colour an all white outfit is a definite no no. I went to a wedding recently where one of the guests wore a short cream dress from the Monsoon bridal collection and while it was beautiful it definitely stepped over the mark! Being invited to someone’s wedding si a real privilege so why wear something that is potentially inappropriate when you could upset someone?

    having said that black is fine provided you don’t let it become too severe and aren’t one of the bridal party (unless that is the bride’s choice of course)! A mother of the groom in black might give out the wrong signals!

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