[Warning: I’m about to go all didactic on your asses.]
Weddings are bastions of tradition, from good ol’ Pachelbel’s Canon playing as the bride walks up the aisle, to the readings (“Love is patient, love is kind”), to the cutting of the cake. No matter how rock ‘n’ roll the particular nuptials you are attending – if the happy couple breakdance out of the registry office after saying “I do”, or have a cake in the shape of their own heads - the one non-negotiable rule is that guests should not wear white.
Off-white, or cream, with a floral or graphic print might be ok, but nothing – nothing – that remotely resembles a wedding dress. Here’s a great example of an acceptable white-plus-print dress from By Malene Birger:
One pal said “Well what if the bride herself isn’t wearing white?” and I suppose you could make a case for wearing white in those circumstances, but still the chill, dread fear would be at the back of my mind: what if people mistake you for the bride? What if she thinks you’re trying to upstage her, like some kind of creepy pseudo-bride? Ugh, it’s just not worth the hassle.
Let’s break it down a bit: it’s ok to wear a white blazer, maybe a shorts suit (see: Kate Moss at Bobby Gillespie and Katy England’s wedding – I think it might have been dove grey but it looked pretty damned near to white to me) or a white pencil skirt (gloriously ‘80s Essex, with patent pumps and a jazzy blouse!) but it is NOT ok to wear a white dress. There, I’ve said it – sometimes rules exist for a reason.
And conversely, how do we feel about wearing black to weddings? Chic or too morbid? It somehow feels more appropriate to wear a black shift (maybe with jazzy colourful heels?) or a slinky black cocktail frock or evening gown to a city wedding – there’s something about the soft, muted colours of the English countryside that would make an all-black ensemble seem too harsh.
However, this is a democracy so I asked the ever-stylish Sharon Forrester to give me her opposing opinion: “I think it's ok to wear white because the tradition of the bride wearing white is just that - a tradition. A number of brides choose ivory or cream tones because it's more flattering, or don't bother to wear white at all. And wouldn't rocking up in a bright red gown be more attention-grabbing?
“I think white is alright as long as you're wearing something non-bridal or bridesmaid looking - i.e. probably best to avoid maxi lengths and go for something short. A girl I know recently wore a short white dress with a navy blazer so it made it smart and definitely non-bridal. There are so many nice white summer dresses around this season and I want to wear one dammit!”
Ultimately, there are far too few opportunities in life to dress up and weddings give you a happy excuse to wear something colourful – it symbolises joy and why wouldn’t you want to celebrate in something bright and beautiful?
But tell me, am I being a horrible little fashion dictator? Would you or have you worn white to a wedding? This is important!