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Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?

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Can you wear black to a wedding? Check out our guide, where we address this fashion dilemma and discuss formality and the little black dress.


You open your mailbox and see a beautiful wedding invitation addressed to you! You are so excited to celebrate the bride and groom’s upcoming nuptials but are starting to worry about exactly what you are going to wear.  You peek in your closet and see the only thing available is your favorite little black dress. But can you wear a black dress to a wedding? 

It’s a tale as old as time. You may be asking yourself, “ Can I wear black to a wedding? Is it okay to wear black to a wedding?  Does wearing black to a wedding feel like you are in mourning and attending a funeral instead of a celebration? Will you commit a fashion faux pas?”

Don’t fret! This style guide will help answer those questions and break down the importance of wedding dress codes and etiquette surrounding the question, “Is it appropriate to wear black to a wedding?”

Wedding Attire Traditions: Is it Okay to Wear Black to a Wedding?

 Wedding attire has changed over the years. Marriage used to be more of a transactional occurrence between bloodlines but as society evolved weddings became more about love and celebrations. Families threw grand affairs to toast the happy couple.  And along with this change, fashion began to change with it.  Overall, the traditional wedding guest attire took on a new level of sophistication and elegance. 

Moreover, modern wedding fashion has shifted along with perceptions of not only what is acceptable for the bride and groom to wear but also for the guests.  It is important to note that in certain cultures black is considered a sign of mourning, bad luck, or sadness. Once you have cleared this cultural consideration then black is a totally acceptable color choice for a guest’s attire. Much will depend on the venue, dress code and time of day but like with any event or occasion black is never a bad choice. 

 Black Dresses and Wedding Dress Codes

The first thing wedding guests should consider in regards to any wedding day attire is to take into account the wedding dress code. Typically the wedding dress code is found on the bottom of the wedding invitation or on the wedding website. Of course, not every wedding invitation displays the dress code so it’s always a good idea to consider the venue and time of day to help guide your decision. 

Below is a quick overview of each dress code and what style black dress could work.

White-Tie: The most formal dress code. Men will wear a white bow tie with their tuxedo, women will wear a floor-length gown. A black floor-length gown with formal embellishments and heavy accessories is completely acceptable in this scenario.

Black-Tie Wedding or Black-Tie Optional: Men will wear tuxedos with a formal white shirt, black tie, and black patent leather shoes, women will wear a formal floor-length evening gown. If optional the dress doesn’t have to be necessarily a gown. Of course, a black evening gown would be a great choice.

Semi-formal or Cocktail: This is just a simple way to say go for something middle of the road. Men should wear a suit and tie– typically a dark suit is best. Women should wear a nice dress, but not a ballgown. Women could wear a nice cocktail dress. If it is a city wedding in a metropolitan area, a little black dress may be appropriate.

Casual/Dressy Casual: Casual at a wedding still means to avoid jeans, shorts or flip flops. Casual wedding attire could include short, breezy sundresses for ladies, a lightweight pair of pants, and a button-down shirt for men.  In this situation, black is also fine but you also don’t want your look to come across as too formal or heavy. Opt for pairing any black with a pattern or another color.

Themed: Sometimes bride and grooms have a theme they want you to adhere to for their wedding day. This could be an all white party, all black or even tropical, costume or cowboy chic.  If this is the case, it will be well indicated on any wedding details the couple sends out.

If your plus one needs more suggestions or ideas when it comes to his wardrobe this is a great article to check out just for the men. 

photo via Mikhail Nilov

What are the Rules on Wearing Black to a Wedding?

When choosing to wear a black dress or outfit to a wedding there are just a few guidelines to think about before making your purchase or heading out the door.  Black in any shade or hue is totally acceptable. And it is easy to play up the formality or seriousness of the color by accessorizing with the right jewelry, shoes and fabric. 

Black dresses are more commonly worn at evening weddings, formal ceremonies and weddings in large cities.  You can typically wear the color black no matter where the wedding is located but you may not see it as often at a Southern wedding, destination wedding or beach wedding. Typically, wedding guests at these venues typically like to wear more color or patterns that reflect the region where the wedding is being held. That doesn’t mean you can’t wear black to those weddings, it just isn’t as common. 

When to Avoid Wearing Black to a Wedding

As we have stated multiple times, black is totally a fine color choice for a wedding guest dress; however, there are just a couple of reasons why you may want to avoid wearing black. Outside of the cultural traditions previously discussed, you may want to avoid wearing black if it is an outdoor wedding,  summer wedding or a beach wedding. 

This is for a few reasons. First and foremost, think about the weather. It may be hot and humid and we all know that black, especially in a heavy fabric, will absorb more heat causing you to be uncomfortable or sweaty. Also, if it is a daytime wedding, you may want to make sure the style and cut of the black dress doesn’t look too formal. Secondly, black may not fit the theme of the wedding. You may not feel as festive as the other guests or it may come across as too corporate or stuffy and could ultimately make you feel socially uncomfortable.  Finally, check with the wedding party or bride and groom and find out if the bridesmaids are wearing black bridesmaids dresses. It’s okay if you wear the same color as the bridesmaids but you may not want to match them exactly. 

Also as a rule, just make sure any dress (black or not) isn’t too short, too tight, too low cut or shows too much skin.  It’s okay to look sexy and your best at a wedding but it is best to avoid wearing any outfit that takes the focus off the bride and groom!

people raising wine glasses
photo via Al Elmes

Styling Tips for Wearing Black to a Wedding

  There are so many choices when it comes to rocking a great black outfit at a wedding. If the dress itself has embellishments like sequins, lace or appliques then you may not need any additional accessories other than a great pair of shoes. Consider choosing a shoe in a color that isn’t black or in a metallic shade to offer some visual variation. 

If the wedding is in the fall or a winter wedding then you can choose from a variety of luxe fabrics like velvet or a thick satin. You can even pair your black dress with a faux fur coat, shrug or pashmina in a jewel tone to add a pop of color and to stay warm. 

Don’t forget the purse and jewelry! These details can really dress the black outfit up or down. You can play up the formality with rhinestones and sparkles or you can add color to any outfit with earrings, a statement necklace or a great clutch! It’s also a great way to make your black dress stand out and showcase your personality. 

a woman in a black dress wearing heels
photo via Leeloo Thefirst from Pexels

The Little Black Dress for a Wedding 

 We all know black is a slimming color and we’ve heard it before but it is always a good fashion rule of thumb: Every woman should own one amazing little black dress (LBD) for various social occasions. A little black dress is so versatile. It can take you from weddings, to formal parties, to cocktail parties, to a girls night out. Like we mentioned above accessories can transform your LBD for different levels of formality. And if you don’t have one yet, use this wedding invitation as an opportunity to purchase a black cocktail dress that can easily be a great black wedding guest dress option!  It’s not a bad idea to shop for a little black dress in various lengths either. You may want to own a black dress with a short hem and one that is midi or maxi length. And never underestimate the power of a great black romper, pantsuit or jumpsuit either! 

people doing wedding party
photo via Soner Görkem from Pexels

Is it disrespectful to wear black to a wedding?

It is only disrespectful to wear black to a wedding if the couple’s religious or cultural views black as a sign of mourning or symbol of evil. In that case, steer clear of the color when planning your outfit. And if you are asking, “Is it bad luck to wear black to a wedding?” The answer is only if the couple’s beliefs lean that way. The bottom line is that if you are uncertain then ask the couple or pick an alternative color choice for the wedding day.

Remember that while fashion is important, the focus should ultimately be on celebrating the love and marriage of your friends or family! 

What do you think are the best Little Black Dresses for Weddings? Make sure to join our community to share your favorites!

What black dress style would you choose for your guests for the big day?

Join us in our community to talk and share your thoughts on whether it’s appropriate to wear black to a wedding!


Emily Perry is a freelance blogger, content manager, designer, and virtual assistant. Although her own wedding was over 10 years she loves talking about all things wedding especially when it comes to saving money and DIY!