These Are the Rules For Wearing Black to a Wedding

You might be tempted to reach for this neutral color — but should you? Experts weigh in.

Can you wear black to a wedding?


When it comes to dressing for almost any occasion, rarely can you go wrong with something black. The neutral shade simply goes with everything, and when buying wardrobe staples — dresses, trousers, blazers, etc. — black options tend to be the most timeless, working for both formal and casual settings.

Still despite this color's versatility, it's easy to second-guess your look, especially leading up to big events. For example, can you wear black to a wedding? Or should you opt for a color that’s a little more....cheerful?

Can you wear black to a wedding?

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Coco Chanel did invent the LBD because she felt black was elegant and chic. However, what causes us to question the choice to wear black to a wedding has less to do about what the shade exudes and, instead, what it’s often associated with: buttoned-up business meetings and funerals. Work and death don’t exactly liven up a party, and a wedding is a celebration of love.

So, to wear black or not to wear black? That is the question, but it’s not the only question.

Consider traditions and dress codes.

Before saying yes to the (black) dress, there are a few additional questions that need answering. The first has to do with the bride and groom’s cultures and whether or not traditions are being observed for their nuptials. For example, according to fashion expert and stylist Naina Singla, traditional Indian and Chinese weddings discourage attendees from wearing dark colors “because they are associated with mourning and not a celebration.” The focus on the bride and groom is key here, so if, culturally speaking, black is a go, your next step is to review the invitation for any mention of a dress code.

“Depending if the dress code (chosen by the bride) is formal or casual for their wedding, knowing the dress code will help you decide what type of dress to wear for the event,” Singla tells InStyle. “If you are considering wearing black, make sure to check the dress code first.”

Think about the location.

No sign of a dress code on the invitation? Great! But we’re still sleuthing for clues here. According to Stitch Fix expert stylist Gillian McHattie, the location of the wedding is also telling of whether or not black is the most appropriate hue to don on this particular occasion.

“For example, if you’re attending a beach wedding then I recommend going for brighter colors,” McHattie tells InStyle. “Not only will they complement the wedding vibe but they’ll also help you stay cool in the sun!”

Season and time of day should help guide you.

If all checks out from here, the last two things to consider when deciding whether or not to wear black to a wedding are: what season the wedding is taking place in, and what time of day the events are taking place.

“The general rule of thumb for seasonal attire is to wear lighter colors for a spring or summer wedding, and wear darker colors for winter and fall weddings,” Singla tells InStyle.

As for wearing black to a daytime wedding, Singla says stark black wouldn’t be her first choice.

“I recommend trying a printed black dress or a softer shade of black (off-black vs dark black). In the evening, you could also consider adding embellishments like ruffles, lace, rhinestones, or this year's most popular trend, fringe, to make a black dress feel less mournful and more like a party dress with an element of interest.”

Can you wear black to a wedding?

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So, should you wear black to a wedding?

To recap: as long as it’s not considered culturally inappropriate or against the dress code, you can wear black to a wedding. Depending on where the couple is exchanging vows, which season their special day is taking place in, and what time of day everything begins, black may or may not be your best color option. That being said, if black is what makes you feel your best and no one or nothing is telling you otherwise, where the dark shade and rock it!

But, if you’re still hesitant and feel that black might be too melancholy, stylist Christina Stein suggests opting for a black dress with “minimal cleavage,” that is “mid-thigh length or longer” and adding dramatic, colorful jewelry to brighten it up.

“Adding texture like tulle or ruffles adds drama as well as individuality to the garment. Silhouette has a lot to do with how a dress can come off, too” she tells us. “An off-the-shoulder or one-shoulder body con dress is not typically something you would see when someone is mourning”

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