White is reserved for the bride on the wedding day to guarantee the spotlight is firmly on her throughout the ceremony and the reception.
You may think it’s ok to wear a little white, like white shoes, to a wedding, but you’d be surprised at how sensitive people are about this tradition.
Whether you’re at a beach destination wedding or a formal black-tie event also contributes to the opinions around wearing white.
Formal weddings typically stick much closer to custom, and people will probably notice if you wear white shoes.
While it’s rare for someone to approach you and tell you about your faux pas, wearing white shoes to your friend’s or family’s wedding may ruffle some feathers. Avoid the situation altogether if you’re wondering whether you should wear white shoes.
Why cause unnecessary drama or break wedding traditions over something as small as shoes?
Remember, it’s their day, not yours. Instead, grab another pair to be safe, or ask for clarification first if you’re dying to wear white shoes with your dress.
Here’s some helpful information about why we don’t wear white to weddings and how you can navigate what to wear to a wedding as a guest.
Why Wedding Guests Don’t Wear White
Not wearing white to a wedding is a stickier tradition than many customs.
Even in this age when people are charting their own path more than ever, people still prickle at the thought of someone other than the bride wearing white.
The mistake of wearing white to someone’s wedding has been played out in movies, TV, and other media. Naturally, the bride or the family becomes furious about what is usually someone’s attempt to outshine the bride or make it about themselves.
That’s the perception, anyway. When people wear white to a wedding, the thinking is that the color draws the spotlight away from the bride, who is supposed to be the only person wearing white.
Now, you may think that it’s silly to get upset over something like white shoes, especially when people are wearing colored wedding dresses, getting married on a Mexican beach, or having a wedding in the backyard.
However valid your thoughts may be, it’s important to remember that it’s not your event. You are a guest, so it’s always good to err on the side of respecting time-honored traditions.
White Shoes Aren’t Normally a Big Deal
The main thing you should avoid is wearing an all-white outfit to someone else’s wedding. Whether you know them closely or not, it can come off as either rude or ignorant.
Shoes and other smaller accents, however, typically aren’t that big of a deal. It would be strange if anyone said anything to you about wearing white shoes to a wedding.
However, customs say wearing white is best avoided, and not all weddings are the same.
Here are some things to consider before you choose your wedding shoes.
Is the wedding at a fancy hotel or City Hall? Formal weddings at nice venues like museums, etc., will likely stick to traditional wedding plans and customs.
You’ll probably attend a traditional ceremony and a standard reception schedule. There will be first dances, cake cutting, toasts, and other traditions.
When you’re at a formal wedding, you should dress to impress, especially considering guests will include work colleagues and other people you don’t know as well. Make a good impression by not wearing any white, including on your feet.
If, however, the wedding is in your friend’s backyard, a park, or on the beach, people are less likely to follow strict wedding norms.
No one will say much if you wear white shoes to the wedding, but it’s up to you whether you want to risk offending the bride.
Relationship to the Bride
How well do you know the bride? Before you put on white shoes for the wedding, consider how well you know them and whether you can anticipate if they’ll mind what shoes you’re wearing.
If there’s any chance they’ll be annoyed or offended; you should leave the white shoes at home.
White shoes won’t do well anyway in an outdoor wedding while you’re walking around in grass, sand, or dirt. In addition to the weather, the cultural setting also matters.
White at weddings is a big deal in Western culture, but not so much in Asian and other cultures.
In fact, you may be going to a wedding where the bride doesn’t even wear white because it’s not their tradition.
Follow the Wedding Dress Code
Almost every wedding couple will outline the dress code well in advance. They spend months or years planning the event and want everyone to dress the part.
Wedding couples also want to spare guests the embarrassment of showing up either over-dressed or underdressed for the wedding.
Read your invitation to look for directions on what you should wear. Black-tie means as formal as you can get, while smart casual or casual means you can dress down.
If you don’t see any instructions on the invitation, you can see if the wedding has a social media account on any platform.
Bigger weddings often create web pages for the events to help guests navigate everything wedding related.
If there isn’t any dress code outlined anywhere, take a look at the wedding venue to get a clue.
Usually, your decision on what to wear will be between wearing something formal (dress/suit and tie) or smart casual. Don’t show up wearing casual clothes to any wedding with a booked venue.
Other Outfit No-Nos
There are other guidelines on what to wear besides just not wearing white. If it’s your first wedding, or the wedding has an interesting setting, here’s some advice on what not to wear.
Don’t wear anything that reveals too much. Again, it’s not about morality; just avoid wearing anything that sparks conversations or draws attention away from the bride.
Wearing something too risqué can become a distraction at someone’s wedding. Choose classic fits and cuts and you should be good to go!
Even wearing dressier shorts isn’t a great idea. Give the wedding couple some respect and wear pants or a dress to their wedding, no matter how informal.
The only exception here is beach weddings, where something like a nice pair of linen shorts is acceptable.
If you’re wondering, ask the bride and groom ahead of time about wearing shorts to their wedding.
Skip wearing jewelry or clothing that will clink or jingle as you wear it. People, especially the bride, don’t want to hear distracting noises as you adjust your seat during their vows at the ceremony.
Is It Ok to Wear Black to a Wedding?
Besides wearing white, black clothing is usually frowned upon at weddings if you’re a guest.
Shoes, belts, and other accessories are acceptable, but wearing a black dress or a black hat is sometimes frowned upon.
Whether wearing black to weddings is appropriate is not as strongly held of a tradition as not wearing white.
Nevertheless, modern weddings are increasingly asking wedding parties to wear black, including the bridesmaids. The thinking is that them wearing black makes the bride in white stand out even more.
As feelings about wearing black become more relaxed, it’s normal to see a few wedding guests wearing black to receptions.
If you’re on the fence, reach out and ask for confirmation before you buy that amazing black dress for the wedding.
The Final Word
It’s probably best to choose non-white shoes to wear to a friend’s wedding. Even if they don’t care, you avoid causing any fuss or coming off as someone who doesn’t know the customs.
If the wedding is informal, wearing white shoes won’t be an issue. However, it’s best to wear colors other than white if you’re going to a formal ceremony or reception.
Things are certainly becoming less formal. Today, fewer brides with veils are seen, and other wedding customs are transitioning into more open, fair, and inclusive traditions.
That may affect attitudes about whether wearing white is acceptable, but it’s not totally there yet.
People still shy away from wearing white to weddings, even when it’s only their shoes.
You may think that white heels or flats complete the perfect outfit for a wedding, but you’re still just a guest. People aren’t there to see you; they’re there for the couple.
So, by not wearing white, you’re making sure the bride shines as much as possible on one of the most important days of her life.
If you know the bride very well, you can always shoot them a text and ask them if you can wear white shoes. They may respond quickly to let you know that it’s perfectly fine or that they would rather you not.
If they wait to respond for a day or longer, you should skip wearing white shoes no matter what their response is. Some people don’t want you to wear white but would rather not try and tell you what colors you can wear.
Following old customs, regardless of how silly, can be fun and a great way to celebrate. Think of it as something fun and find another pair of amazing shoes for your outfit!