Can You Wear Red to a Wedding? This Is the Definitive Answer

There's one wedding guest rule that's always stuck out to me as a non-negotiable: Thou must not wear red. I first learned about it when I entered adulthood and subsequently began attending weddings. The idea was simple—don't wear a flashy color that could potentially distract from the bride. I've been to over 20 or so weddings at this point in my life and I've worn red to precisely zero of them.

That said, I can't help but wonder if this is another one of those antiquated rules like You must match your bag and shoes that really don't apply anymore. Does the color red actually distract from the bride? Is it actually offensive to wear a crimson frock you fancy? With these questions in mind, I tapped fashion editors, etiquette experts, a bridal designer, and even created a poll on Who What Wear's Insiders Facebook Group to determine the answer once and for all. My findings were 100% unexpected—continue ahead to learn what they were.

Fashion Editors Weigh In

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Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

"I think that all colors (with the exception of white, ivory, and cream, etc.) are okay to wear unless the couple has noted otherwise. That said, when it comes to eye-catching shades like red, I believe it's better to go for a more minimal silhouette so you don't take any attention away from the happy couple." — Ashley Kiely, Freelance Fashion Writer and Editor

 

"Personally, I avoid wearing red to weddings because I don't want to wear anything that's even borderline controversial as a guest, just in case anyone feels strongly about it. It depends on the dress as well. If you just love red and want to wear it, I don't think something like this is going to offend anyone. As a former bride, I didn't notice if anyone wore red to my wedding, and I wouldn't have cared if they did." —Allyson Payer, Who What Wear Fashion Editor

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Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

"Before I knew there were 'rules' around wearing red, I wore the hue to a friend's wedding sans controversy. In fact, the bride applauded my dress of choice. Like with black, I think the rules have essentially faded away when it comes to red. So long as the silhouette is elegant, I think it's okay for wedding guests to give the hue a go. Besides, the color flatters most skin tones and is a lot more versatile than other bright shades." — Laura Lajiness, Popsugar Senior Fashion Editor

"In my opinion, you should pay more attention to the silhouette of a dress rather than the color. That’s not to say you can wear white (or red to an Indian wedding), as you don’t want to compete with the bride. But otherwise, I’m very pro wearing red to a wedding. Just use your best judgment and maybe leave the fire engine red bandage dress at home in favor of a crimson look that fits the suggested attire." — Hannah Baxter, Coveteur Senior Beauty Editor

A Bridal Designer Weighs In

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Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

"I think weddings are moving away from the traditional faux pas and expectations. They are becoming more about the experience and memories of the weekend shared with friends and family than a cookie-cutter checklist. First and foremost, couples want their guests to feel comfortable and like themselves. If guests want to wear red, they should wear red. I don't think it takes attention away from the bride. Red symbolizes love and passion. It has such a broad palette. Going into late fall and winter, there are darker shades of red that are sophisticated and seasonally special." — Meredith Stoecklein, Founder and Designer of Lein

The Etiquette Experts Weigh In

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Edward Berthelot/Getty Image

"Red is always a risk if good judgment isn’t involved. A bright red, loud, crowd-stopping red is not appropriate. A muted cranberry, perhaps with a pattern, is probably fine, but when in doubt, I would prefer they not take the risk. There are plenty of other colors that are much safer; even a tasteful black dress is a better choice." — Diane Gottsman, Etiquette Expert

"It is acceptable to wear red to a wedding. It is a very festive color and goes quite well, especially for fall and holiday season weddings. However, it is important to be mindful of the culture of the happy couple. For example, in some cultures, Chinese and Indian, it is highly inappropriate to wear the color red. The bride will typically wear two dresses and one of those dresses is traditionally the color red. So, before you pull out that red dress, double-check to be sure the color is acceptable for the wedding you'll attend." — Elaine Swann, Etiquette Expert

The Who What Wear Insiders Weigh In

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Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

"I have always felt that red, or any very bright color, wasn’t appropriate because it felt very look-at-me on a day that’s not about you. That's just my personal feeling; you should look great at someone else’s wedding, but maybe save your most show-stopping look for another occasion. I realize I'm impossibly old-fashioned in this sentiment." — Hillary Kerr, Who What Wear Co-Founder

My Conclusion

Speaking of that Facebook Insiders Group, an astounding 107 individuals voted that you can, in fact, wear red to a wedding while only three voted against wearing red. It's amusing to me that even after so many voices in support of wearing red, I still feel slightly disinclined to pick a wedding guest dress in the vibrant hue. Maybe it'll take some easing into, but my conclusion is official: It is okay to wear the color red to a wedding so long as it's culturally appropriate to do so.

Up Next: The wedding guest etiquette rules you need to know about.