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Nice Day for a White Wedding

By Amalah

Hello Amy,
I have a question about appropriate wedding attire. I’ve been invited to about 3 summer weddings. Is it okay to wear a white dress as a female guest? If it helps, this is the dress I’m trying to decide to buy.

As eye-rolly as I get sometimes about weddings and bridezillas and ESPECIALLY bridezillas who go on a power trip when it comes to other people’s attire — I’m going to go old-school on this one and say no, it is not okay to wear white (or any close variation on white) to a wedding.
bridezilla.jpgI know there was once a similar rule about wearing black to weddings (which has since been roundly rejected by pretty much everybody), the no-white rule is still followed most of the time. I’m saying MOST and not ALL, because I seem to remember reading something about white being okay if you are very, VERY careful to choose something that could never be mistaken for a wedding dress and accessorizing with lots of color. But this is fraught with danger, since some brides go really casual these days, plus you’re likely to get the stink-eye from more traditional guests or bridal party members.
And with THREE weddings to attend, I think it’s probably a bad idea to buy a white dress. It just seems three times as likely that you’ll piss somebody off — whether it be a IT’S MY SPECIAL DAAAAAY-style bride or a hovering, emotionally-spent mother-of-the-bride. And I personally know a bride who bought a white dress at Anthropologie because she didn’t want a big traditional gown, and oh my GOD, can you just imagine??
For an all-purpose summer wedding outfit, you’ll be safer in a dress like this one, or this one. Or, if cream is really your best color, consider getting a cream dress with a bold print, like this one or this one.
(Of course, keep in mind that if any of the weddings are in the evening, about 90% of the female guests will wear black. Just seems to be the default choice these days.)

Published March 16, 2007. Last updated March 16, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Melissa

    March 16, 2007 at 11:53 am

    First of all, I just have to say that Anthropologie is just the best when it comes to dresses for every occasion. I love them.
    Second, I would be a little careful with the strapless, knee skimming dresses, too. I was at a wedding last summer and one of the guests wore a beautiful black strapless number with a full skirt with some very colorful accents to brighten it up. Unfortunately, so did all of the bridesmaids.

  • Stephanie

    March 16, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    While I agree that wearing white or even maybe ivory is a no-no, that dress is not white but cream colored (almost vanilla) and is a sweater. I suppose if you know any of the weddings are casual, then possibly that dress may come a little too close to the bride’s dress, but if it is your typical formal, or even semi-formal, wedding, I doubt anyone would be confusing a girl in a short, cream, sweater dress for the bride.

  • linda

    March 16, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    No suggestions for Emily, but I just have to say that Amy picks the best dresses! I’d love to have any one of them.

  • Kimmy

    March 16, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I would say… stay on the safe side, and don’t wear white or anything resembling it.
    Let the bride wear the white/cream/off-white dress… even if yours is super casual, you really do run the risk of looking inappropriate.
    I agree with Amalah that most women wear black to weddings (why, I have NO idea…) I have had great success buying a kick-*ss dress in a color that pops, and inevitably end up having the best outfit at the event. (Simply by virtue of being one of the only women who stands out, wearing something different than everyone else.)

  • Dashrashi

    March 16, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    I actually have the sweater dress that Emily wants to buy, and it’s pretty heavy. Not going to weigh in on the color question since I think wedding traditions are spectacularly stupid, but the dress in question is, I think, too heavy for summer. Definitely more of a winter dress.

  • leahkay

    March 16, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    I’m going to a wedding in a few months at which the bride herself will be wearing black satin. That’s about the only way I think wearing white as a guest would be okay.

  • Rachel

    March 16, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    I have that first dress Amy linked to! I feel so special that I was forced to comment for the first time ever!
    I think no white dresses on guests at weddings. Anthropologie has so many other beautiful dresses to choose from that aren’t bride-y.

  • Jezer

    March 16, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    I think Amy is spot-on here. While someone wearing the dress in question would probably never be confused for the bride, the Southern girl in me says that etiquette is etiquette, and white, off-white, ivory and even vanilla are reserved for the bride on her wedding day.
    Before we decided to have a formal wedding instead of a super casual event, I would have chosen something just like that vanilla sweater dress as my wedding dress.
    It is an amazing dress, and I would be tempted to buy it just because. The other dresses that Amy links to here are supah-gorgeous as well.

  • slynnro

    March 16, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I agree- on the safe side, just don’t wear white without special bridal permission. And even then, chances are, someone at the wedding will think you are tacky. I am a newlywed, and while I wouldn’t have cared if a guest wore white, my MIL called me to tell me she was going to purchase a white suit and “it’s just silly that a bride my care about such a thing.” THE NERVE. She ended up not getting the suit, but my husband still declared me a bridezilla. I’m sorry, but a woman who will be in half of the pictures standing next to the bride? It is not acceptable for her to wear white.
    Vent complete.

  • Vida

    March 16, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    The girlfriend of one of the groomsmen wore a really cute white strapless to my wedding. I couldn’t have cared less, but about fifty people (mostly women) came up to me saying things like, “OH MY GOSH. Krista is wearing a white dress. Don’t you want to kill her?” That was just three years ago.
    So, it doesn’t even have to be the bride or the bride’s family who’ll be offended. People will be talking about you, whether the bride cares or not. If that doesn’t bother you, no biggie. But I know it would make me feel really self-conscious.

  • Vida

    March 16, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I didn’t mean for that to sound as snarky as it did. I just meant, even if the bride is okay with it, people will be talking, even if they don’t say anything to you.

  • Suzanne

    March 16, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I’d get the Swancourt dress. Then I’d take it to a seamstress or tailor that is good with dyeing clothes and dye it a pale color that’s complimentary to your skin tone.
    For me, that dress would be perfect in a pale blue, but I can also see it going yellow or peach nicely.
    It’d be worh it, IMO. While I like Amy’s choices (that ingenue dress is primo), they don’t work well for someone who is trying to hide their belly or is very petite. The shirring on the ingenue and the wide ribbons on the others aren’t good for someone who’s short.
    I stand by my kudos in choosing that first dress-it’s flattering for so many reasons. I’d gladly pay 50 to 75 bucks to make it another color!

  • April

    March 17, 2007 at 10:45 am

    haha, I love the word stinkeye.
    Anyways, I would NOT wear white to a wedding, it’s really disrespectful to the bride.

  • heartbreaker

    March 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Oh man…this is one of my biggest secrets…
    I play violin and I sometimes do gigs at weddings. Once, COMPLETELY WITHOUT THINKING, I wore a big white skirt and a light pink top for playing. I have no idea why as I usuallly wear black. I didn’t even click until after the wedding and I felt like SUCH an asshole. I mean I was being paid to be there and I wore white. I’m still embarassed.

  • scoutsadie

    March 22, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Okay, I know I’m a bit late to the party (wedding, ha ha) here, but you gotta check out the photo of the model wearing that sweater dress — there’s a link right below the pic that says “View on model” or something similar.
    You’d think they’d pick a more flattering image… that woman looks downright surly, and you can’t really see much of the dress because of the way she is sitting. I laughed out loud when I saw the picture.
    That is all.

  • slowjig

    June 19, 2007 at 10:51 am

    it makes me cry that no one will see this comment — too damn late posting. but my *mother-in-law* wore a long WHITE dress to my wedding. i didn’t care at the time, but i’m realizing now i should have seen this as a sign of things to come.