Is it OK for a Wedding Guest Wear Red to a Wedding?
One of the questions we hear most often is: Can I Wear Red Dress to a Wedding? The short answer is yes, as long as it's tasteful and elegant, and not against the cultural traditions of the couple or event. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when wearing a red dress to a wedding.
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This post was originally published in September 2013, and updated for August 2020.
Sources: Dress: Eliza J | Earrings: Akola | Bracelet: Kendra Scott | Clutch: Nordstrom | Shoes: Michael Kors
More Tips for Choosing a Wedding-Appropriate Red Dress
- Make sure your red dress is appropriate in all other ways Don't wear a red dress that is too skimpy, or inappropriate for the dress code, season, or weather. (As you can see, those same rules would apply to nearly any color of wedding guest attire!)
- Go with wine, berry, or burgundy instead. Since red can be eye-catching and a little more of a stand-out color, ideally a red that is slightly muted with other undertones like magenta red, like rust, burgundy, berry or is nearly always safe, and much more wedding-appropriate than a bright vibrant red. Burgundy dresses are actually one of my favorite colors to suggest for fall and winter wedding guests!
- Pay attention to the silhouette. If you do want to wear a brighter red, make sure the rest of the cut is balanced with some tasteful style, will help make it wedding-appropriate. For instance, maybe you will select a dress that has a high neckline, some other detail, or long sleeves, and a midi skirt.
- Consider the couple and culture. If you happen to know that the couple or family adheres to traditions or has cultural beliefs that red is not a color to be worn by a wedding guest, then by all means, please do pick another color!
- Be comfortable. My other rule of thumb is if you are questioning the red dress and don't feel 100% comfortable about it, don't wear it!
If you'd like to see some red dresses that I've selected as wedding appropriate, check out these updated picks, which were re-selected recently. Also, see our wedding guest dress picks for other ideas for what to wear to your next wedding!
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Shop Red Dresses to Wear to a Wedding
More Etiquette on Wearing Red to a Wedding
The color red certainly has a bit of a reputation to it -- and no matter how much one person may love this color, it does not always have positive connotations. Red can be associated with being sexy, sultry, racy, devilish, even dangerous. It's also attention-getting. All of these are not great attributes for describing ideal wedding guest wear, where one of the cardinal (sorry - that was a nearly unavoidable pun) rules is not to draw attention to oneself or upstage the couple. We have heard that in some areas of the Southern areas of the US, it's still considered bad form to wear red to a wedding.
However, red can also be classic, conservative, dignified (think of how many first ladies wear this color!), It's cheerful, chic, romantic, passionate, and happy! These are great terms to describe the perfect wedding attire! You can see the conundrum.
Will The Couple Be Offended?
I had a few guests who wore red for my own wedding, and I thought they looked fantastic! There was even one red, form-fitting strapless dress, which sounds like it could be too much, but I remember it because was lovely and I thought it was a pretty bright spot of color in the day! However, some couples and cultures may think of red as a "look at me" color, and so it can easily be seen bit of an unintentional statement of the wearer attempting to take focus away from the couple.
How to Choose the Right Red Outfit
So, wearing a red dress to a wedding comes down to exercising good judgment. If you feel like the couple or their family might be the sort of family to take offense to a red dress, then choose another color. Otherwise, a good red dress for a wedding guest, in my opinion, should be classic and conservative to make up for the vibrant color. It's also a good idea to wear a color that's just a bit off from an overtly crimson red. For instance, a pinkish-red raspberry, a deep burgundy, or russet red are great choices. If you wear the classic bold crimson red, be sure the dress is in good taste; that it fits you well, is not too short or revealing, and that it suits the event, and not just you.
For a church wedding, you may want to exercise even more reserve. Be sure your shoulders are covered with sleeves or a wrap, and be absolutely sure your red dress is in good taste. For an evening wedding or cocktail hour wedding reception, a slightly more showy fabric and cut is fine, but still, make sure it is in good taste. For a black-tie wedding, the gown should be full-length, and stately, so just be aware of red's attention-grabbing abilities. A deep wine color or muted red would be my preference here since neutral darker tones are the preferred dress code for black-tie weddings.
More Red Wedding Attire for the Wedding Party
- For red bridesmaid dresses, I think red of any shade is a lovely color for bridesmaids, so even a very bright red is fine for the wedding party, since it has presumably been chosen with the bride's consent, and you want your wedding party to stand out.
- For a red dress for a mother of the bride or groom, a red dress could be lovely, but it should be chosen again with care (and with the couple's approval) to make sure it's not too attention-grabbing.
- It's my understanding that the bride will often wear in a red dress in a some Asian wedding ceremonies, so I'd exercise caution about wearing red to these events. I don't know for sure, but it may well be the equivalent of wearing white to a wedding in some cultures.
If you're searching for the perfect red dress that strikes the right of the red color and style that I've been going on about, below is a shop section where you can shop red dresses through my affiliated retailers. See more ideas for how to wear red dresses here!
Gee | EverythingWeddingsAndMore says
It's weird, I must be the only person who does not think so deep when it comes to wearing Red. Honestly I am fine with any color to my wedding but I have soon figured not everyone is like me. lol
Jen Ocon says
I wouldn't be offended at red dresses for my wedding... Especially at a Fall or Winter wedding, red evokes feelings of love and passion to me, so it seems like a lovely choice for guests and for bridesmaids. This is a beautiful collection of red dresses you have chosen.
Angelica | The Bridal Detective says
When I first read this post, I had my mind made up... no, no, no! But you're right, the perfect shade of red is critical and so is the style of the dress. Now red bridesmaids dresses for an autumn wedding? Beyond gorgeous! (great post!)
Charmaine/ All in a Soiree Brides says
I like the fact that your starting a new feature exploring questions thats on a lot of peoples minds. I never thought of wearing red to a wedding because it can be such a bold distracting color, but after reading your suggestions of how to wear it properly I definitely is a do-able thing.
The Perfect Palette says
I think if the shade is a not crimson red - like you said - more of a burgundy or a rust - then it's completely okay.
But down here in the South it's an absolute no-no to "upstage the bride." So yeah, I agree with your advice to proceed with caution.
And I like your idea of adding a wrap or a shawl. I think the cranberry color you featured here is a great shade for a guest to wear!
LOVE this new feature!
Thanks for all the great comments! I'm so glad you all like the new feature, and I love hearing your thoughts and getting your input. It's so helpful for me to learn what other wedding pros think! Can't wait to do the next one now!