Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? All You Need to Know

Is it bad luck to wear black to a wedding? Here’s what you need to know.

By Lisa Wong Macabasco

Is It Bad Luck to Wear Black to a Wedding
Photo by Haley Richter Photography

The First Look ✨

  • Previous generations considered black to be taboo for weddings or a sign of bad luck for the marriage.
  • In recent years the norms around wedding attire have changed and now it’s very common to see wedding guests in black ensembles.
  • Try to avoid the color if the bridesmaids or bride are wearing black or if it's considered bad luck according to a couple’s specific culture or traditions.

Attending a wedding as a guest is an etiquette minefield. Once you’ve received the wedding invitation, one of the trickiest decisions you have to make is what to wear on the wedding day. Perhaps you don’t have the time and budget to buy new wedding guest dresses—or maybe you have your eye on an amazing new frock or a favorite from your closet. In any case, you may find yourself wondering if it’s acceptable to wear black as your wedding guest attire.

Whether you're considering an all-black look or just need some inspiration on wedding guest outfits, here’s what you need to know about wearing black to a wedding and decoding wedding invitations for clothing cues.

Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?

Zola_Is it Bad Luck to Wear Black to a Wedding? *Photo Credit * // Ripperton Films

Yes, you can wear black to a wedding. That said, an all-black look is more suited to some weddings than others based on factors like location, time, or dress code.

It’s also important to know that previous generations considered black to be taboo for weddings. In fact, it was thought to be a symbol of all things malevolent, a sign of bad luck for the marriage, or even a wedding guest’s statement against the marriage. According to Western cultures, black is traditionally considered the color of mourning. As such, a black wedding guest outfit was thought to be inappropriate for the happiest day of someone’s life, and etiquette books traditionally advised against guests wearing black. But in recent years, guidelines around wedding attire have changed—mostly in the direction of loosening strict rules. Cocktail dresses are now widely regarded as acceptable wedding guest attire, and today you will see bridesmaids or even brides in chic black gowns. There might even be details on the wedding invitation specifying a particular dress code or preferred color scheme…so make sure to read the invite carefully. Here are some key things to think about when deciding whether to wear black to a wedding—as well as some black wedding guest dresses and outfit options.

Consider the Wedding Locale

It’s very common to see guests wearing black to weddings that take place in metropolitan areas of the northeast United States, like New York and Boston. It’s much less frequently seen among guests attending an outdoor wedding in the South, however, so you should think about wearing a more colorful look to a wedding held there. Formal or full-length black ensembles may also seem out of place at a destination wedding in a warm weather or tropical setting. Likewise, you might want to stay away from wearing black if the couple is having a traditional church ceremony. Because black is still considered the color of mourning in a church, wearing it at somebody's wedding ceremony can be a faux pas.

Consult the Wedding Dress Code

The type of wedding you're attending will inform the wedding dress code. Is it a black-tie wedding or white tie wedding? For a formal wedding that lists the dress code as black tie, black outfits are certainly suitable, particularly if the celebration is held at a grand, formal event venue like a museum or ballroom.

At a more casual wedding, however, wearing a full-length, formal black gown may seem too buttoned-up. For a beach wedding, consider a shorter, flowy dress; for a rustic or vineyard wedding, try a black dress featuring lace or other textural details.

It’s also become very common for bridesmaids to wear black. Try to find out what color they’re wearing, so you aren’t mistaken for the bridal party.

Think About the Time of the Wedding

You can also use the time of day—and the time of year—to guide your outfit decision. Traditionally, a black tie dress code is considered suitable for receptions beginning at 6 p.m. or later, while suits or morning suits are recommended for a daytime wedding. Though not all weddings follow these rules, guests can still generally apply them to their outfits, with lighter, more vibrant looks for daytime festivities and darker, more formal ones for evenings.

Are you kicking off this wedding season with a New Year's Eve winter wedding? An all-black outfit can be perfect for a nighttime, cold-weather celebration. Trying to choose an outfit for a summer wedding later this season? In most cases, it's best to stay away from black and opt for a more colorful look.

Be Careful About Cultural Weddings

In some cultures—Hindu, for example—it’s traditionally unlucky to wear black on the big day. You should always be respectful of a couple’s traditions as a guest, and this is especially true if the parents of the couple are hosting the wedding and they (or the couple) consider wearing black inappropriate. In this case, or if you don’t know the couple well and there’s any question in your mind about what’s acceptable, it’s best to find something else to wear.

Just Don’t Wear White!

Zola_Is it Bad Luck to Wear Black to a Wedding? *Photo Credit * // Cami Grudzinski Fine Art Photography

In many situations, it’s suitable for guests to wear any color—except for white, a color that should be exclusively worn by the bride on her wedding day. Don’t take the focus away from the center of attention by wearing a white dress (or even one of a similar hue).

While it may not work for every wedding situation, black is still generally acceptable for guests to wear to most weddings. But take care to consider the above factors before making a decision. Short of upstaging the bride, you should feel free to wear anything festive in any color. However, you don’t want to feel uncomfortable or risk offending anyone on this important day, so if there’s any doubt, it’s best to steer clear.

7 Black Wedding Attire Ideas

1. Little Black Dress

You can (almost) never go wrong with this classic style. The shorter length of a mini dress is a great compromise if you want to wear black to a casual or warm-weather destination wedding.

French Connection Whisper Crossover Cutout Minidress, $128, Nordstrom

2. Midi Dress

Since this wedding guest dress style has a slightly longer length, it will make your wedding day outfit feel just a little more formal.

Claire Midi Dress, $188, Show Me Your Mumu

3. Printed or Textured Dress

Make your all-black look a little more interesting with a touch of texture or a pop of pattern. Choosing a pattern is a great way to lighten up your outfit if you're headed to a daytime or destination wedding.

The Lace Ellie Nap Dress, $275, Hill House

4. Jumpsuit

Looking for a non-dress option for an upcoming wedding? A jumpsuit can be a great option—choose one in a luxe fabric, like silk or satin, for a dressier effect.

Chelsea 28 Twist-Detail Satin Jumpsuit, $49.50, Nordstrom

5. Blazer

A blazer is a great way to add a formal element to just about any wedding guest look. Consider layering a black blazer over your jumpsuit for a suit-inspired look, or use it to dress up a more casual wedding guest dress.

Basic Blazer, $89.90, Zara

6. Black Suit

A black suit look is a formal attire option for people of any gender. Pair a black suit jacket with a lacey camisole and midi skirt for a more feminine look, or with a pair of trousers for a tailored touch.

Yachter Black Suit Jacket, $90, Banana Republic

7. Tuxedo

If you receive a wedding invitation that specifies white-tie attire, a tuxedo is an absolute must. If the invite lists the dress code as a black-tie wedding, a tuxedo is also a great option (though you can safely wear a suit, too).

Thompson Peak-Lapel Tuxedo Jacket, $249, J.Crew Factory

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