Is It OK to Wear a Black Dress to a Wedding?

I’m continuing my series of often-asked wedding attire questions, with this popular query, “Is it ok to wear a black dress to a wedding?” I won’t make you wait for my answer– it’s yes,– but, as usual, I do have some exceptions,  guidelines, and plenty of musings about this topic.

Black Cocktail Dress

This pretty black cocktail dress  by Eliza J From Nordstrom is lovely for a semi-formal evening wedding. The side embellishment makes it festive!

I actually had this exact question from my cousin a few weeks ago, so I figured I would answer publicly with my thoughts.  I think black dresses are fine to wear to weddings, so long as they fit the time and style of event, and as long as the dress isn’t too somber-looking. However, I certainly remember a time when black was considered taboo for wedding attire, so I can understand why this is a popular question.

Black One shoulder dress

This pretty one shoulder dress from Halston Heritage is ready for weddings and party! Great for bridesmaids too!

I have worn black dresses to several weddings, but I wasn’t always so sure it was ok. I vividly remember a wedding I went to when I first got out of college where I desperately wanted to wear a well-cut classic little black dress, but I was afraid it would be bad taste to do so. Instead, I wore an ill-fitting printed dress that I bought in a frenzy that morning, and spent the wedding wishing I looked as chic as the several other guests who had worn little black dresses glammed up with tasteful jewelry.

Within the past few decades and the advent of the little black dress becoming go-to cocktail attire, the black dress became definitely acceptable as wedding wear.  But there are types of black dresses I’d steer away from, and types of weddings when it’s not appropriate to wear a little black dress. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Black and White Fit and Flare

This pretty black and white fit and flare by Taylor is a perfect party dress! It has cheerful dotted pattern, so I think it’s  a lovely choice for a dressy or dressy casual wedding. ( It even works for daytime!)

Where and When to Wear a Black Dress to a Wedding

A pretty, conservative black dress is considered perfect wedding attire for many evening weddings, city weddings, and a full-length black gown is especially appropriate for black tie weddings.  The key is always to make it look festive, elegant, cheerful and chic, so never wear something to a wedding that you might just as easily wear to a funeral.

Black has long been considered a color of mourning, and of course mourning a friend’s wedding is not the ideal message to convey with your attire.  My guideline is to wear a back dress that is clearly festive, and to not to wear a dress that you would also wear to a funeral. If you have a go-everywhere classic little black dress that perhaps once did get worn to a funeral, make sure you dress it up with jewelry, a colorful wrap or a bit of brightness somewhere so that you look elegant and radiant in black, and not the least bit morose.  My rule is always that you should feel confident in your attire, so if black makes you feel uncomfortable, or like you might be breaking a social rule, choose one of the many other beautiful colors to wear.

Black Ballgown

I adore this elegant dress from Adrianna Papell for a formal black tie wedding. 

 

When Not to Wear a Black Dress to a Wedding

I’ll never forget a wedding I attended as a young flower girl, where someone was dressed in fitted black suit with a black lace gloves and a black fascinator-style hat that had little black veil. I remember how much it looked like dramatic funeral attire straight out of a Hollywood wardrobe department, and how tongues wagged about this person’s outfit. I don’t even think this person was intentionally trying to make a negative statement about the wedding — it was decades ago, so it was more about this person expressing their style with slightly punk/goth-inspired fashion. Still, it stood out in my mind, and to this day, I don’t think any wedding guest wants to stand out like this person did.

As always, you’ll want to steer away from little black dresses that are too tight, reveal too much leg or cleavage, or are too form-fitting.  If you happen to think that the bride or the family might find a black dress offensive, opt to wear a color and something more festive. I would not generally wear a black dress to a morning or early afternoon wedding, especially without adding some bright spots of color, or making sure it had some pretty print to it.  I also wouldn’t wear a black dress to a garden party type reception where brightly colored pretty dresses would be more in keeping with the party.  A casual beach or summer backyard wedding is also another place where basic black may look too uncomfortable and austere, so I’d try to wear pretty beach-inspired colors.

Even More Musings on Black Dresses

These black lace dress posts are a popular on this site and I sometimes get concerned that a daytime wedding-goer might be inspired to follow them to the letter, because black lace isn’t my first choice for most weddings unless it’s a formal evening event. The black lace dresses I’ve written about were chosen with the bride’s consent, but even though a black lace dress can be classic, unless you wear a every elegant black lace dress with some spirited accessories it can still look a little severe and sometimes racy — especially if it’s form fitting or has a very sheer look. I’d use caution with that dress choice although I’ve seen it look very stately and chic at formal weddings on the right person.

Black Lace Dress

This dress from Marina is what I’d consider tastefully tailored black lace dress. Add some sparkly accessories to ensure this will be a radiant look for an evening wedding.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for how to and when to wear a black dress to a wedding, as well as some of my dress selections.  Here are some other posts I’ve done featuring black dresses if you’re wanting more inspiration.

What do you think, do you often wear black to a wedding? Do you find it classic or disrespectful? I always love hearing how other people and especially other geographical regions and cultures feel about this, so please chime in with your thoughts!

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More style ideas you might enjoy :

5 Responses to Is It OK to Wear a Black Dress to a Wedding?

  1. I’ve been eyeing that fit & flare dress for days!

    • It’s so cute! I owe that one to you! I saw it when I was searching on Nordstrom on Sunday and then again on your Pinterest feed as I was writing this and that sealed the deal – I was like ok – other people think it’s cute too, and I knew I wanted to include it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Sara says:

    Love this post – like you say – it depends! Love LBDs though – they can’t be beat!

  3. I think black is perfect for a wedding. So elegant!

  4. Jen Ocon says:

    I think a black dress is elegant for any event, but it has to be done tastefully (like you mentioned). That fit and flare dress is really cute – I would definitely wear that to a wedding.

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