Two experts, a wedding planner and a bridal stylist, weigh in on this potentially tricky topic.
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Credit: Ray Kang

Selecting the right wedding attire can be somewhat challenging; you may, for example, wonder whether it's appropriate to wear black. The short answer? It depends on the wedding. "The rules around the color have definitely softened in recent years," says Laurie Arons of Laurie Arons Special Events, adding that it's no longer a faux pas to wear a color so closely associated with mourning to weddings and other joyous occasions. "Nowadays you even see bridesmaids in chic black gowns of their own choosing," she points out.

To help you determine whether black is appropriate for the wedding you're attending, we turned to Arons and bridal stylist Julie Sabatino for key considerations.

Location matters.

"In the metropolitan Northeast (think New York and Boston), it's very common to see women in little black dresses or evening gowns at weddings," Arons explains. In the South, however, it's much less common, which is why Arons would suggest wearing a colorful dress to a wedding in this region of the United States. If you're lucky enough to be attending a destination wedding in European or tropical locales, she notes that avoiding black is still highly recommended. Instead, look to region's surroundings to inform your outfit: An oceanside event in the Bahamas, for example, calls for bright, punchy colors, while an affair at a castle in France might require something regal—like jewel tones.

Think about the wedding's formality.

"If the couple is hosting a black-tie wedding at a formal venue, such as an elegant ballroom or grand museum, it's suitable for a guest to wear black," Arons says. In a relaxed country setting or a beach location, black would seem far too serious and out of place; a splashy pastel or punchy pattern is much more appropriate.

Consider the time of day.

"Traditional etiquette states that black-tie dress is appropriate for receptions starting at 6:00 p.m. or later, with suits or morning suits recommended for the afternoon hours," Arons says. Though not every wedding follows these rules, she explains that ladies can still follow suit (pun intended!) by choosing lighter and brighter colors for daytime events, and deeper, more formal tones for the evening.

Whatever you do, don't wear white.

As a general rule, "wearing black is totally acceptable, as the hue is very versatile," Sabatino affirms. However, you should avoid wearing white unless you are told otherwise. That shade, she says, is exclusively reserved for the bride.

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