Can a Guest Wear a Colorful Outfit to a Black-Tie Wedding?

A formal celebration is no reason to shy away from your favorite hues and prints.

bride with female wedding guests
Photo: Ana Lui Photography

When you've been invited to a wedding with a black-tie dress code, you may find yourself wondering which of your outfits are or are not acceptable. While a black-tie celebration simply means that the couple is asking everyone to wear formal attire, we asked industry insiders to weigh in on whether guests attending these events should wear color or bold patterns. Although some couples ask guests to follow a chosen color scheme for their wedding, a black-tie wedding doesn't necessarily mean they're asking you to wear black. If a specific color is required, you'll usually find that the couple directs you to a mood board on their wedding website that outlines the color scheme they'd like you to dress in.

Clara Isabella Boatto and Eva Zoe Trevisan from Design Anarchy Events by Chic Weddings say, "We suggest asking the host, or the planning team if there is one, whether the wedding has a specific color palette that you should adhere to. It's a sign of respect to the couple and you'll feel most comfortable when you arrive." Worried the guests of honor want you to arrive wearing a specific hue? Don't be. Most couples who'd like guests to dress in certain colors will make this ask on their wedding invitations and reiterate the point on their wedding website. If they don't, you're safe to assume that anything—or rather, almost anything—is fair game.

As most people who've attended a black-tie wedding can attest, there's generally nothing wrong with guests wearing an outfit in the color of their choosing. "Black-tie means formal, which includes floor-length gowns and tuxedos," etiquette expert Elaine Swann reminds us. "Jewel tones and sparkly fabrics are absolutely acceptable for black-tie weddings." To ensure your colorful outfit fits the bill, choose longer hemlines, fancier fabrics, and more formal-looking attire overall.

One color that historically has not been acceptable to wear to a wedding is white—even if it it's floor-length. Anne Chertoff, a wedding etiquette expert at Beaumont Etiquette, says "Women should avoid shades of white and ivory as their gown may resemble a bridal gown. Gentlemen can show off their personality and style by wearing a tuxedo in a color or patterned fabric." When in doubt, male guests should opt for a classic black tuxedo, even if they end up matching the groom; female guests should avoid white and ivory tones.

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