Following my column a few weeks ago about dress codes for wedding guests, I got this very short email:
Can a guest wear white to a wedding?
First, let me just say how much I love the succinct nature of this question. I’d love to be just as short, but then, you know, I wouldn’t really have a job.
I’m from the South and I thought it was a universally known rule that female guests should never wear white or black to a wedding. Then I moved to the big city and I discovered that in many places wearing black is perfectly appropriate. I still wouldn’t recommend it if the wedding is in the South, or if you’re going to a daytime wedding, but for an evening wedding in an urban location, it’s appropriate. Notice, I used the word “appropriate,” not “great.”
Personally, I think black is over-used. Yes, you look slim in it, but really, so what? You look exactly like the 10 other slim girls over there in black dresses. Live it up a little ladies, add some color to your life! Black dresses are nice because everyone looks good in them, but let’s face it, no one looks great.
But back to the question at hand, most people agree that only the bride should wear white to the wedding. You don’t wear white to a wedding because it makes you look like you’re trying to compete with the bride.
That being said, etiquette is there to keep people from feeling uncomfortable, not to shame people who follow different "rules." Knowing the accepted “rules” is not a license to be rude to those who don’t. So, if a guest shows up in a white dress to your wedding, ignore it. Greet her warmly, and move on to the next guest. Chances are, she didn’t do it on purpose, and if she did, it will only reflect poorly on her, not you. The best way to get revenge when someone tries to embarrass you is to simply not notice.
If you’re a guest at a wedding and you see someone in white, don’t mention it to her or make her feel bad about it, no one appointed you the fashion police. She doesn’t have another dress stored in the trunk of her car, so telling her will only make her feel bad, and make you look cruel.
Do you have a question about wedding etiquette, traditions, or issues? Write the Wedding Maven at firstname.lastname@example.org.