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The School of Etiquette

Why you shouldn’t wear white to a wedding

Tanya nervously stood in front of her wardrobe, trying to find the perfect outfit for her friend’s wedding. As she rummaged through all her dresses, she kept coming back to a beautiful white sundress that was simple yet elegant; a dress that had made her feel confident every time she’d worn it in the past.

She knew that wearing white to a wedding was considered taboo, but she couldn’t resist the allure of the dress and after much contemplation, she decided to wear it regardless. She thought her friend would understand that it was her favourite dress and she meant no harm by wearing it.

As soon as she arrived at the wedding, Tanya could feel the disapproving stares of the other guests. She tried to brush it off, reminding herself that she looked good and that’s all that mattered.

However, when she finally saw her friend, the bride, her heart sank. Her friend looked at her in disbelief, and Tanya could see the disappointment in her eyes. She knew right then and there that she had made a mistake.

Throughout the night, Tanya tried to avoid the bride, sensing her anger and disapproval. When the wedding reception came to an end, Tanya gathered the courage to approach her and apologise for her mistake.

However it was too late. Her friend was hurt and upset by Tanya’s choice of outfit. It wasn’t about the dress; it was about the disrespect she’d shown by wearing white.

Tanya left the wedding feeling ashamed and embarrassed. She realised that her desire to wear her favourite dress had caused a rift in her friendship with the bride.

She learned the hard way that sometimes, it’s better to follow the rules, even if it means sacrificing something you love.


wedding guest wearing white

It’s increasingly becoming popular for wedding guests to turn up to a traditional ‘white wedding’ wearing white.* Many people don’t see this as a problem, so as part of our ‘WHY Series’ and being that we’ve officially entered into wedding season, we’ve decided to shed some light on why from an etiquette perspective, it’s wrong as a guest to wear white.

Weddings are special occasions and it’s important to show respect for the couple and their families by dressing appropriately.


Choosing an outfit that’s not only respectful but appropriate, will help ensure everyone can enjoy the wedding without any unnecessary distractions, because ultimately the wedding is about the couple and the attention should be on them.


Conventionally, wearing white/ ivory to a wedding is frowned upon because it’s the colour typically worn by the bride, therefore wearing white can be seen as a sign of disrespect or an attempt to upstage, outshine or even compete with the bride.


Part of etiquette is not only making others feel comfortable, but also empathising with or putting yourself in others shoes to see from their perspective. Therefore, if you put yourself in the bride’s shoes, you’ll see how regardless of your intentions, dressing in white to her wedding could be deemed inappropriate or offensive.


Likewise, although wearing black can be a chic and stylish choice, it’s also traditionally associated with mourning and to some people can also be seen as a sign of disrespect at weddings.

Jeans or casual wear is also a huge wedding ‘no no’. Weddings are formal occasions and it’s important to dress accordingly, so avoid casual clothing like jeans, t-shirts, shorts etc.

That being said, the exception to these rules are if the couple specifically request that their guests wear white or black. Similarly, they may have a particular theme that includes dressing in what may usually be frowned upon at a wedding e.g: casual/ relaxed wear.


Ultimately, if you’re unsure about what to wear, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and choose an outfit that’s more conservative, rather than risk offending the couple or their families.

*In some cultures, guests are expected to wear white.

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