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As far as I have ever been aware, it has always been a rule of etiquette for a female guest to NEVER wear white when attending a wedding in the United States. It has always been my understanding that the bride should be the only female dressed in white.

And still our answer, forever and always, is no. No, you cannot wear white to a wedding. Period.

The only wedding that I have ever witnessed outside of the United States was the televised wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in England. Kate Middleton's sister wore a white-(ish) colored bridesmaid dress. I don't recall any breaches in the rules of etiquette being discussed when this happened.

Pippa Middleton

Would a female wedding guest dressed in white only be breaking a rule of etiquette in the United States?

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    Of course, even if Kate's dress was a breach of etiquette, the first rule of etiquette is that you do not expose, discuss or correct a breach. The famous, though possibly apocryphal, anecdote of a guest drinking from the finger bowl during a high-class banquet comes to mind. This was solved by the hostess doing the same, not by anyone pointing out that "it was wrong". – oerkelens Jul 25 '17 at 7:36
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    Pippa's dress was in fact a breach of etiquette. But she was punished by the "well, she didn't know any better, poor thing" reaction. – RedSonja Jul 25 '17 at 13:43
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    @RedSonja I have a difficult time believing that a breach of etiquette that huge was made. The whole world was watching and people were obsessed with what everyone was going to wear. Kate and her sister had access to top designers and anyone in the fashion industry. Kate was the bride. The bride chooses how her bridal party are dressed. She's the one who put Pippa in that dress. I really have a hard time believing that Pippa or anyone involved in that wedding didn't know any better. – steelersquirrel Jul 25 '17 at 15:48
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    @steelersquirrel - There was no breach of etiquette. ;) Pippa just did what she wanted without worrying about these sorts of “rules.” – Obie 2.0 Apr 16 '18 at 8:29
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I believe the etiquette around not wearing white is so as not to 'show up' the bride or look more 'bridal' than her.

If the bridesmaids are wearing white it is because the bride or wedding party have dressed them in that colour and so is the aesthetic they are looking for. Therefore no breach of protocol.

I think this rule would only apply culturally where a traditional wedding had a bride in white. This is not the case across many cultures and so would not apply - Indian weddings spring to mind in which the traditional colours appear to be more vibrant than a US/UK wedding

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    +1 "Indian weddings", hah! There must be thousand different kinds of wedding traditions in India. (I'm from there) :) – NVZ Jul 24 '17 at 15:32
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    Yep! Indian weddings are very colourful :) – Zizouz212 Jul 24 '17 at 18:18
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    In Indian Christian weddings, the bride normally wears white. – Nitish Jul 25 '17 at 6:42
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    @TangoFoxtrot It's a rather young tradition, usually traced back to Queen Victoria's wedding. The whole point is to show off wealth - cleaning white was almost impossible at the time, so wearing white meant you had a dress made just for the one occasion - not something a regular person would do. Over time, marketing made the white symbolic, and people look at you funny if you don't wear it nowadays. Even today, having a dress made just for a wedding is a huge waste. Plenty of Indian weddings also display wealth, just in a different manner (e.g. lavish food, many guests...). – Luaan Jul 25 '17 at 9:06
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    The bottom line (no pun intended) is that the bride chose what her bridal party would wear. The Middleton sisters have access to any type of wardrobe they want. "Maybe she doesn't have anything else" seems like that's pretty impossible. I'm fairly confident that Kate knew what her sister and the rest of the bridal party would be wearing. This wedding was watched by millions of people and would be critiqued. Kate Middleton is well known for her taste and sense of style. I'm fairly confident that she consulted with numerous people to ensure that proper etiquette was being followed. – steelersquirrel Jul 25 '17 at 16:08
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I think this very much depends on your social circle. The golden rule is always not to 'outshine' the bride though.

Often a wedding has a master of ceremonies, best man or other person of contact you can contact to get more info on the dresscode, if it is not already listed on the invite. Nobody is going to be offended if you ask for this, if anything they will find you considerate and will inform you with more detailed guidelines.

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    Hmmmm...I don't know about asking anyone other than the bride this question if even asking at all. I would feel strange even asking the bride if I could wear white to her wedding. This would create an awkward situation, imo. The bride would be put in an uncomfortable situation. Asking about dresscode is one thing, asking if you can wear white to a wedding is another. – steelersquirrel Jul 24 '17 at 16:59
  • @steelershark I agree, I definitely wouldn't ask this unless you know the bride very well and know she probably won't care. Even then, there are so many other colors to wear. Why cause a fuss? That's all irrelevant to the question, though. – Kat Jul 24 '17 at 19:44
  • @steelershark If you were considering wearing white (and you think that might be frowned upon), it's probably best to ask someone. Asking an MC/organiser will be at one remove from the bride: depending on what's already been discussed, they may not even need to ask the bride, and can phrase a "we think it would be better if you didn't" response diplomatically and without having to put the bride in a position of saying no. – TripeHound Jul 25 '17 at 7:21
  • @steelershark for me the bride would be the last person to ask, unless she is a direct family member or very close friend. The bride has more important things to worry about than your outfit. – Summer Jul 25 '17 at 8:05
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    I'm getting married next month, and my mother said she saw a lovely white trouser suit to wear to my wedding. My fiancee went apocolyptic about it, saying she was wearing white and that no one else should. So I would actually ask the bride her opinion on it, as it's her day after all. For the record, my mom didn't buy the white trouser suit in the end. She's wearing black instead (she's joking, obviously. I hope.) – mickburkejnr Jul 25 '17 at 11:17
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It's not certainly an US-only thing, but to the best of my understanding applies anywhere where white is the designated colour of the bride. Such is the situation for example in Finland, where I'm from. The only exception would be if it was specifically cleared beforehand or intentionally chosen for Maids of Honour.

0

Hmmm I'm sitting on the other side of the world, New Zealand, and this is a country that has been colonised by the British and Churchianity, so in many strands of our society, white for brides (as a symbol of virginity) has often (but not exclusively) been a norm. 50 years ago, bridesmaids and flower girls were seen in white too, but never 'matrons of honour' (married bridal attendants). That fits with the 'virginity' symbolism. Contemporary weddings of which I am aware have chosen colours for everyone often. Guests wearing white to weddings? I suspect that the taboo is only some subsets of US society

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    Welcome! I'm not sure what "Churchianity" means. – Catija Jul 24 '17 at 23:21
  • To my understanding of wedding history, light blue was seen as virginal (such as all paintings of the Virgin Mary) and white was brought into fashion after Queen Elizabeth to show you were wealthy enough to wear a dress once. bbc.com/culture/story/20140503-how-wedding-dresses-evolved – threetimes Jul 25 '17 at 7:58
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    @threetimes Queen Victoria (1840), not Elizabeth. And it was certainly seen as very unusual (wedding dresses used to be very colourful, or just usual plain clothes for the poor folk), a display of wealth and was widely copied by people looking to show off their wealth (real or imagined - I know a few people who took a loan on a wedding). "Virginity symbolism" had nothing to do with it, that's just another re-marketing :) The US wedding culture is crazy about pretending to be wealthy (consciously or not - "what would people think of us if you didn't give me a diamond ring?"). – Luaan Jul 25 '17 at 9:13

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