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Can You Wear a Black Dress to a Wedding?

Proper attire is essential for a wedding. You want to enjoy the day and support the bride. However, knowing what to wear can be difficult. A little black dress is great for many occassions. You can wear your black dress to a wedding, if you follow some basic guidelines.

A bride wearing a black wedding dress in a wintry forest.

When you get a wedding invitation, one of your first thoughts is what to wear. Men have it relatively easy, but the topic is complicated for women.

We are told not to outshine the bride, which is a reasonable request. However, how to avoid that can easily go from black and white to gray, leaving you stressed and confused.

In addition, there are colors that traditionally weren’t worn at weddings. You want to be a good wedding guest, and that involves looking the part. But how?

The little black dress is a fashion icon. It’s versatile. It looks great on you. It’s a must-have in any woman’s closet. Is it appropriate to wear to a wedding? If it is, how do you pull off wearing a little black dress to a wedding, and why is it considered a fashion faux pas?

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Weddings and Colors

This is a close look at a row of bridesmaids wearing black dresses.

Traditionally, there were three colors that you shouldn’t wear to a wedding. You couldn’t wear white, because it’s the color of the bride’s wedding dress. You couldn’t wear red, because it was seen as too flashy.

You couldn’t wear black, because it was the color of mourning. Wearing black to any type of celebration was considered inappropriate, but it was particularly true of weddings. After all, a wedding is the ultimate celebration.

The good news is today, the dress code is less restrictive. You can wear black to a wedding, at least sometimes.

When and Where to Wear a Black Dress

A couple of women walking down the street wearing little black dresses.

A black dress is usually considered evening wear. If it would look out of place at brunch, then it’s probably not appropriate for a noon wedding. If it’s a daytime wedding, opt for a lighter color dress.

If pastels make you roll your eyes, black isn’t completely out. A black print dress can add color and make the dress more appropriate for the daytime. You can also accessorize with a brightly colored scarf or sweater.

If it’s a summer wedding, consider a simple slip dress to avoid looking too formal. If it’s a winter wedding, pair a black dress with a jewel-toned jacket or sweater.

Destination weddings are popular these days, and they bring their own set of fashion rules. Destination wedding and beach wedding are often used interchangeably.

In most cases, a black dress will look out of place at a beach wedding. However, if the destination wedding is a formal wedding at a medieval castle, a black dress makes perfect sense.

You’ll need to consider where the wedding will occur, and choose clothing that fits both the time and the place. If you really want to pull off a black dress on the beach, it should be semi-casual and flowing.

You can wear a black dress to a wedding at a traditional venue or outdoor area when the wedding is held in the evening. Usually.

A Matter of Formality

This is perhaps the most important aspect of knowing what to wear to a wedding. A black-tie wedding will have a vastly different dress code for wedding guest attire than a casual afternoon wedding.

When it comes to casual wedding attire, you can’t go wrong with a black maxi dress. If formal attire is required, consider a black gown or a black cocktail dress.

How to Wear a Black Dress to a Wedding

Beyond considering the time of day, the time of year, and the venue, you’ll need to determine how revealing the dress should be.

If you are attending an evening wedding at a church, a short black dress isn’t appropriate. Put away cocktail attire and leave the strapless dress in the closet.

However, if you are attending a cocktail wedding, a strapless number could be the perfect little black dress.

Generally, you’ll want to avoid anything that is too tight or short. You’ll want to avoid a dress that’s very low cut as well. Even if the venue doesn’t require conservative dress, you don’t want your sex appeal stealing attention from the bride.

Black for the Bridal Party

A group of women walking down the steps wearing black dresses.

You can wear black as a wedding guest, but what if you are part of the bridal party? Can you wear a black wedding dress or bridesmaid’s dress?

Wedding fashion has changed over the last few years. It started with pale pastel hues, gold, and silver. Today, even black is perfectly acceptable.

A black wedding dress offers some advantages. It’s memorable and unique. You don’t have to worry about stains. Your wedding day is busy, and stain threats are everywhere when you are wearing a white dress. Black looks great on everyone, and it has a slimming effect. Lastly, black tulle or lace is simply breathtaking.

Black bridesmaid’s dresses are in as well. If you allow your bridesmaids to choose their own dresses, there’s only one shade of black. When your wedding party is standing side by side, the dresses will all be the same shade.

Black also contrasts beautifully with white. Black bridesmaid’s dresses can actually help focus the spotlight on the bride, dressed in white.

The biggest complaint about being a bridesmaid is the bridesmaid dress. Most bridesmaid dresses are worn for the wedding and not worn again, because they don’t fit other occasions. A little black dress can be worn in many situations, allowing your bridesmaids to get a dress they will actually enjoy long after the wedding is over.

It can even help the groom to look his best. Not because he’s wearing a black dress, of course. For a formal wedding a black suit, bow tie, and a colored pocket square look elegant. Again, it shifts the focus to the star of the show, the bride. It ties everyone’s outfits together in a simple way, allowing the bride to stand out.

Wearing a Little Black Dress to a Wedding FAQs

Can you wear a black outfit to a wedding?

Of course. A little black dress isn’t the only option you have for wedding attire. A black pants suit or skirt can also be suitable. The most important thing to consider is the spirit and formality of the wedding. A casual black skirt is perfect for an afternoon wedding, while a black pants suit is a better choice for an evening wedding. 

How do you know how to dress as a wedding guest?

Follow the bride’s lead. Most brides will include the dress code on the wedding invitation. If the bride has a website, you will likely find more details about the wedding dress code there. You can also gather clues from the venue and time of day. When in doubt, reach out to the bride and ask.

When is wedding season?

June and September are the two most popular months to get married. Generally, the wedding season begins in May and goes through September, or late spring through early fall. Getting married in the off-season can make it easier to find vendors and is usually less expensive. 

Is it bad luck to wear a black wedding dress?

It can be considered bad luck to wear a black wedding dress. Because black is associated with mourning, it’s considered an unlucky color. It’s up to you whether you believe in this superstition. Superstitions can play a fun role in your wedding, like not seeing the bride in her wedding gown.

However, they shouldn’t keep you from having the wedding that you want. Is it bad luck? It really depends on what black symbolizes to you. If you see it as unlucky, then it’s best to avoid it. If you see it as a color of completion or sophistication, it’s lucky that it will be bad luck for you. 

What color dress should you not wear to a wedding?

The color that is still universally agreed on is white. Do not wear a white dress to a wedding, especially if the bride is wearing white. Wedding etiquette states that only the bride should be dressed in white on the big day. 

Can you wear black to bridal shower?

Ironically, style experts say that you shouldn’t wear black to a bridal shower. The reason cited is usually that it’s a celebratory event, and black doesn’t belong. Why black is appropriate at a wedding but not a bridal shower is a question without an answer. White is considered off-limits as well, for obvious reasons.