Not sure what to wear to the next wedding you attend? Or are you a bride looking to mix things up a little? and express your own personality rather than someone’s cookie-cutter idea of what a wedding should be.
Well, if that’s the case you might be wondering, can you wear black to a wedding? We’re here to tell you that absolutely! Of course, you can. However, it’s not quite that simple! You can’t just rock up in black without giving it any thought. It’s a pretty bold statement and you need to consider the etiquette of the situation.
Luckily we’re on hand to supply some inside knowledge on the matter. As wedding photographers, we’ve covered thousands of weddings over the years. And yes, our uniform of choice would be black clothing. It can make you blend in with the background so that you can capture the day in a candid way. However, if worn correctly it can also make you the bell of the ball, standing out and making sure all the eyes are solely focused on you.
In this article we’re going to start off by telling you about where this myth, that black isn’t allowed at weddings, has come from, you might be surprised. We’ll then delve into some reasons why you might want to wear black at a wedding. At the same time, we’ll touch on wearing black for both brides and guests and provide some tips on how you can know if it’s appropriate or not. Finally, we’ll offer some advice on how to wear black successfully and answer some FAQs.
Sounds pretty thorough, doesn’t it? So what are you waiting for? it’s time to get into it!
The Origins of the Myth
We all know that the most popular dress color choice for a bride is white, don’t we? But things weren’t always this way. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria bucked the trend in 1840 over in little ol’ England that the popularity of a traditional white wedding really took hold.
In fact, before the white dress gained such popularity brides would be seen in all manner of colors. Red, pink, blue brown and yes you guessed it, black, would all be popular choices. Back in the day, these colors would be much less likely to show dirt and grime and therefore seemed the perfect choice.
Of course, the color black is also synonymous with mourning and is generally the color associated with funerals. It’s therefore unsurprising that most people don’t associate it with something as joyous as a wedding.
Why Do People Want to Wear Black to a Wedding?
The year is 2023 and brides and grooms up and down the land are craving something a little different for their big days.
If that means they don all-black attire then so be it. If they tell their guests they’re fine with them wearing black then let their wishes be honored.
People like wearing black clothing for many reasons. Whether that’s due to its ability to slim those curves or simply its classy and elegant appearance. It gives off an air of coolness without even trying and is easy to pair with multiple styles of weddings and venues.
It’s therefore a no-brainer that people would want to wear black to the main event on their social calendars.
Is It Impolite to Wear Black to a Wedding?
“Times they are a changin” in fact they have already changed. It’s much more acceptable these days to be rocking up in a black dress to a wedding. Whether you’re the bride, her bridesmaids, or simply a guest.
It’s such a versatile color and pairs well with many different accessories and wedding themes that it’s almost impossible to get it wrong.
Of course, if there’s a strict dress code that states “no black dresses or suits” it would be impolite to turn up wearing those but we think you already knew that didn’t you?
You may of course encounter some older generations at a wedding that don’t get it. “Why are you wearing black dear? This isn’t a funeral”
It can be especially shocking for some if the bride has chosen a black dress rather than sticking with a traditional all-white affair.
However, in this instance, these people are simply wrong. Unless it’s culturally unacceptable then you’ll be perfectly fine wearing black to a wedding. Yes, you might get some comments but we’ve done the research and you’re well within your rights!
Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?
Yes absolutely! This is a way to truly express who you are as an individual and break the mold. And no you don’t have to be an emo or goth to be wearing black to a wedding although that is a perfectly legitimate reason.
Morticia from the Addams family wouldn’t be seen dead in a white dress now, would she?!
If a black dress resonates with your personality and you feel a million dollars in it then why shouldn’t you wear it? It can add a level of drama to the occasion and can also fit in perfectly with the theme of your other wedding stationery. Say for instance you’re having a dark candlelit winter wedding, it can be the perfect combo.
Should a Groom Always Wear a Black Suit?
No, not always. It has been the way traditionally but that’s not to say it should always be the case. They should wear whatever color they feel comfortable in.
That being said though, there is something classic about a groom in a black suit contrasting against a bride’s white dress. But there’s nothing to say these roles can’t be reversed. We also like to see a groom rocking a white blazer contrasting against a bride’s black dress.
Equally, for a same-sex wedding, it can be great to play around with matching elements or completely contrast with one another.
You should discuss with your partner and try to find cohesion in your outfit choices. If in doubt consult with your wedding photographer they’ll have seen it all over the years and have a great idea of what works well.
Can the Bridesmaids Wear Black to a Wedding?
Definitely, in fact, we think black bridesmaid dresses work especially well. If a bride has opted for a traditional white dress this can really make them the center of attention in group shots. Has there ever been a better color combo than black and white? We think not!
Should the bridesmaids wear black, however, we would definitely recommend the bride and groom wear a contrasting color. Otherwise, they’ll simply blend in in all the group photos and you’re definitely bordering on it looking more like a funeral than a wedding.
This decision will usually come from the couple anyway. They’ll usually pick the bridesmaid’s dresses that fit in with the overall theme of the day. Considering the overall decoration of things like the wedding arch down to the stationery and wedding favor ideas.
Generally speaking, wearing black for guests is a safe bet these days. Equally, it’s not to say your whole outfit has to be solid black either. You can choose colorful patterns to elevate your look or accessories with colorful motifs.
For guys, having a black suit in your armory means you’ll have an outfit for almost any occasion. Fancy night out with work? It’s got you covered! Christening? Yeh, it’s got you! Formal black tie wedding? You guessed it!
One thing to consider though is the wishes of the couple. If the bride for instance is wearing a black dress it might not be appropriate for guests to also wear black. It’s a little bit like the unwritten law of not turning up in a white dress to a wedding.
It’s up to the couple to let their guests know though as whilst it’s perfectly acceptable many guests won’t expect a bride to be wearing black.
Tips for Knowing If It’s Okay to Wear Black to a Wedding
So, we’ve established that it’s pretty much acceptable to wear black for anyone at the wedding. However, we thought it appropriate to provide you with some tips on how you can identify whether or not that’s fully the case.
These considerations will help you to prevent spending big on that super fancy black dress or suit only for your money to be wasted.
Equally, they could save you the embarrassment of turning up to a wedding only to find out that wearing black is not appropriate.
Pay Attention to the Invite
A couple will have poured over the details of their wedding invitations from telling guests it’s a no-children event to the location and timings of the critical parts of the day. They will also have likely included information on the dress code for the wedding.
Should the invite read something like “formal attire” then that’s a double thumbs up to wear black for the wedding. If it says “smart casual” you may be more inclined to wear something a little less formal and colorful.
At the same time, you can also take clues from the way the invite is styled. If it’s very formally designed with black and gold text for example the chances are high that this will be a formal event. On the other hand, if it’s a rustic or colorful invite, colored outfits might be the best option.
Think About the Style of the Wedding
Following on from our point about the wedding invite you should also look at the way that it’s styled. This can often be a strong indicator of the way the wedding will be decorated and the overall theme of the day.
If it’s very formally designed with black and gold text for example the chances are high that this will be a formal event. On the other hand, if it’s a rustic or colorful invite colored outfits might be the best option.
Consider the Time of the Year
The season in which the wedding is being held can be a great indicator of whether it’s okay to wear black or not.
Whilst black is a very versatile choice it is often more appropriate for those colder months. Winter and fall weddings just get on well with black attire plain and simple.
With that being said though it also comes down to the material of choice for your outfit. For example, a lighter fabric can make a black dress work well for a summer wedding as can a black dress with floral accents.
Think About the Time of Day
As we’ve already mentioned, a dark and moody candlelit wedding could be the perfect option for wearing black. Whereas an outdoor midday wedding in the blazing sun in Italy may see you think about wearing another color.
Black is much more likely to attract heat and make you feel uncomfortable. If you are attending a wedding in the midday sun maybe think about lighter color options.
Where Is the Wedding Being Held?
Once again you’ll likely learn this information from the wedding invitation. Try to match your attire to the location of the wedding.
For instance, say the couple is having a beach wedding in Hawaii a black dress may not be the best option. It doesn’t really fit with the aesthetic but could also leave you feeling uncomfortable.
On the other hand, if the wedding were to be a ballroom-style shindig then wearing black is the perfect combo and you can’t go wrong.
Simply Ask the Question
If you’re in any doubt about whether or not it’s okay to wear black to a wedding you should just ask the question. Either ask the couple directly or approach someone that’s close to the action such as the maid of honor or best man.
This way you’ll be in no doubt about the couple’s opinion on guests wearing black to their big day. Should they have no issue with it then your mind will be at ease and you can rock up to the wedding with total confidence.
When You Really Shouldn’t Wear Black to a Wedding
There aren’t many instances that you’ll really upset anyone by wearing black to a wedding.
However, we have identified three that if broken could cause real upset to the couple on the happiest day of their life.
The Couple Has Made a Special Request
Going against the wishes of a couple is really bad, there’s no two ways about it. If they’ve said they don’t want anyone turning up to their wedding in black clothing then their wishes should be respected.
As we’ve already touched on this information will usually be relayed to you in the wedding invite. It may also be on the couple’s wedding website or may just be common knowledge especially if the bride plans on wearing a black dress.
There may be cultural reasons why black clothing is inappropriate for a wedding. For instance, in Chinese and Indian cultures it is very much seen as a symbol of mourning and not one used to signify celebration.
It would be especially odd for example for a couple to both wear black for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The color of choice here is red and has been for centuries.
Try to be considerate of other cultures if you are a guest attending a wedding and don’t be scared to ask. It’s far better than turning up and offending anyone with your outfit choice.
The Bride Is Already Wearing Black
Should a bride choose to wear a black wedding dress for her big day it’s generally not appropriate for others to copy her. Much like the tradition of not wearing white to a wedding to upstage the bride the same sentiment holds true.
If the bride does choose this option they will likely have told their guests that this is the case. It is slightly out of the ordinary and they’ll want to avoid any confusion for their attendees.
Tips If You Do Wear Black to a Wedding
Add Hints of Color
You can make an all-black outfit pop by adding hints of color. On a dress, this can come in the form of a vibrant floral print for example. This makes it appropriate for those summer outdoor weddings as well as a classy indoor ballroom soiree.
For the guys out there, they can add a touch of color to things like their ties or bow ties. They could even jazz up their look by also getting creative with their pocket square folds.
These small considerations can transform an outfit from something somber into something way more joyful and celebratory. The perfect look for any wedding!
Don’t Look Like You’re Dressed for a Funeral
The key to wearing black at a wedding successfully is to not look like you’re attending a funeral.
This will be the common complaint from many people who just don’t get your choices.
However, there are a few simple tricks that can still make your black outfit sing and be celebratory.
- Choose the right design: Avoid anything super conservative as this will give off funeral vibes to the max. If you’re a bride choose a silhouette that is just like a white wedding dress but in black. This will still have many celebratory design cues to make you look fab.
- Incorporate textures: When choosing your black clothing think about the textures and how they can completely change the look and feel of your outfit. A black linen suit for example would be perfectly at home for a summer wedding but may look out of place in the fall.
- Makeup: Try and avoid anything overly dark. Of course, it’s your choice but it could contribute to a funeral-like aesthetic that may be best avoided.
- Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize: Yeh you heard us right get creative with your accessories. These can add little pops of color here and there that can really lift your outfit. Think colorful shoes, patterned scarves, or a jazzy tie.
- Confidence is key: What will really help you to pull off wearing black to a wedding well is if you show utter confidence in wearing your clothing. Wear it with a smile and no one will be in any doubt that you’re having the best time ever on your big day.
What Does It Mean to Wear Black to a Wedding?
There was a period of time when turning up to a wedding wearing black would definitely be frowned upon. However, as we’ve established throughout this article times have changed and it’s now perfectly acceptable.
Nowadays it’s still seen as an alternative to the traditional white gown but it’s one that makes you stand out from the crowd and express your own personality.
For a guest it allows them to wear the same outfit multiple times and no one will ever notice. Say for example you turn up in a neon pink dress as a guest. You can’t very well wear that same outfit for the next 5 weddings you attend, can you?!
Can I Wear a Black Dress to a Summer Wedding?
Absolutely! As we’ve touched on in the article, choosing a black dress made of a light material works incredibly well for summer weddings. Equally, picking out a black dress that has a gorgeous floral pattern will well and truly give off those summer vibes.
What Colors Are Not Appropriate to Wear to a Wedding?
There aren’t really any colors that you can wear that will have you kicked out of a wedding. Unless of course, you’ve gone against the wishes of the couple in which case you deserve everything you get!
Generally speaking though as a guest at a wedding you’ll want to avoid wearing the same color as the bride and her bridesmaids. If you blend in with these it could cause confusion in group photos and cause upset to the bridal party.
Well, there you have it! Can you wear black to a wedding? YES a big resounding yes from us with a double thumbs-up seal of approval.
Whether you’re a bride, a bridesmaid, a groom, an usher, or even a guest it’s perfectly acceptable to wear black to a wedding. Heck, even wedding photographers can wear black!
The only thing you need to make sure of is that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your choices. If you’re a guest just double-check that invitation or wedding website and make sure it doesn’t say “No black outfits allowed”
The couple will generally set the standard. By that we mean if the bride has opted to wear black on the day they’ll usually request that no one else follows suit.
Equally, if they’ve decided the bridesmaids and groomsmen will don black attire they may also suggest that no one else does.
It’s the couple’s big day and guests will generally respect their decisions in this regard.
At the end of the day a wedding is about celebrating with your nearest and dearest. Declaring your love to your partner that you’ll spend the rest of your life with and having one heck of a good time.
So, whilst what you plan to wear may seem like the be-all and end-all the day is about so much more.
Make sure you enjoy the wedding no matter what you wear!