Wedding Etiquette: What Not to Wear to a Wedding


Your friend is getting married and you’re excited for the big event, although undecided on what to wear – and as we all know, attending a wedding as a guest comes with a certain wardrobe etiquette. ‘Can I wear cream to a wedding?’, ‘Are jeans OK?’ or ‘What is too casual and what is too formal?’ are questions that lots of guests are asking themselves. If you want to look your best and, at the same time, to be respectful and in tune with the type of the event, then check out our top tips that will teach you what to avoid when attending a wedding ceremony and reception.

Wedding Etiquette: What Not to Wear to a Wedding

Can I wear cream to a wedding?

It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so, in most cases, the answer is ‘No’. But let’s expand: you’ve got a lovely cream dress you’d love to wear at a wedding, but wondering whether you should wear it or not - in case the bride is a close friend and not just a simple acquaintance, then the safest bet is always to ask her for guidance. Some brides are very strict and particular when it comes to wedding etiquette, as well as their personal wishes and preferences, so asking the future bride if she is comfortable with you rocking an almost white dress is the best way to go. But the color of a dress is not the only key element when it comes to wedding etiquette. If your dress is cream, yet short and edgy, or maybe even combined with a brighter hue, you’re probably safe. But if your dress is long and made entirely of lace, then you are definitely stepping in the bridal gown lookalike territory, which is always safer to avoid. Moreover, many brides choose cream as one of their wedding palette’s shades and even opt for cream bridesmaid dresses – if you are a bridesmaid, then you’re good to go. But if you’re not part of the wedding party, then you probably shouldn’t go with ivory or cream if the bride chose the same shade for her closest friends. If the tricky ‘Can I wear cream to a wedding?’ question bothers you and the future bride is simply an acquaintance or you are attending as the ‘plus one’, then definitely forgo wearing a cream dress and opt for a pastel or bright shade.

Are jeans a good option? What about t-shirts?

The short answer – No. Unless the bride and groom themselves, suggest an outfit based on jeans and t-shirt as proper wedding attire for their super casual or theme wedding, then leave the informal clothes at home and go for a more elegant, put-together look. The same rule applies to children – a formal event calls for formal clothes and jeans simply do not qualify. While it is true that in the recent years, jeans have become acceptable wedding attire when attending boho-chic ceremonies with a hipster vibe, it is better to avoid them unless the groom himself asks you personally to embrace this casual look.

Are ties or bow-ties mandatory?

Just like women often ask 'can I wear cream to a wedding', men usually ask this question. When it comes to wedding etiquette regarding outfits and style, it all highly depends on the type of the event you are about to attend. And since there is a wide range of way in which two people can celebrate their union, the answers depend on the type of celebration. An intimate backyard wedding with few friends over tea or barbecue or a barefoot beach wedding is certainly not the same with a posh affair in a glamorous wedding hall – and while you may forgo the tie or the bow-tie in the first two cases, they will certainly be a must-have accessory for men in case of a formal event.

What accessories should I avoid?

The answers may be obvious to most, but you’d be surprised at just how many wedding guests ignore the wedding etiquette and opt for accessories that only the bride herself should wear – for starters, tiaras. More precisely, princess tiaras or sparkly tiaras that are usually designed and destined for bridal looks. Veils are out of the question as well, for obvious reasons.

What else should I avoid?

Garish outfits and accessories of any kind, and garments that will attract all eyes (for the wrong reasons) should always be avoided when attending a wedding. When in doubt, keep it simple and elegant. Just like when wondering ‘Can I wear cream to a wedding?’, it is much easier and safer to simply pick another look than to end up looking like ‘that girl who tried to upstage the bride’.

Secondly, while not all agree, black dresses are sometimes on the ‘Don’t Wear’ lists when it comes to wedding etiquette. Why? Simply because they are not in tune with an event as joyful as a wedding ad are rather something you should wear on a funeral rather than a happy union. If you are in doubt, then it is better for ladies to avoid black altogether, unless otherwise specified by the bride and groom themselves.