If you have a wedding coming up, there’s a good chance you’re diving into the end of your closet for your fanciest dresses and suits. Dressing up ensures that you match the environment—and you’re not wearing jeans at a five-star restaurant. But it also shows solidarity with the happy couple. You’re celebrating by stepping outside your normal, all the way down to how you’re dressed. With all this emphasis on clothes, what do you even wear? We can’t help you sort through the dark corners of your closet, but we can certainly tell you what to never wear at a wedding.
Don’t worry, we’re not about to give you a fashion lesson—location and time of year will be your two biggest aids in choosing the right outfit. But we do want to caution you against wearing certain colors, because there are some colors that you should never wear to a wedding.
Bonus Tip: You can get away with these colors as part of a pattern (like a single stripe in a plaid design) but the vast majority of your clothing shouldn’t have these colors.
These aren’t our rules; they’re the laws of etiquette. Well, they’re the laws of United States etiquette. If you’re attending a wedding in another country, or with friends from a different culture, these rules may not apply. For example, in China, wearing red is saved solely for the bride and her qipao. So if you’re headed to Beijing, leave the red dress at home.
White or Off-White
This shouldn’t be a surprise. White, or anything close to white, is totally off limits. The bride might not wear a white wedding dress, but the color is still reserved for her, should she choose to. We’d also like to add a “mostly white” clause to this rule. If you’re looking at your all-white dress with some purple trim—put it down, that still counts as white. This white rule is actually observed in other cultures as well. In Britain, the entire bridal party traditionally wears white to match the bride. Just another reason to never wear it at a wedding!
Champagnes and Golds
Gold, champagne, and similar hues have been a wedding favorite for a while now, and they don’t show signs of letting up. It’s common to see bridesmaids in gold skirts, or even a bride in a champagne gown. Do your best to avoid this color family—just in case. Remember, this is about celebrating the happy couple. The last thing you want to do is compete with them on their special day.
We do, however, condone the use of gold accessories as a guest. Whether you’re wearing a soft pink for a spring wedding, or a rich purple for fall—gold accents perfectly complement! You don’t have to avoid the color completely; just never wear it as a dress.
There are some strong opinions about wearing black to a wedding. After all, isn’t it a sad color that people wear at a funeral? But black is more commonly becoming acceptable as wedding guest attire. So why is it on the list? Because you should never wear black to a spring or summer wedding.
First of all, you’re going to get too warm. The black will attract the sun, and you’ll be sweating before the ceremony is over. And second, black is a heavier color that goes better with rich jewel tones of fall. Stick to the pastels and light colors for your spring wedding, and keep the black dress ready for the fall.
Glitters or Sparkles
Avoid anything sparkly, or with a lot of embellishment—no matter the color. The number one rule of wedding attire is to never wear anything that outshines the couple. In this case, almost literally. Just keep your attire a little less dramatic than you might typically wear. If you do typically wear expressive clothing, you don’t have to compromise yourself, either. Consider something with pattern or texture. It’s a great way to display your personality without detracting from the main event.
If you’re not in the wedding, the last thing you want to do is match the color scheme. Or worse, the bridal party. Admittedly, this one is a bit tricky if you don’t know what color the bridesmaids will be wearing. The invitations or the couple’s wedding website should give you a clue. Typically, the colors on those invites match the wedding palette—as does the wedding party attire. So if the invitations are all gold and navy blue, you should avoid wearing either of those colors.
It might seem like a lot of rules just to go to a friend’s wedding. But it’s not about the wedding, or the rules; it’s about the couple and making their day as special as possible. And all eyes should be on the newlyweds, not your dress or skirt or tux. For one night, it’s not too much to ask.
Have you been to a wedding where someone committed one of these social faux pas?