Is It OK To Wear White to a Wedding?

It's one of the best known rules of wedding etiquette: guests don't wear white. Traditions evolve, however, and some of the world's most famous and fashionable women have done it, so is it now becoming more acceptable to wear white to a wedding?

Beyoncé and her daughter Blue Ivy were photographed in white dresses at a friend's wedding a few years ago and TikTok is still talking about whether Kate Middleton wore white on Harry and Meghan's big day. The official line from the palace? It was primrose yellow. But just because it's OK for Queen Bey doesn't mean that you—a non-famous guest—can do it.

Wedding planners say guests should, within reason, respect the bride and groom's wishes on their special day and avoid saying or doing anything that could upset them. So, do they think wearing white to a wedding is still taboo?

Wedding Dress
Bride in a white gown. A couple's wedding invitation or website will likely mention the event's dress code. iStock / Getty Images

Is It OK To Wear White to a Wedding?

The only time it's acceptable to wear white to someone else's wedding is if it was specifically requested by the bride, according to the experts. And you might want written confirmation for that.

"While many wedding traditions are going away, not wearing white as a wedding guest will always remain," Katie Brownstein, from wedding planning website Joy, told Newsweek.

"Everyone's top priority during a wedding should be ensuring that the bride feels special. And there's no quicker way to steal her thunder than by stealing her color."

Samantha Leenheer, creative director and planner at Samantha Joy Events in Ohio, pointed out that the color white enabled "the bride to stand out amongst her guests. If a guest wears white, it can be seen as if you are stealing attention or trying to upstage the bride in some way. It is best to save the white dress for any other occasion."

Abril Lopez, creative director of A Events in Miami, said you can only wear white if the dress code requires it and the couple—yes, the bride—specifically asks for it. If that's the case, it should be mentioned in the invitations.

"We recently did a stunning Miami wedding and the bride requested that all her guests come in white to fit the wedding aesthetic," Lopez told Newsweek. "We created a color palette and dress code section in the wedding website and sent reminders to the guest to make sure the dress code was followed."

Even if you are asked to wear white to match the wedding's theme, she added, you should never wear a wedding dress. Only the bride—or brides—get to wear one.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Rule? How About the Mother of the Bride?

There are no exceptions—not for the bride's mother, her sister or her in-laws. So many colors out there, why would you pick white?

Some brides, including Kate Middleton, choose white dresses for their maid of honor and attendants. That's the only time it's acceptable to see the sister of the bride or her best friend in white.

If it's not your wedding, just stay away from white, Lopez advised. "Brides usually deal with a lot during the wedding planning process, and no one should add more to her plate. If you ask her and she is not comfortable with it, that can open a Pandora's box that no one wants to deal with."

Which Colors Should You Wear and Which Should You Avoid?

Leenheer believes any color close to white should also be avoided "unless there is enough of a difference in color and pattern that you wouldn't be seen as causing confusion with the bride."

If you want a lighter color she suggests a soft pastel in pink, blue or yellow. "Even a taupe or light gray is a great alternative to white or cream."

Consider the season and the location, Lopez said. "A ballroom wedding and a beach wedding calls for very different color palettes and dressing styles."

Her advice is to check the wedding website for information on the dress code or color palette, as you want to respect the couple's wishes on their special day.

If you can't find what you're looking for, you can try doing your own research, she added. "You can Google the location or venue and even check the design style of their invitations. The graphics are usually one of the first items we work on after we agree on a certain design style, so that'll give the guests an idea of what they can expect 'theme' wise."

If the invitation and website don't mention a dress code, Brownstein advised sticking to understated cocktail attire, avoiding any color that's even close to white, or asking a member of the wedding party.

"Consider colors that correlate with the season or those that complement the wedding color palette. It is important to keep the 'nothing too distracting' motto in mind, but play around with color and even a fun statement piece to dress up the look," she said.

Same Rules Apply to All the Wedding Celebrations

Lopez warned that these rules should be observed throughout the wedding celebrations, whether that's a family dinner the night before the ceremony or breakfast at the venue the morning after.

"These rules also apply to additional wedding events hosted by the couple. Unless requested, stay away from white and similar colors for all the wedding celebrations."