Can You Wear White to a Gay Wedding if There’s No Bride?


More states are legalizing same-sex marriage, which means more Americans are attending their first gay weddings. It goes without saying that the etiquette is almost totally the same—it’s just another wedding, after all. But there’s one rule that might give attendees some pause: If there’s no bride, can you wear white?

The prohibition against wearing white to a wedding seems like one of the last truly hard-and-fast nuptial no-nos. Maybe you think it’s antiquated, but people still hesitate. “The tradition comes from the place of, you don’t want to outside the bride or have your dress competing with the bride’s,” explained Lizzie Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily and co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition.

“Obviously, everyone’s going to know who the bride is, but you just don’t want to take attention away from her on that day.” It’s an acknowledgement that today is not your day—you’re there to support the couple getting married.

Now, the rule isn’t as strict as it once was. A cocktail-style cream or something with color-blocking is probably acceptable (at least as far as Hoda Kotb is concerned). The egregious offense, according to Post, would be a formal white gown that reads bridal. (Obvious if it’s a black-and-white wedding like Kim K’s last one, this doesn’t apply.) Then again, you’ve got to watch yourself with more brides going for casual and tea-length gowns. “If you think there’s any chance that your bride could wear a very simple wedding suit, even,” you’d probably want to skip the white. When in doubt? Don’t do it.

But what if you’re attending the marriage of two men that you’re pretty sure will be wearing, say, navy suits?

Post says that, as long as you steer clear of long, white gowns that scream ~BRIDE~ you’re probably fine. Then again, consider your friend and his groom: Is either a stickler for tradition? If so, err on the side of caution. “Just because there’s no bride doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect the fact that the rules would’ve been there.”

Steven Petrow, author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and The New Gay Wedding, concurs and comes down even harder against turning up in white. The problem is, everyone knows the rule, so if you break it, everyone notices you. “No doubt about it, they’re going to draw attention to themselves. And that’s the problem. That’s the faux pas,” he explained.

“You don’t want to wear your shortest dress and be drawing attention to your fabulous legs or even your most outrageous, beautiful piece of jewelry,” he added.

“Even if these two guys are perfectly fine with it in their navy suits, someone’s mom, someone’s grandmother, someone’s friend is going to say, look at that person in white. Bad. Bad!” And God knows it’s best to get through a wedding ceremony without anyone’s grandma concluding that you don’t know how to act.

Bernadette Coveney Smith (who founded of 14 Stories, an event planning outfit that specializes in gay weddings) was the most blunt of all: “While wearing white as a wedding guest to a gay wedding with two grooms technically doesn’t break any etiquette rules, it’s still tacky.”

And God knows, you don’t want to be the tacky girl at any wedding, whether it’s for a straight couple, a gay couple or a pair of schnauzers. So err on the side of caution.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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