Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? (2024)

If you’re attending a wedding in the near future, picking out your outfit for the occasion can be a difficult, sometimes stressful, decision to make. Between finding a getup that’s comfortable and flattering, adhering to the designated dress code, and following the main etiquette rules surrounding wedding guest fashion, there are so many variables to keep in mind when shopping for your loved one's big day. That's why a black dress is almost always a go-to for individuals when dressing for their friend or family member’s nuptials—though, many people question whether this hue is appropriate for such an occasion.

According to wedding etiquette expert Elaine Swann, decades ago, wearing black to a wedding was considered a fashion faux pas since the color is often worn at funerals and, therefore, associated with mourning. Since nuptials are celebratory occasions, the dark hue was labeled off-limits for attendees in the past. However, in today's modern-day age, wearing black to a wedding is completely acceptable, and in many cases, it’s even encouraged.

“Black is often considered the most formal, polished, and flattering color,” explains wedding expert Ashley Smith. “Black also hides curves or things you might not want to show with ease, such as a cast or recent surgery.” The dark tone is sophisticated, chic, and versatile, making it a go-to choice across many aesthetics, venues, and seasons. Additionally, since black is a neutral hue, it offers a lot of flexibility regarding styling—you have the leeway to pair the deep shade with brightly-colored accessories or stick to an all-black ensemble.

Meet the Expert

  • Elaine Swann is a wedding etiquette expert and the founder of The Swann School of Protocol.
  • Ashley Smith is the owner of Ashley Smith Events, an event planning and design firm in San Francisco with over 15 years of experience in the industry.
  • Jess Kaye and Rosie Williams are the co-founders and designers of The Own Studio, a contemporary bridal and occasionwear line with a direct-to-consumer business model.

Now that you're aware of the etiquette surrounding black wedding day attire, we asked Swann, Smith, and bridal designers Jess Kaye and Rosie Williams, to share what guests should consider and keep in mind when sporting this classic hue. Read on for more.

Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? (1)

What to Consider When Deciding If You Should Wear Black to a Wedding

Although the color black is an etiquette-approved choice for wedding guests, there are some instances in which wearing this hue is more advisable than others. Here are some of the factors to keep in mind when making your decision.

The Location

Wearing black to a wedding largely depends on the location. For instance, in the Northeast, such as New York City or Boston, black evening gowns are very common. However, in the South, you’ll find attendees sporting brighter colors. For destination weddings, black wedding guest attire is suitable for European cities like London or Paris, but punchy shades fare better at tropical islands or beach resorts, such as in the Bahamas or Tulum.

The Venue

The venue itself will also shape your decision. If you’re attending a wedding at a modern or minimalist spot, such as a city rooftop, black will suit the setting. The color also fares well with swanky sites, such as a hotel ballroom or historic museum. On the other hand, garden fêtes necessitate pastels or vibrant tones, whereas barn or vineyard weddings lend themselves to jewel-tone hues.

The Dress Code

Black is usually best suited for formal celebrations, as the color is "very conservative and very polished-looking,” Smith shares. Couples usually specify the guest code at the bottom of their invitations and on their wedding website, so if you’ve been invited to a formal affair, black is a resounding “yes.”

That being said, black can still work for more casual attire guidelines, but make sure to assess the other coexisting conditions first. However, for festive or tropical weddings, you might be better off sticking to more dazzling, striking shades, whether it’s hot pink or cheery yellow. And if the couple hasn’t outlined a dress code, Swann says the wording and style of the invitation will hint at whether or not it’s appropriate.

The Season

The color black isn’t limited to a certain time of the year, but it usually makes more sense to sport the shade at a fall or winter wedding since it matches the dark, moody weather. Spring and summer nuptials often see increased temperatures, blooming flora and fauna, blue skies, and sunshine, so dressing in a lighter color that complements the season is preferable for many.

The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Guest Attire

When to Avoid Wearing Black to a Wedding

Wearing black attire is generally appropriate for any wedding, but the three below instances make the hue a no-go.

There’s a Color-Specific Dress Code

Pay close attention to the invitation because, sometimes, the couple will specify a color-specific dress code, such as all-white or all-blue. It goes without saying that in those cases, black will not be a remote possibility. Williams and Kaye also note that black is out of the question if you’re instructed to wear a certain print, such as florals.

The Bridal Party Is Wearing Black

Wearing the same color as the bridal party is a fashion faux pas that you don’t want to make. So, if the bridesmaids are wearing black, you’ll want to overlook this hue as a potential option for your outfit. Before the big day, try to get some intel about the shades the wedding party will be wearing; Swann suggests looking to the invitation for information. If the card is decorated with a lot of black designs, disregarding the shade is a safe bet.

It Disrespects the Couple’s Heritages

If you’ve been invited to a wedding that will include Indian or Chinese cultural traditions, wearing black is disrespectful. In these cultures, the color represents mourning, so it stands in direct opposition to the purpose of a wedding. Instead, opt for more colorful outfits.

Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? (2)

Tips for Choosing Your Black Wedding Guest Look

After assessing the above factors, if it looks like black is a suitable color for the wedding you’re attending, there are some additional tips you’ll want to follow when shopping for your garment.

Select the Right Fabric

The right fabric for your black wedding guest attire is one that aligns with the occasion and makes you look and feel comfortable and confident. A black dress in silk or satin has a sumptuous look that’s perfect for formal ballroom or city soirées, per Kaye and Williams, and the fluidity and breathability of these materials also make them an apt possibility for warmer-weather, laid-back affairs. Since black absorbs heat, however, a light fabric like linen is the best suggestion for hot, humid climates and seasons. Smith also notes that latex or pleather are some of the fabrics you’ll want to steer clear of.

Look for Appropriate Cuts and Lengths

The last thing you want to do is upstage the bride, so Swann recommends that you avoid black-hued looks that are especially revealing, such as extremely low-cut necklines, unnecessarily tight silhouettes, and excessively short hemlines. The length that you choose will also depend on the dress code. For black-tie affairs, you’ll want to select a black gown that hits the floor, but a tea-length or knee-length dress is appropriate for a more informal dress code like co*cktail, semi-formal, or casual.

Accessorize Wisely

Since black is a blank canvas, sporting this shade gives you the autonomy to accessorize with fun, playful pieces. Add a pop of color to your attire by carrying a fuschia handbag, wearing red heels, or donning acqua statement earrings, for example. For a more subdued look, you can never go wrong with metallic adornments, such as a gold bracelet or a silver necklace. As long as it suits your personal style, the options are endless here.

Can You Wear Red to a Wedding?

Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? (2024)


Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? ›

Generally, wearing black to a wedding is appropriate. "Guests can absolutely wear black to a wedding," says Shawne Jacobs, President and Creative Director of Anne Barge. "In the past, black was a color typically worn for mourning.

Is it acceptable to wear all black to a wedding? ›

As long as it's not considered culturally inappropriate or against the dress code, you can wear black to a wedding. Depending on where the couple is exchanging vows, which season their special day is taking place in, and what time of day everything begins, black may or may not be your best color option.

How do you ask guests to wear all black to a wedding? ›

If you're going to request a certain dress code or color from your guests, be upfront about this from the beginning. That means notifying them of this on the invitation or even the save the date. This gives guests time to find an appropriate outfit or bow out if they're not able to follow it.

Can you wear a black wedding dress yes or no? ›

For many cultures, black clothing has long been associated with mourning and death, and sometimes even bad luck and misfortune. Though black wedding dresses are no longer considered taboo, certain individuals might not find them fitting for a celebratory occasion.

What colors to wear to a wedding as a guest? ›

If you're looking for something classic and timeless, dark colors like navy blue or black are always appropriate. For a more glamorous look, pastels such as lavender, light pink, or pale blue will add a touch of elegance to your outfit.

What colors are not appropriate to wear to a wedding? ›

Leave all white, ivory, and champagne-hued shades alone, unless the invitation specifically designates an all-white dress code. "White and ivory are such a stark, prominent color that when you are the only one, as the bride, wearing it, all eyes are on you," says Avrumson.

What do you wear to a wedding if you only wear black? ›

Incorporate a splash of colour via your accessories, for example vibrant heels, handbag or headpiece. Wear a print, e.g. polka dot or floral. Up the occasionwear factor via texture with lace, tulle or feathers. Wear sequins or embellishment, or a metallic fabric.

What is formal black attire requested? ›

When jargon such as “Black Tie Preferred” or “Black Tie Requested,” is used, this indicates that the host wants to put on a formal affair, but does not want to leave out those who cannot afford a tuxedo.

What does "black attire" mean? ›

Black tie attire is slightly less formal than white tie, but it is more formal than business attire. It is the most common formal dress code for events such as weddings, proms, formal dinners, and theatre.

Can you wear red or black to a wedding? ›

Whether or not you can wear red to a wedding depends on the wedding itself and the fashion specifications dictated by the couple. Nonetheless, it is largely no longer considered a faux pas to wear red to most Western and secular nuptials.

What does a black wedding dress symbolize? ›

Some may be concerned about what it means to wear a black wedding dress. While the traditional white wedding dress was meant to symbolize innocence, a black wedding dress depicts elegance, power, mystery, and individuality.

What color shoes to wear with a black dress to a wedding? ›

In terms of color, black is a safe and classic choice, but don't be afraid to experiment with other hues. Nude, metallic, and red shoes can all add a pop of color and interest to your outfit. Remember to also consider the length and style of your dress.

What to wear to a wedding as a guest female? ›

Women wedding guests should wear a full-length dress, be it a ballgown, a sheath or an A-line style. High heels are strongly recommended. Feel free to accessorize with opulent jewelry and even elbow-length white silk gloves.

Can I have bare legs at a wedding? ›

I have advised readers that while bare legs are fine even at the most formal events, hosiery also is perfectly acceptable as long as it's skin tone and sheer. I've just returned from a wedding where I wore my new bargain ($10!) black sequined mini and consignment store jeweled black shoes (also $10).

What to wear to a 5pm wedding? ›

The staff suggests that if a wedding is taking place at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., you should wear something that easily transitions from day to night; any ceremony after 6 p.m. should be strictly co*cktail.

What is acceptable to wear to a wedding as a guest? ›

Semi-Formal: For daytime weddings, women can wear a knee-length or midi dress, while men can wear a lighter-colored suit. For evening events, opt for darker colors and more formal attire. Dressy Casual: Women can wear a casual dress or separates, while men should wear dress pants with a collared shirt and blazer.

What does wearing all black to a wedding mean? ›

Yes, it can absolutely be appropriate to wear black to a wedding, and it isn't typically considered disrespectful (although there are exceptions). While black attire was traditionally associated with mourning and funerals, times are changing — and so are fashion rules!

Is it okay to wear all black? ›

Dressing in all black attire is often considered a reflection of simplicity, elegance, and sophistication. This choice of color scheme can be interpreted as a sign of someone who is confident, empowered, and unafraid to stand out in a crowd. Additionally, black carries with it an inherent sense of mystery and intrigue.

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