Few fashion dilemmas split opinion quite like the question, ‘can you wear white to a wedding?’.
Much like wearing black to a wedding, the colour can be frowned upon by the bridal party and guests alike.
Since Queen Victoria first wore a white lace gown when she wed Albert in 1840, brides have followed the wedding tradition since. White wedding dresses are considered a symbol of purity and enable brides to stand out on the big day.
Choosing to wear white as a guest can be seen as trying to steal attention away from the happy couple. But, there’s also growing camp who believe stringent dress codes are a thing of the past and there may be some are exceptions to the rule. We spoke to the experts to look at both sides of the age-old debate.
Can you wear white to a wedding? We ask the experts…
NO: Etiquette expert Jo Bryant thinks wearing white to a wedding is a risky move. “It is still generally considered to be ‘bad form’ to wear all white to a wedding. It’s a big risk as it can be taken as you trying to upstage the bride,” says Jo. “Plus, you may look too prominent in group photos.”
“With so many other colours available, my advice would be to avoid the light hue altogether. You could perhaps get away with a white patterned outfit, but why chance it? It’s one day, try a different look.” says Jo.
YES: Sarah Allard, Editor of wedding planning website Hitched, thinks traditionalists need to loosen up and you can wear white to a wedding. “With wedding rules much more relaxed now, it’s a slightly old-fashioned view that guests should never wear white to a wedding,” Sarah says. “While I would always recommend approaching this with caution, there are many times when wearing white is acceptable. For example, a white outfit with a lot of pattern, or if the dress code is set as all white, or black and white.
“White can look extremely chic and guests can still add a pop of colour to their outfits with vibrant shoes and accessories. White bridesmaids dresses are also an increasingly popular trend, making it more acceptable for guests to opt for this colour. Only you know if your friend or family member will be ok with you wearing white or not, so if in doubt – ask!”
15 style tips for wearing white to a wedding
From pretty prints to adding quirky accessories, these are the style tips you need to get your wedding guest outfit all white on the night.
1. Opt for polka dot prints
Reformation Mylah Dress
RRP: £218 |Sizes: 4-16
It helps to soften the blow a little if the white outfit you choose is covered in a print to distract from the light background colour. You can’t go wrong with classic polka dots and this midi dress is a great option for any dressy event. The sweetheart neckline is super flattering while the split in the dress allows the fabric to flow without being too restricting. There is no way this gorgeous frock can be compared to the bride so you can rest assured guests won’t bat an eyelid. Add a red lip and up the glam factor.
2. Try a floral pattern
Finery London Tove White Floral Midi Dress
RRP: £59 | Sizes: 8-18
Much like polka dots, a floral print is timeless and never goes out of style. This pretty frock suits all shapes thanks to the flattering sleeves and belt that gives more definition to your silhouette. Despite the white background, there are a mix of colours in the print that means it feels more of a rainbow frock than a light hue. Pull out one of the colours for your accessories, like these timeless LK Bennett court shoes, and you’ll be picture perfect in the wedding photos.
3. Make it mini
Warehouse Mini Dress with Embroidery
RRP: £89 | Sizes: 6-16
Try to avoid floor length frocks or voluminous A-line designs otherwise it might appear you’re trying to emulate the bride. Play it safe and choose a shorter style that sits above the knee to obviously set yourself apart from the bridal party. This pretty design has added embroidery for a touch of colour while the sleeves are great if you’re self-conscious of upper arms. Add a pair of Office espadrille wedges for extra height, comfort and style that will keep you on the dance floor all night.
4. Take a monochrome masterclass
Ted Baker Yondia Pleat & Release Mockable Dress
RRP: £179 | Sizes: 6-18
Monochrome is a classic combination that helps to break up the stark white in an outfit. The flared skirt is printed to help further distract from the light top. This frock works well for pear shapes thanks to it’s fitted top half and flaring out to skim over bum and thighs. A skater frock also means you can stock up at the evening buffet as the material effortlessly floats over your middle so you can disguise bloating. Win-win! Add a classic like this John Lewis leather clutch bag and you’re good to go.
5. Suit up
Reiss Ember tailored single breasted blazer and slim fit tailored trousers
RRP: blazer, £238, trousers, £128 | Sizes: 4-16
A chic suit in a warmer cream tone is a classic, although it might be worth checking if you’re heading to a smaller registry office wedding as white suits can be popular with brides for a more casual affair. If you know she is wearing a dress, then a suit option is gorgeous.
Add a different colour top under the blazer to break up the white, like this fuchsia Warehouse camisole, that adds a pop of colour to the look. Nude heels will help elongate your legs, too, so bag these Dune mules for a dressier feel.
6. Switch trousers for shorts
Whistles Short Sleeve Linen Jacket & Bermuda Shorts
RRP: jacket, £129, shorts, £89 | Sizes: 4-18
Why not go a step further with your suit and opt for summer city style? These long-length bermuda shorts sit just above the knee offering extra coverage while still feeling contemporary. Tuck in a printed body to streamline your look and highlight your waist, then throw over the smart blazer. Roll up the sleeves, layer up Missoma chains and add chic nude Public Desire heels for an outfit that will win style points.
7. Coast colour block midi dress
RRP: £139 | Sizes: 8-18
This is a failsafe option that you don’t need to give a second thought. While the top half might be white, the bright colour block skirt makes it clear you are a guest who is there to have fun and party. Add a bright Arket hairband and chic Kate Spade bag for a look that will see you through weddings, races and cocktail parties time and time again.
8. Karen Millen Compact Stretch Colourblock A Line Dress
RRP: £179 | Sizes: 6-18
Choose a colour block dress with panels that create a slimming effect. The clever coloured panels on this fit-and-flare white frock draw the eye inwards towards your middle which in turn narrows your silhouette. Pull out the fuschia pink for accessories and the touch of white is forgotten.
9. Sleeper Atlanta off-the-shoulder shirred floral-print linen midi dress
RRP: £245 | Sizes: xs-xl
The other area to consider is the fabric used for your outfit. Try to avoid satin, lace or crepe which are often common materials for bridal gowns and instead look for more relaxed textiles. Lightweight linen is fab for summer weddings or try an edgy leather dress in winter. This Sleeper number is so versatile it looks just as show-stopping at a wedding as it would at a park picnic. Plus the ditsy daisy print avoids it being top to toe when wearing white to a wedding.
10. River Island White Short Sleeve Broderie Shirt Back Dress
RRP: £60 | Sizes: xs-xl
Think of pretty broderie anglaise as the cool cousin of lace. With similar openwork, the dainty fabric is often less formal than lace meaning it can just about be considered acceptable. This mini dress has beautiful pearl detailing which could be dangerous for a wedding but the loose smock shape means it’s unlikely to be considered a threat to a bridal gown. Add a pair of Mango strappy heels to dress up the look.
11. Phase Eight Linda Frill Jumpsuit
RRP: £125 | Sizes: 6-20
A chic jumpsuit is a great alternative to a dress, but it comes with a warning. Similarly to the suit, try to find out what the bride is wearing incase she has gone a little quirky and chosen a jumpsuit herself. If not, you’re good to go. This all-in-one oozes sophistication and is kept on the right side of wedding attire thanks to the pale pink trouser half. Perfect for an elegant white wedding, not so fun when you need a hand in the toilet to take it off.
12. Colour clash your shoes
Zara shimmery mid-heel slingback shoes
Wondering whether you can you wear white to a wedding – but look less distracting? Colour pop shoes are the answer. Add instant fun to your look with a pair of bright heels that will turn you from awkward to on-trend in seconds. Go bold with your footwear to make a real statement that brings a whole new meaning to dancing shoes.
13. Accesssorise, accessorise, accessorise
Boden Raffia Tassel Ring Earrings
Much like the bright shoes, accessorize your outfit with pieces that make a statement. Avoid pearls or diamonds and try costume jewellery instead. Tassel earrings, statement necklaces or chunky bracelets will all help give your look a fashionable edge and deter from the white outfit.
14. Cinch your waist
Next Animal Print Jeans Belt
A belt can instantly break up an outfit and stop the eye being drawn to a top-to-toe streamlined look. Cinch in your waist with a leopard print belt to add some fierce elements that will set you apart from the bride. You’ll get so much wear out of a belt like this, it’s a worthy investment in general.