Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?

Follow these guidelines to avoid a faux pas.

Color plays a significant role in wedding planning. As couples select their wedding palette, and the bride chooses to wear a beautiful white dress, there are traditions that set the tone for the wedding day. However, there is sometimes a bit of ambiguity in the formality of wedding guest attire, begging the question: Can you wear black to a wedding?

Before answering, there are several factors to consider, one of which is Southern etiquette. "Gone are the days where wearing black to a Southern wedding was seen as less of a celebration," says Bobbi Brinkman, owner of Bobbi Brinkman Photography in St. Simons Island, Georgia. "Today's couples know how to incorporate Southern traditions while bending the rules, especially when it comes to asking the guest to follow a dress code." But, what are the unspoken standards, and how do folks steer away from being a fashion don't? Southern experts weigh in on five things to consider if you want to wear black to a wedding.

black bridesmaid dresses
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Think About Today's Fashion Rules

Long gone are the days of avoiding white after Labor Day. Today's trends involve expressing personal style, including wearing black to a wedding. Even though it may go against thoughts of previous days, in certain situations, wearing darker colors isn't considered offensive or funeral-esque.

"In years past, it was considered a faux pas to wear black to a wedding," says Meredith Ryncarz, the owner of Meredith Ryncarz Photography in Savannah, Georgia. "In recent years, that thought process has shifted to it being more acceptable to wear black to a wedding." However, before you grab your go-to black cocktail dress, there are other factors to weigh.

Consider the Location and Time of Day

One way to determine whether or not you should pull out your favorite LBD or black suit is to reference both the location and timing of the event. For example, if you're attending a daytime wedding on the beach, it may be best to skip the black attire. Although in other circumstances, black is both wanted and expected.

"When deciding whether to wear black to a wedding, consider the time of day and wedding style," advises Marie Kubin, the founder of Rent My Wedding in Miami, Florida. "Many Southern weddings have ceremonies starting at sunset, with the reception continuing late into the night. Black is a great choice for these weddings." Evening weddings lend themselves to dressier clothing, so seize the opportunity to wear black if you choose.

Take Clues from the Wedding Invitation and Website

Communication from the couple often gives cues about the type of wedding day they have in mind. For example, gold-foiled invitations with a scripted font typically indicate a more formal event, whereas playful text and bright colors may indicate a more relaxed affair. Additionally, most couples will include the type of attire in their details, so look for the fine print on the invitation or read the wedding website's FAQ section.

"You can definitely wear a black to a wedding," suggests Amber Lee, the CEO of Select Date Society, a company that provides matchmaking services throughout the South. "The most important things to consider when choosing wedding guest attire are the venue, the time of day, and if the invitation indicates a dress code." If you see descriptions, such as formal or semi-formal, you have the green light to wear black.

Factor in What the Wedding Party is Wearing

Of course, you don't want to upstage the bride or blend in with the wedding attendants if either is wearing black. Although it's non-traditional, some brides wear dark colors on their big day, and attendants are often in black attire for more formal weddings. "I have beautiful brides wearing black wedding dresses," says Anastasia Stevenson, a destination wedding planner with Coastal Creative Weddings in Tybee Island, GA. "It is perfectly acceptable and chic to wear black to evening, black tie, and winter weddings."

Ryncarz agrees that it's wise to gauge the attire of the wedding attendants. "When wearing black to a wedding, keep the outfit in line with the dressiness of the bridal party and wedding as a whole," she suggests. As long as the event calls for a particular level of formality and you won't upstage the couple or the wedding party, it's safe to wear black to the wedding.

Ask the Couple About the Attire

When in doubt, ask the couple. Even if you aren't close to the bride or groom, ask someone you know, such as the mother of the bride or a wedding attendant. Doing so may encourage the couple to clarify and add more detail to their wedding website. Plus, you can attend with complete assurance that you won't be making a blunder. When asked about whether or not it was acceptable to wear black to a wedding, Bri Marbais, a bridal stylist at The Bridal Finery in Orlando, Florida, says, "It's becoming very common for couples to require guests to wear a certain color, and black is the most popular. Our best advice is just always to ask if you aren't sure," advises Marbais. A simple query can clarify what to wear, so you show up confidently without drawing unnecessary attention to yourself.

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