Can I Wear Black to A Wedding as a Guest? – The Dos and Don’ts

Girl wearing black dress

As Wedding Know How editors, we write about things that we love and we think you'll like too. We have affiliate partnerships and sponsorship and may generate some revenue from these at no cost to you.

If you asked this question a decade or so ago, you would probably get a lot of eye rolls and maybe even some glares from the people around you. But times have changed and nowadays, even the bride doesn’t necessarily have to wear white for her wedding. 

Nevertheless, you still need to check the situation or the setting before deciding to wear black as a wedding guest. As with any social etiquette, there is a proper time and place for everything.  

So, before you put on your favorite black dress, make sure you get enough background information on the wedding that you are attending. 

When Is It Okay to Wear Black? 

In the past, black was the color for funerals, so wearing it to a wedding was a big no-no. However, these days, the rules have been turned on their heads. You’ll see brides wearing black as they walk down the aisle, while some mourners choose to wear white to funerals. 

Recently, Ivanka Trump posted a photo from her sister Tiffany’s wedding. It featured members of her family in gorgeous pastel gowns.  

However, while the post appeared sweet and lovely enough, it became apparent that  Ivanka had cropped her brother’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle out of the frame. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t family – or did it have something to do with the color of her outfit? 

Guilfoyle’s black dress brought back the age-old question – should you wear black to a wedding?  

Before you don your favorite black outfit, make sure you do your research to see if the wedding party has any cultural or religious associations with the color black. This is because black has various meanings and symbolism in different cultures and groups around the world.  

If there is no conflict in these areas, male guests can opt for a black suit or a dress shirt, while females have a lot more options ranging from pantsuits to cocktail dresses. As always, don’t forget the golden rule of any wedding guest –  and that is to never overshadow the bride. 

Having said that, black is always best avoided at weddings if possible. there are so many gorgeous colors out there, more suited for weddings. Unless specified, we recommend opting for a different color than black, just to be safe.  

When You Should Not Wear Black to A Wedding 

There are several situations where black is not suitable for a wedding. First on the list is when the couple specifically has asked you to refrain from doing so. As a guest at someone else’s wedding, it’s important to follow the couple’s rules and if they say you can’t wear black, then it’s best to do as they say. 

Another reason is when there’s a clash with the tradition or belief that is being practiced by the wedding party or in the venue where the wedding is going to be held. As such, you can avoid possible conflicts by doing your own research before preparing your attire. Here are some examples: 

1. Wearing Black To A Chinese Wedding 

For the Chinese, black is strongly associated with death and grief. It’s still commonly worn during funerals and is considered to be a sign of bad luck. Take care not to wear this hue when attending the wedding of a Chinese couple, or you may be perceived as someone with bad intentions toward them. If in doubt, however, you can always ask the couple about their stance on the color.  

2. Wearing Black to A Muslim Wedding 

Like the Chinese, Muslims also tend to consider black to be a bad omen. While some Muslim groups do not have an issue with guests wearing black to attend a wedding, it is not advisable to take the risk especially if you are not sure about the stand of the bride and groom or their families.  

3. Wearing Black to An Irish Wedding 

Black is considered to be a funeral attire to the Irish and must not be worn when attending a wedding. This includes wearing black stockings, which are perceived as informal and not suitable for special celebrations like weddings. 

4. Wearing Black to An Indian Wedding 

Black attire worn at an Indian wedding may be perceived as an insult or a curse to the couple who are getting married. This is because black has negative associations in their culture such as infertility, evil spirits, passivity, or death. With this, make sure to skip any black outfits when attending an Indian wedding.  

5. Wearing Black to A Spanish Wedding 

Female guests should take care not to wear black attire, particularly dresses when attending a Spanish wedding. In the olden days, a Spanish bride would wear a black bridal gown as a demonstration of her commitment to the groom.  

This serves as a nonverbal promise that only death will separate them. While modern Spanish brides now wear the more popular white gown, some prefer to stick to tradition and choose a black gown. Thus, it is best for female guests to avoid wearing black apparel in order to prevent a possible clash with the bride’s attire.  

How To Know What You Should Wear to A Wedding 

There are certain rules of etiquette that must be observed when attending a wedding and following the dress code is one of them. But etiquette aside, it is also beneficial for you to match the wedding theme and location.  

In most cases, the wedding invite would clearly specify the dress code, in which case it would be quite easy for you to plan your attire accordingly. If it’s not stated in the invite, look for clues that could give you directions for your fashion choice. This will give you clues whether a black dress will suit the situation or not.  

Check the schedule of the wedding. The season and time of day always impact your clothing choices. Choose airy or cool clothes for an outdoor venue, especially if the wedding is going to place during dry or humid months. A black dress on the beach during the day just doesn’t look right, does it? 

If it’s in a garden or backyard where the surface could be soft and uneven, make sure to put on clothes and footwear that will allow you to move freely so you won’t have to stumble around the venue while chatting with other guests. 

Pay attention to non-verbal cues around the invite as well. Couples would usually design their invite according to the theme of the celebration. So, if you see bohemian elements scattered over the invite, a flowy dress with bold colors and patterns would most likely be a safe bet.  

At this point, if you are still unsure or don’t want to take a risk, you could also ask the bride or the groom directly especially if you have a close relationship with either of them. However, if the wedding date is approaching, it is best not to bother the couple and ask their family or close friends for their recommendations instead.  

Wrapping Up 

So, to wear or not to wear? Generally, it’s best to avoid black unless the couple has requested black attire. The chances are higher that black will not suit the event than they are that it will. To avoid any faux pas, we recommend opting for other colors. 

Having said that, check for clues or get the information directly as to whether or not black is acceptable or not. After all, it’s the bride and groom’s day, so let’s give them what they want.