Weddings are shrouded in etiquette rules of what you can and can’t do, but some rules are clearer than others.
For example, most of us know you shouldn’t wear white or ivory to a wedding (unless you’re the bride of course), but what about black? Is it appropriate for a wedding, or best reserved for funeral attire?
Can you wear a black dress to a wedding?
According to wedding etiquette experts, it’s totally acceptable to wear black to a wedding, but more importantly, your black dress needs to fit in with the ‘style’ of wedding attire and the setting the wedding is taking place in.
Most wedding experts agree that it’s perfectly acceptable to wear black to a wedding, but whether or not you feel that black is appropriate is more of a personal thing.
For some of us, black feels like a sleek and sophisticated choice, whereas for others, it’ll feel bold and out of place. It also depends a lot on the kind of wedding you’re attending and the surrounding environment.
The Dos and Don’ts for wearing black to a wedding
DO choose an appropriate style of dress
While it’s perfectly fine to wear a black dress to a wedding, you should definitely pay close attention to the type of wedding you’re attending. Black dresses are versatile, but it all comes down to selecting the right style.
For example, if you’re attending a glamorous, large-scale wedding in a luxurious ballroom where people will be dressed in black-tie attire, a black dress seems more than appropriate.
On the other hand, if you’re attending a beach wedding, something shorter and floatier would be a better choice, and if it’s a bohemian style wedding in a countryside setting, you’ll want to opt for something that perhaps has lace or floral detailing.
The time of year will also affect the type of dress. For example, you may feel a little strange rocking up to a summer wedding in a black dress, but it can still work if you opt for something with a floral pattern on it or something in the right style.
Another tip for wearing black is to use your accessories as a way to add a splash of color or detailing to your black dress. This is perfect if you’re a minimalist who wants to steer clear of floral prints.
For example, you can dress your black dress up with statement jewelry, brightly-hued shoes or a bold clutch bag, or even a simple red lip. Use your black dress as a canvas and build your outfit around it. Doing this will help break up the harshness of the color, too.
DON’T go too casual or too sexy
If you’re somebody who relies on your favorite little black dress a lot, be sure that it’s wedding-appropriate. Weddings are an opportunity to dress up and wear formal attire, and if it’s a black-tie wedding or a super formal event, your favorite black party dress may not be entirely appropriate.
You should also avoid anything that’s too revealing, especially if the wedding is being held in a place of worship. If the dress you’re wearing reveals a lot of flesh, for example, your back or shoulders, it might be a good idea to wear a light cover-up for the ceremony, and you can always remove this later on.
DO ask if you’re unsure
If you can’t quite figure out whether black is appropriate for the wedding you’re attending, there’s no harm in asking the couple. This is a better option than turning up and feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb in a sea of colorful dresses.
Usually, you’ll find an indication of the dress code in the invitation and details such as the time and location of the wedding. For example, for a formal wedding in a swanky hotel, it would be inappropriate to wear a sundress.
If you’re unsure of the dress code, it’s perfectly fine to ask the couple, a parent of the couple, or a member of the wedding party for clarification of what does and doesn’t fit within the dress code.
DO consider cultural connotations
Black is considered appropriate for most western-style weddings, however, in some cultures, it may still be inappropriate to wear. For example, the dark hue is often discouraged at traditional Indian and Chinese weddings, as it represents mourning.
It’s best to respect these cultural expectations so as not to offend any elderly members of the wedding party, and it’ll also avoid any embarrassment on your behalf.
DO respect the couple’s request
If a couple has set a particular theme for their wedding, they may request that guests avoid black to follow a specific theme.
If you want to get a better idea of what you can and can’t wear, it’s best to speak to the couple to get more clarity. Many couples today also set up a wedding website and this is likely to contain more information about the dress code.
Generally speaking, it’s perfectly fine to wear black to a wedding, and, unless you’ve had a specific instruction not to wear the color, or there are cultural reasons for you not to wear it, it’s generally considered appropriate for modern weddings.
However, what is even more important than the color of your dress is its style. Ensure that it fits in with the theme and setting of the wedding and that it’s appropriate for the type of wedding you’re attending.
The main thing is that you take the time to research the couple’s dress code and pick your outfit accordingly. This way, you’ll avoid feeling out of place on the day and will get to focus on enjoying a great day with family and friends.