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


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One wedding guest rule has always stuck out to me as being nonnegotiable: 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 couple. I've been to over 20 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 similar to you must match your bag to your shoes, which really don't apply anymore. Does red distract from the couple? Is it actually offensive to wear a crimson frock you fancy? With these questions in mind, I tapped fashion editors, etiquette experts, and a bridal designer and also created a poll on the Who What Wear 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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"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 showstopping look for another occasion. I realize I'm impossibly old-fashioned in this sentiment." — Hillary Kerr, Who What Wear co-founder

"From my mixed Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Vietnamese backgrounds, I can definitively say that wearing red to an Asian wedding can be as egregious as wearing white to a Western wedding. I've been to weddings for Chinese and Vietnamese couples where unaware guests who have worn red inevitably became a controversial talking point for the rest of the evening and beyond, so my vote is a resounding no. Of course, every couple may have different preferences, so I always recommend asking your hosts if these colors are too loud or taboo. If you're uncomfortable asking and you do love red, I'd recommend looking for variations of the color instead—pinks, blushes, mauves, deep currant, wine shades, etc.—and perhaps using red as an accent in your makeup, nails, clutch, jewelry, and so forth!" — Tiff Soga, Who What Wear managing editor 


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"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 love red and want to wear it, I don't think it 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 senior fashion editor


(Image credit: Szymon Brzóska / The Style Stalker)

"I think that all colors (with the exception of white, ivory, 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


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"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, freelance fashion editor


(Image credit: Szymon Brzóska / The Style Stalker)

"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, deputy beauty editor at The Zoe Report

A Bridal Designer Weighs In


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"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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"Red is always a risk if good judgment isn't involved. A bright red [or] 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


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"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

Who What Wear Insiders Weigh In


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An astounding 107 individuals in the Who What Wear Facebook Insiders Group voted that you can wear red to a wedding, while only three voted against wearing red.

My Conclusion


(Image credit: Szymon Brzóska / The Style Stalker)

It's amusing to me that even after hearing so many voice their support for 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 that it is okay to wear red to a wedding as long as it's culturally appropriate to do so.

This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Next: Brides Cringe When They See These Wedding Guest Outfit Mistakes

Nicole Kliest
Freelance Contributor

Nicole Kliest is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City who focuses on fashion, travel, food, wine, and pretty much anything else that's amusing to write about. After graduating from Pepperdine University with a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing, she started her career back in 2010 as Who What Wear's photo editor and throughout the last decade has contributed to publications including Fashionista, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, The Zoe Report, PopSugar, Fodor's Travel, and several others. She also copywrites and has worked with clients such as Frame, Sea, 3x1, Intelligentsia, and others to develop brand voices through storytelling and creative marketing. She's very passionate about the ways we can improve our sustainability efforts in the fashion industry as well as cultivating content that's diverse and inclusive of all people. When she's not checking out the latest restaurant opening in her West Village neighborhood or riding her bicycle along the West Side Highway, she can be found scheming her next trip somewhere around the world. (Up next is Vienna.)