It’s not easy to navigate the etiquette of how to dress for a wedding. Especially for those who want to avoid buying a new outfit for a single event.

A lot of those questions revolve around the old rule of not wearing white. Does the rule apply anymore? What if the dress is white with a pattern? What if it’s white, but doesn’t look bridal? What if it’s white, but you wear colored accessories so it doesn’t look like you’re competing with the bride?

In short, is there anything a guest can do that makes it permissible to wear a white dress to a wedding? As Mamamia reports, one mom was so confused by the rules that she asked the internet for help.

Writing in the Mumsnet forum, the mom explained her conundrum. She already bought a dress for a separate event and wondered if it could do double-duty for a wedding:

I am hoping it will be double up for an upcoming wedding due to the cost and I am having to have the dress altered and taken in slightly so would be nice to get more than one wear out of it. It will only be the evening reception I am attending. It will be paired with black shoes and a black bag and the bottom of the dress is like a taupe color.

She clarified that the top is cream-colored and the bottom is closer to a pale taupe. However, the whole ensemble was close enough to white to make her concerned. To further muddy the waters, she had no idea what color the bridesmaids would wear.

However, the mom really didn’t want to buy two dresses, both of which would only be used for a few hours:

It just seems a waste of money having to buy yet another dress that will only be worn for a few hours. I don’t even have anything in my wardrobe as I’ve only recently lost my baby weight so I’m sort of starting again with a new wardrobe and don’t go out hardly ever anymore so dresses aren’t usually the first on my list to buy.

Even the other moms were torn. There were those who thought it was a lovely dress and perfectly appropriate for a wedding.

“It’s lovely!” wrote one. “As you’re only going in the evening it’s unlikely anyone will mistake you for the bride. Go for it!”

Another who agreed that the color and dress were acceptable added, “It would take a pretty uptight bride to be upset that someone’s wearing pale-not-wedding-dress.”

There were others who said the dress would be fine if she accessorized with colors (non-bridal, of course). One mom wrote, “I think you could wear it to a wedding, with the right accessories. With something bold, like navy blue, the ivory coloring could be overlooked.”

Another commenter agreed that accessories could fix the issue, but pointed out the risk when it came to wearing something white:

Yes if you wear brightly colored or black accessories. Because otherwise it is too white. You don’ t know if the bride might be wearing a short white dress… or the bridesmaids, and so it might be embarrassing if you look too much like them.

Someone wore a short white lace dress to my wedding which was almost exactly the same as my bridesmaids dresses… she hadn’t done it on purpose but it looked really odd in all the photos… she looked like some nuts person who had tried to tag on the end of the bridesmaids… some older family members did have a bit of a grumble about it.

However, the majority appeared to feel that the rule against white was a strict one, and this dress was a little too close for comfort. One commenter got right to the point:

Absolutely not. It’s lovely, but not for a wedding. Just don’t be that person.

Another wrote:

Nice dress but sorry no. Its the wrong color. It would actually make a really nice wedding dress for a casual do, but which is why you can’t wear it.

They also shot down the idea of asking the bride for permission to wear it, pointing out that this puts the bride in an awkward situation. As one commenter explained:

If you ask the bride you’re putting her in a very difficult situation, especially if she knows you’ve already bought it. I think it’s too close to cream/ ivory to wear to a wedding and I’d have been annoyed if you wore it to mine. If you’d have asked me beforehand I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be rude, so I’m not sure what I’d have said..

And among those who voted “no” on the dress, the argument that it wasn’t truly white held no water. They maintained that anything pale enough to white to appear white in photos or from afar is off-limits. One recalled:

[I] attended wedding where someone wore a very light mint dress […] in person you would see that it had a mint tinge to it, but in the daylight and all the photos it shows up as a white lacy dress. People definitely comment on it when shown wedding photos

I’ve been told before that a squint test should apply. If you squint and it doesn’t look white, then it’s fine. I’ve used that rule when looking at dresses that had white as a base color but a pattern, etc.

And one person summed up the anti-white case by pointing out that there are many options that don’t raise etiquette problems:

There is a whole rainbow of beautiful colors out there, unless the dress really is a lot darker than the photo, I would pick something else. I’m sure the bride won’t care, but plenty of others might think you’re a bit odd.

What do you think? Is it ever okay to wear white to a wedding?

Leave a comment

5 Replies to “Mom Trying to Save Money Asks If It’s Appropriate to Wear an Off-White Dress to a Wedding”

  • Irene Tonee 2 years ago

    Nope, not appropriate. Just go to Ross or TJ Max and you will find many beautiful and inexpensive dresses. If this is the only problem you have, consider yourself lucky.

  • LB 2 years ago

    Unless it is a big formal church wedding with a “dress code”, I say wear what you want and can afford. I don’t think in this day and age that there is a set rule. My niece bought a beautiful vintage beige and taupe beaded evening gown for her wedding dress (which looked great on her) and her bridesmaids wore all different colors and lengths. Put a colored belt, with matching shoes and purse and maybe some bright colored necklace or earrings to jazz it up. Quit caring so much what other people will think of what you wear. If it looks nice, suits the occasion and you are comfortable in it, wear it and have a good time.

  • Mary Stevens 2 years ago

    One thing I dislike at a wedding moreso than a white dress is someone wearing a BLACK dress. That is a no no. I was wearing a black and white dress to a shower that my mother’s friends gave me. Mom made me wear something else. It was easier to wear something else than argue with mom

  • Wedding Time Bridal 2 years ago

    Excellent explanation, it’s simple & focuses. Thank you so much for sharing a great article.

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