Everyone knows that the bride should be the only person in the room wearing white at the wedding, but what about at the events in the months and weeks leading up to the big day? Depending on the time of year, white may very well be a staple in the closets of every guest—but should their outfit selections avoid the bridal hue? Everyone might have a different opinion on the matter, especially because there is hardly just one shade of white—and, if it's not pure bridal white, does it even count? To help us understand why we even question the outfit protocol surrounding the big day and the parties leading up to it, we asked etiquette pros for a little history lesson and to weigh in on whether or not wearing the hue is acceptable ahead of the wedding.
Where did "wedding white" come from?
First thing first: It's important to note that some wedding traditions have very deep roots, and wearing white is one of them. "Princess Philippa of England was the first documented princess wearing a white dress for her wedding in 1406, and, in 18th century, Queen Victoria made a decision to wear white at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, which was almost revolutionary!" explains Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor of Manners. "The tradition and the protocol was requiring the Queen to wear the crimson velvet robe of state during the ceremony presenting her royal persona and domination, but she chose to look as a cherishing and truly devoted bride instead of a monarch, wearing the very famous white heavy satin dress that made history and was received widely with adoration." So, basically we have Queen Victoria to thank for wedding white.
Is this trend outdated?
The bride is ultimately the star of the show—whether it's her wedding day or not. For this reason, Parker doesn't believe that the trend of only the bride wearing white to all her functions is outdated. "Many traditions become diluted or slightly changed based on many different factors, and being too traditional is one of them," she says. With that said, wearing white really doesn't fall into this category, and it's something that most women from each generation choose to do. With that said, the bride can certainly wear any color she likes instead, but guests should assume she's going the classic route as they choose their own attire.
So, can you wear white to the engagement party?
If you don't care about potentially upsetting the bride, be our guest, but your best bet is to save your favorite white, or white-ish, dress for another occasion. If you have a good relationship with the bride and are not sure whether or not your dress even comes close to question, consider calling or texting her in advance of her engagement party to check. Should the party be a surprise, you'll definitely want to leave the white dress in your closet. However, if you're set on wearing some form of cream or white to at least one pre-wedding event, this is probably the time to do it. Since it's not a party that's thrown specifically in honor of the bride, but rather in honor of the couple, you may be able to get away with it.