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Is It Okay To Wear Red To A Wedding?

Girl wearing red dress

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Traditionally, the bride wears white on her wedding, which is why it’s considered taboo to wear white as a guest, unless otherwise encouraged by the couple. You might ask – if white is off the table for this reason, does it mean that all other colors are acceptable?

Since it’s a celebration of love, perhaps Red would be great to wear at a wedding, right?

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Well, it’s not that simple. Loud colours that draw too much attention are just as much of a faux pas. So before you buy that red dress or take an old favorite out for dry cleaning, it will be useful to know how this color is accepted or frowned upon around the world for wedding guests.

What’s Wrong with Red?

Bride wearing red dress

In all honesty, there’s nothing wrong with wearing red to a wedding in the Western world. It’s a stylish, sexy color that complements almost all skin tones and doesn’t require a lot of accessories to make it stand out because it’s already a statement color.

However, that’s exactly the issue with red.

Because it’s such a strong color you’ll easily stand out from the crowd if you decide to wear red because most people choose more neutral shades, like navy, cream, pastels or maroons, to wear to a wedding.  While it’s nice to stand out sometimes, you probably don’t want to be the first person people spot in a group wedding photo. This is why it’s often considered rude to wear red to a wedding because you could be drawing away the attention from the bride and your dress could be trying to upstage her even if you aren’t doing so intentionally.  

Red heels and yellow dress

Add some red to your look via your accessories

Some modern brides, especially in Western parts of the globe, will not mind a dash of red worn to their wedding. In fact, some couples like to have red as a motif, in which case, you are free to wear this color. More relaxed, dinner parties would be a great chance to wear red as well as it doesn’t appear as loud as it would during the day. As long as the style is not too vulgar, red exudes a certain elegance perfect for celebrations.

If you love red but feel a red dress might be too much, you can always incorporate a little red into your overall look via your accessories. A red pair of shoes, a red clutch or even a red sash to complement your dress will give you that a bit of sexy glam without going overboard.

Wearing Red as a Wedding Guest – Traditions Around the World

If you’ve been invited to a traditional wedding and you’re aren’t sure about the red-wearing etiquette to weddings, it’s wise to research before bringing out your favorite red dress. Let’s take a look at some wedding traditions around the world with relation to wearing red as a wedding guest.

1- Wearing Red at a Mexican Wedding

Mexican bridal dress red

A Mexican bridal dress.

See it here

Mexican festivities are often associated with colorful decor and lively music, with red being a color you see frequently. Their culture is heavily influenced by Spanish tradition and often incorporates elements of luck, fertility, and prosperity. There is a Mexican superstition that if a bride sews a red ribbon inside the wedding dress, they will be blessed with a passionate marriage.

Indigenous women from Mexico and Central America would traditionally wear a garment called Huipil – a woven fabric decorated with embroidery, ribbons and lace and often featuring lots of red color. The members of the bridal party often wear a colorful ensemble as well.

These days, you can expect more variation from the traditional Huipil, with brides wearing designer dresses in modern styles. However, the parties often stay true to the cheerful and vibrant ambiance of Mexican affairs. It’s a good excuse to bring out the tequila bottles after all!  If you’ve been invited to such a party, feel free to wear red and dance the night away to the mariachi tunes!

2- Wearing Red at an Indian Wedding

Bride In Red Wedding Dress

Indian Brides traditionally wear a wedding Saree – a garment that is typically wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder. There are many styles and ways to wear this garment depending on the region where the Bride is from, but red is the most popular color of choice.

The color red is considered to be the most auspicious color among Hindus as it symbolizes fertility, love, and passion. It is also a symbolic color of Shakti Maata, the mother of the universe, and Mars, the planet associated with marriages. Thus, while guests are often encouraged to wear bright colors for their outfits and accessories, red should be avoided as this is reserved for the Bride. White and black are also avoided since these colors are often worn during funerals. 

3- Wearing Red in a Chinese Wedding

Chinese couple
Traditional Chinese bridal shoes

Chinese bride in red dress (above) and traditional Chinese bridal shoes (below)

Chinese bridal wear incorporates red fabric elaborately embroidered in gold and silver to symbolize a family’s wealth. The color red is an auspicious color for the Chinese, and therefore, is worn on special occasions such as birthdays and weddings for good luck. It also goes beautifully together with the gold jewelry that Chinese brides tend to wear on their special day.

The tradition is still very much alive for Chinese brides to wear red on their wedding. However, it’s more common now to wear this as a second outfit for the reception or during the tea ceremony. However way the couple decides to incorporate red on their wedding day, if you are invited to a Chinese wedding, steer clear of red as this will be considered impolite.

Tips to Picking the Right Wedding Guest Attire

It’s common for most people invited to a wedding to fret about what to wear. Here are some tips to point you in the right direction.

Take a Cue from the Invitations

Wedding invitation sample

Couples exert tremendous effort to plan out their wedding and execute a specific vision for their special day. As a guest, you are expected to be supportive and considerate of their wishes. Thankfully, the couple’s preferences are rarely a guessing game thanks to a little thing called the invitation card!

Aside from the obvious information such as time, venue, gift registry, and RSVP details, you’ll need to keep a look out for guidelines on attire. They’ve pulled all the stops to ensure that their setup from the Ceremony, through Cocktails and Reception are cohesive, and the guests that will be gracing the event will help put everything together.

You’ll instantly get a feel of the vibe they are going for just from the style of the invite: a colorful one can encourage bold choices, while a crisp white card and envelope may indicate a more muted and classy affair.

Abide by the Theme

Girl wearing red dress

There are different ways the couple can steer their guests in the right direction with regards to attire. Pay attention to keywords like Black Tie Formal, indicating a choice between long gowns and you’ve guessed it – suit and tie for men. Cocktail Attire means dress length is flexible and men can choose to drop the coat from their ensemble. Resort Wear is on the casual side, indicating flowy maxi / mid-length dresses for ladies and men can leave out the tie.

Themed weddings can be more specific about what to wear, and you’ll need to put in a little extra effort to fit in. The couple may request their guests to wear florals, or a specific color (e.g. all white, all black), while in certain cultures, traditional wedding attire can be even more distinct. A Filipiniana theme could incorporate pineapple fabric for both men and women while Indian Weddings may require a Sari for ladies and Dhoti for men.

Consider the Couple

As much as they want their guests to enjoy and be impressed with carefully thought-out details of the wedding, all this effort is also for posterity through captured photos and videos. This day is a celebration of them as a couple and they should naturally stand out. So always bear that in mind. In other words, it’s not your day, it’s theirs.

The Verdict: Wear Red WITH Caution

Girl wearing red dress

The customs that surround weddings can be a tricky one to maneuver around, but the secret is awareness. Since you are invited by the couple to their wedding, they must think you are an important part of their celebration. Make an effort to familiarise yourself with the traditions that surround the wedding you’re going to be a part of and make a conscious decision to respect their culture.

If you’re not sure, avoid the red dress and go with a more neutral uncontroversial color. As Oscar de la Renta was once quoted saying: “Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense” and this is really all the advice you’ll need.