It happens to the best of us—you fall in love with a stunning cream- or ivory-colored dress that would be just perfect to wear to that wedding you have coming up in a few months. But wait—is it too close in hue to the bride's attire? Does she care? Will other wedding guests care?
Some might say "go for it," while others will be quick to say it's a bad idea. Like any other situation, there are two sides to every story. "The tradition of the white wedding dress began when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840," explains Kimberly Lehman, wedding and event planner at Love, Laughter & Elegance. "Victoria selected a white satin gown lavishly embellished with lace that was handcrafted in England. After the photographs of the wedding were widely published, brides began copying Victoria's style by wearing white gowns to their own nuptials." Since that infamous celebration, it's generally been frowned upon for anyone other than the bride to wear white to a wedding.
But is it still a no-no for wedding guests today? We asked eight wedding planners from all different parts of the country to give us their most unbiased and unfiltered advice.
Don't risk it.
"Out of respect to the bride and the legacy of tradition, go with another color," says Lindsey Sachs, wedding planner and owner of COLLECTIVE/by Sachs. "Whether you know the bride's stance on this topic or not, you can't go wrong by playing it safe. Consider hues that coordinate with the current season, or those that complement the wedding color palette. By not wearing white, you won't end up the topic of conversation among other curious guests and, most importantly, your wardrobe choice won't detract from the bride who deserves to be honored on her wedding day as the leading lady in white."
It's no longer taboo to wear white!
"According to the Emily Post Institute, it's acceptable to wear white, as long as it doesn't 'distract from the bride or her attendant's dresses.' For example, a colorful, cocktail-length dress with a white lace overlay is acceptable," says Lehman. "A casual sheath dress also works well, but if the dress is white and floor-length or full-skirted, it won't work. If a guest or attendant has any hesitation about appropriate attire, it's usually best to check with the bride, and follow her wishes."
Only when it's part of the theme.
"There's only one scenario in which it's okay to wear white to a wedding and that's when the couple asks you to. A friend of mine planned a wedding where the bride wore a fuchsia dress and the couple asked all of their guests to wear white. I personally think that's such a fun idea and a great way to flip tradition on its head," Leah Weinberg, wedding planner, owner, and executive planner at Color Pop Events, says. "It also made for really striking photos. I've also seen couples have their wedding party wear white. Clearly the rule of not wearing white to a wedding doesn't apply to smaller details like white stripes or polka dots, but my rule of thumb is this: If you're picking an outfit and the question pops into your mind of whether or not this is too much white to wear to a wedding, then don't wear it."
"The bride may or may not wear white (maybe ivory, maybe champagne) but it's her color for that day. You don't want to be mistaken for the bride in a white or lace gown," Brandi Hamerstone, owner and wedding planner at All Events Planned, says. "You don't want to stand with the bride and look as though you were attempting to look bridal on someone else's day. Even when or if that wasn't your intention, that's what people (and possibly the bride) will think and who wants to be 'that' person?"
I've seen it at nearly every wedding.
"After planning hundreds of weddings, I've noticed that there are always at least one or two people wearing something along the lines of white at every wedding. Beyond the wedding, it can also be inappropriate to wear a white dress to the rehearsal dinner or bridal shower as you wouldn't want someone to mistake you for the bride," says Wendy Collins, catering sales and conference services manager at Stowe Mountain Lodge. "Not that I recommend it, but if you have to wear white, I would follow a few rules to keep the glancing looks from other guests at bay. Don't wear a floor-length or strapless dress and try to stay away from a high neckline with lace. Do add a bright pop of color like a belt, earrings, chunky statement jewelry, and stay away from updo-style hair."
White's for the bride only.
"While many wedding traditions are going away, I feel strongly that wearing white or ivory should be reserved for the bride only. That's not to say that you cannot wear an outfit with some white in it (like a white camisole underneath a jacket with a colorful skirt) or as part of a pattern—just don't wear a solid white outfit," Vicky Choy, event planner and owner of Event Accomplished LLC, says. "Even if it's a summer beach wedding, don't do it. You can't tell me that with so many colors out there that the only outfit you can wear to a wedding is a white one."
Tradition stands in this case.
"White is still reserved for the bride(s) or groom(s) only. Of course, there's almost always an exception to the rule, and in this case I find only one: It is okay to wear white if, and only if, the couple has specifically requested that attire be worn," Megan Seaton, wedding planner at Molly Mae Events, says. "For example, I had a wedding where all bridesmaids wore a white dress, which was a specific request of the bride. Another example is when couples throw a 'White Wedding' or 'Black and White Party.' In this case, the attire will be specifically mentioned in the invitation. If it's not on there, don't risk it."
There are certainly exceptions.
"If the wedding attire is all white and it has been requested, it's safe to wear white. We'll take to Hollywood, where Solange and Tina, Beyonce's mother and sister, both had an all-white affair for their wedding day," Myriam Michel, owner and creative director of M&M Elite Events, says. "For my wedding, I had a good girlfriend wear a brocade ivory dress, which, for November, was tastefully done and I didn't feel upstaged. Use your best judgment as you really don't want hurt feelings."