Can you wear black to a wedding? In my opinion, it's a yes, but with a few rules, regs and caveats. I've personally worn black to three weddings over the past few years, and it hasn't caused trouble yet. In fact, the formulas I've come up with have become really trusty, fail-safe outfits for those nuptials and events where you really don't have a clue what to wear.
Unlike many other social engagements, weddings can often come with a specific set of guidelines and requests from the happy couple, but a lot of these have changed and evolved over time. Like many etiquette rules surrounding vows, engagements, gifts and more, appropriate wedding guest attire can often fall into a grey area. And despite many traditional regulations relaxing, this idea of whether black is suitable or not still comes up time and again as a question.
Style Notes: Mismatched accessories and a shoulder-robed jacket make this form-fitting black dress feel less funereal and more fun—perfect for an evening of dancing!
The answers will vary depending on the specific event and the people getting married, and when I've been unsure of my choices, I have asked the bride in advance. (All times it's entirely not an issue, and they were surprised I even asked.) I'd say always do the following: Try to break up the black with fun accessories, don't go OTT on flashing a lot of flesh, and be careful to opt for something that definitely feels "dressed-up" rather than your go-to work shirt dress.
In addition to my own tips on how you can navigate wearing black to a wedding, I asked a few cool fashion girls about their thoughts on the matter: "Anything but white is fair game, and black, in my book, is always chic and practical. I've lightened up a black cocktail dress for a summer wedding with coloured shoes, statement jewellery or red lipstick," says super stylist Rachael Wang, echoing my thoughts entirely.
Style Notes: Sometimes all you need to do is pick a silhouette that feels trend-driven and add gold accessories for a bit of sparkle. This was appropriate for the pretty outdoorsy wedding I went to, as it was knitted but backless for a bit of sass.
"I definitely think it's appropriate to wear black to a wedding, especially if the attire is black-tie. I also think it depends on the location/aesthetic of the wedding," says Who What Wear U.S.'s Lauren Eggertsen. "For example, I attended a black-tie wedding where the reception took place in a gorgeous ballroom, so a black dress seemed more than appropriate. If I were attending a summertime outdoor wedding, black might seem out of place."
On the other hand, her colleague Erin Fitzpatrick would steer clear of turning to the dark side. "I definitely don't think it's a universal rule anymore, but I personally prefer to skip black dresses for weddings," she says. "Since every wedding I've been to has been in the summer, it just feels right to choose something fun and colourful, which suits my style better anyway. Plus, for some reason, I still associate black with funerals rather than weddings, so I tend to steer clear of it."
Style Notes: Country weddings often call for floral dresses, but that works for black floral dresses too.
Shop the Best Black Wedding Guest Dresses