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20-40-60 Etiquette---Wedding white?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: February 6, 2013






QUESTION: Recently I was trying to figure out what to wear to a wedding, and my white cocktail suit looked the best for that day. I realize that white is usually reserved for the bride, but this was a second (third?) wedding. What do you think?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: Today, some wedding dresses aren’t even white. My sister’s wedding dress was a beautiful pale green color. It was absolutely stunning!

It all comes down to your style and your opinion. Not wearing white to a wedding or rehearsal dinner is an old tradition and fashion rule.

In the end, it is the bride’s day and it is her opinion, and I wouldn’t want to offend her, no matter what number of marriage it is.

LILLIE-BETH ANSWER: Whether the etiquette “rules” about guests wearing white to a wedding have changed or not, it sounds like you now have second thoughts about your outfit.

I think the first thing to consider when deciding what to wear is whether your dress would in any way upstage or compete with the bride.

The second one is your inner voice questioning whether your dress was the best choice, although it’s not a cut-and-dried answer.

If you enjoyed the wedding and the bride was beautiful let that be the memory you take away instead of agonizing over what you wore.

People in the wedding or etiquette industry are debating whether it’s acceptable in modern times to wear white to weddings; traditionally, it was not, and many people still feel the same way.

However, writing in The New York Times last year, etiquette columnist Peggy Post of the Emily Post Institute said it was OK for guests to wear cream or white as long as it didn’t look bridal.

The best way to go forward is to keep the bride in mind, and even if she’s not wearing white, consider how traditionally you want to dress and choose accordingly.

HELEN’S ANSWER: White is still the color of choice for most brides, particularly if there is a wedding ceremony and reception involved. The bride stands out if she is the only person in white, even if it is a second wedding.

If your favorite dress has a white top and different colored skirt, I think that would be OK.

If you have talked to the bride and she does not care about dress colors for her guests, then wear your suit.

Tradition used to be that black or white dresses were not worn to weddings. I have seen more black dresses in the last several years, but white is still reserved for all brides, and I love tradition that is passed down through the generations. It is fun to honor our past and our brides.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Linda Miller, author of Fashion Matters Blog: Some rules are softening, but it’s still frowned upon for guests to wear white to a wedding.

White belongs to the bride, so to speak. It’s never good manners to upstage her, even if she chooses to wear a different color. And even if it’s her second or third walk down the aisle.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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