The Guests Wore … White?

short, feathered wedding dress

I recently came across a post where Peggy Post of the Emily Post Institute informed a reader that she could wear a white cocktail dress as a guest to a wedding. (It’s the second question in the link.)

It blew my mind.

I’ve written on this topic before, and said, more or less: “No! Don’t wear white, guests! Seriously!” Btw, the adorable lady above is not a guest, but a bride (and my sister-in-law). You’ll see why she’s included in this post in a bit.

With this new stance from Peggy Post, I decided to check back in with myself and see if my feelings have changed on the subject.

(Two second later….)

They have not.

Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy — and the fact that I’m using the word “fuddy-duddy” is probably a pretty good sign that I am one — but I just don’t get this desire that non-brides feel to wear white to a wedding.

But in an attempt to be open-minded, I am now going to list the reasons that I could be wrong.

  1. Weddings are more relaxed, and I need to chill out and not care if guests wear white to a wedding. (OK, that’s a possibility.)
  2. Brides don’t even regularly wear white anymore, so why should the color be off limits to the rest of us?

That’s all I can think of. I think these reasons are mediocre at best. Am I missing something?

Here are my reasons for guests to never ever wear white to a wedding.

  1. With weddings becoming more casual, it’s not uncommon for brides to wear short white dresses that don’t have traditional bridal details. (Note the dresses in this post, above and below.) If as a guest you wear a short white dress too, you may end up looking a little more like the bride than you expected.
  2. Even if you ask the bride if you can wear white and she says yes, it’s possible she said that to be nice and doesn’t actually feel that way. She doesn’t want to hang out in the fuddy-duddy corner with me. But she’s hanging out there in her heart, folks.
  3. Maybe the bride truly doesn’t mind you wearing white. That doesn’t mean no one else (her family included) will. Do you really want to wonder all night whether people are whispering about you behind your back? I’ll tell it to you straight: They are. And you can say it’s their problem (it is) and they’re being catty about something that isn’t important (they are), but you’re the one who will probably feel weird about the whole thing all night long. It’s not like you can wear a sign saying, “The bride said I could!”
  4. It’s rare in life when we have a designated color intended to make us stand out on an important day. Maybe I’m alone in my opinion, but I think there’s something nice about this and see no need to upend it.
  5. There are so many other colors. Why do you need to wear white? Seriously.

And let me say for the record, I am a white dress-loving maniac. I saw a white, strapless, eyelet dress just the other day that I really, really wanted to live in my closet. It would have been the perfect summer frock for a outdoor July wedding I’m attending — except that it was white. I have since tried to concoct imaginary events I might need to wear it to, but I am unconvincing. I have not purchased it.

All that is to say, white has a pull on me too. I just resist it for other people’s wedding. I also resist it for engagement parties, bridal showers and rehearsal dinners because I’ve noticed more brides wearing it for these events too. There’s no set rule about this (i.e., no one is likely to talk about you behind your back if you wear white to these events). I just figure, let the bride have that color if she wants it for all her wedding events — if for no other reason, it makes her easy to spot.

So I’ve rambled on at length on this one. It’s time to see what you think. I already asked in an old post whether you thought it was appropriate for guests to wear white — feel free to click through and weigh in. So this time, I’m going to ask something slightly different:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

If you’re the bride, you can find a beautiful dress at a local bridal shop!

short spring summer wedding dress

Photos by Devin Whetstone (top) & White Rabbit Studios (bottom)

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  1. First of all, how cute is that picture of your brother and his wife. My little sister and I actually wore white to my older sisters wedding…I’m assuming at her request as I cannot really remember or imagine why we would have…and every time I look at the pictures I wonder why!

  2. This made me laugh, Lala! You know, I thought of that caveat after I posted this: If the bride requests you wear white, but all means, do so. And I’ll report back to my brother and his wife on their cuteness!

  3. You shouldn’t wear white, for the same reason you shouldn’t wear all black, the bridesmaids shouldn’t choose all different dresses from their own closets, and nobody should flaunt cleavage or exhibit bad behavior: It’s not about you. It is a special day for the bride and groom and everybody should be part of lovely surroundings that frame them. Also verboten are tasteless jokes, offensive language, lurid tales from the couples’ past, overloads of alcohol, and anything else that upsets the parents or embarrasses anybody. Guests have obligations in any social situation.
    In this case, I’d choose a different outfit with perhaps a fabulous pin. Or a fabulous necklace on a lovely top, revealed when a jacket is shucked for dancing. This is a year of pretty skirts that could play a number of roles, even a couple of different ones on a wedding day.

  4. My wedding was at noon in January 1980 in Connecticut. I was amazed at how many women wore white especially in January!

  5. Many people agree with you, Nicole! I think it’s tricky territory personally, but you’re right in that if she’s the reason you don’t wear white and she doesn’t care, then it’s not as big a deal as it would be otherwise.

    CC — Skirts are definitely way more versatile than they used to be. I’m surprised people don’t take advantage of them more for weddings!

    And that IS surprising, Diana. You’d think, at the very least, they’d want to bundle up!

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