Black is a staple in the closets of most women. Ask almost any female between the ages of 18 and 80 and she’ll tell you she has at least one dress, skirt, pair of trousers, blouse and cardigan in black.
Once upon a time, black was a major fashion faux pas for any style of wedding. Now, however, fashion etiquette rules have relaxed and black is a completely acceptable hue for female guests to wear to a wedding.
That said, wearing head to toe black to a wedding probably isn’t the best style choice, especially if you’re attending a daytime wedding or beach nuptials. But what kind of outfit can you wear and how much black is too much?
Our style guide will help you to rock black in a way that is not only wedding-appropriate, but will have you looking your best in an outfit that fits the formality of the wedding. Read on for our essential tips to choose the perfect black ensemble.
Can You Wear Black to a Wedding? Decoding Wedding Dress Codes
If you love black, and are looking for some appropriate ways to wear it to a wedding, one of the first things you need to determine is what type of outfit to wear. With appropriate attire ranging anywhere from an evening gown to a casual sundress or jumpsuit, knowing where the right outfit falls on the formality scale is crucial.
To help you find the perfect black outfit, you first must understand wedding dress codes. Here are the six main dress codes you can expect to see on an invitation.
White tie wedding
A white tie wedding calls for a floor-length evening dress in an elegant fabric. While it’s important to choose a gown that is figure-flattering, you should avoid plunging necklines, high side slits and figure hugging fabrics.
Choosing a black outfit that is too somber, like this dress, is also considered gauche; after all a wedding is a happy time and your outfit should reflect that. Instead, choose a black dress with special touches like beading, sequins or lace to give it dimension. This dress with gold detailing is perfect for a white tie reception.
Black tie wedding
Not as strict as white tie weddings, black tie means you can wear a traditional evening gown, a formal tea length or midi dress or even a high-low hemline as long as it remains below the knee.
Again, while stark black isn’t advisable, you can certainly find a black gown with eye-catching details be it a touch of sparkle, like this dress, or an eye-catching belt. You can also add color with your shoes and accessories.
A floor-length evening gown or a cocktail dress are the outfits of choice for a formal wedding. If you opt for a black cocktail dress, keep an eye on your hemline. It should be no more than a few inches above the knee. It’s always better to err on the side of modesty than to choose a dress that is too revealing, like this super short mini.
Instead, choose a dress that offers both visual interest and a more moderate hemline, like this eye-catching high-low dress.
This middle-of-the-line dress code is the most popular for weddings today — it is also one that offers you the widest range of wardrobe options. You can choose from a cocktail dress, garden party dress, a dress and jacket ensemble, a jumpsuit or a fancy pantsuit.
If you’re wearing an outfit that is all or mostly black, it’s important to add some pops of color or sparkle with your accessories like this black and silver ensemble.
Dressy casual weddings
Slightly more relaxed than semi-formal, this is another favorite dress code for modern weddings. A dressy casual event enables you to choose between a garden party dress, a semi-casual dress or a skirt and top ensemble. If you prefer pants, a jumpsuit or pantsuit is also acceptable.
Just be sure not to dress in head-to-toe black as this is far too stark for a dressy casual vibe. A black floral dress like this high-low maxi is perfect for a dressy casual vibe as is a black skirt with a more vibrant top.
If you’re attending a casual wedding, chances are, you’ll already have something in your closet that would be appropriate for the event. A casual ceremony typically calls for a pretty sundress, a maxi dress, a skirt and top or a jumpsuit. Even though this dress code is relaxed, you should still make an effort to look put together and stylish.
While black is fine for a casual wedding, keep your outfit light and breezy with fun prints and soft, flowing materials like this sundress.
What to Wear When No Dress Code is Stated
Now that you know the ins and outs of wedding dress code styles, it’s time to tackle how you can wear black successfully as a wedding guest even if your wedding invitation didn’t spell out a particular dress code.
While wearing a knee-length cocktail dress is often a sure bet, it’s safer to take your outfit cue from your invitation. Often the time of day when the ceremony begins and the location of the reception will give you all the information you need to know about what to wear.
Here are some key outfit etiquette rules to keep in mind based on both time and location.
Whether in the morning or afternoon, a daytime wedding is rarely formal. Typically, daytime wedding dress codes range from semi-formal to dressy casual to casual. If your invitation doesn’t indicate a dress code, always err on the side of being overdressed and choose a semi-formal outfit.
A safe bet is a dress or skirt and top with dressy heels or flats. If you don’t like dresses or skirts, an elegant pantsuit or jumpsuit is also appropriate. Always avoid jeans, t-shirts, flip flops and activewear.
A daytime wedding is also not the time to appear in head-to-toe black. So, if you have your heart set on wearing a little black dress to the wedding, you may want to rethink your outfit.
Here are some lovely ways to incorporate black into your daytime wedding attire:
Semi-formal daytime wedding attire:
Dressy casual daytime wedding attire:
Casual daytime wedding attire:
Evening weddings are typically more formal than their daytime counterparts and that means upping the sophistication factor of your outfit. An evening wedding will most likely fall into one of the following: white tie, black tie, formal or semi-formal.
While an evening gown is non-negotiable for a white tie event, you can get away with a fancy cocktail dress for black tie as long as it’s not above the knee. A cocktail dress is also a great choice for formal and semi-formal affairs. If you aren’t a dress person, you can wear a formal jumpsuit or a women’s tuxedo.
If your invitation doesn’t list a dress code, your best bet is to wear either a fancy cocktail dress that is knee-length or lower or a formal jumpsuit.
And, while you can definitely get away with wearing more black to an evening ceremony, the outfit you choose should be festive rather than somber. If you would wear it to a funeral, for instance, then don’t wear it to a wedding.
Another don’t for a wedding is a mini dress. If you’ve been invited to a formal or semi-formal wedding you can wear an above-the-knee dress as long as it passes the fingertip rule. If it’s longer than your fingertips when you hold your arms straight down at your sides, then it’s not too short. Just keep in mind that tighter fitting skirts will ride up when you sit down, so dresses with a-line or full skirts are best.
Here are some great examples of wedding-appropriate black outfits for each dress code.
White tie evening wedding attire:
Black tie evening wedding attire:
Formal evening wedding attire:
Semi-formal evening wedding attire:
Church weddings are a time for modest yet sophisticated outfits. That means no plunging necklines, skin tight fabrics or short skirts. In fact, hemlines should not be shorter than an inch or two above the knee.
Casual church wedding attire can consist of a sundress, a maxi dress or a skirt and blouse while semi-formal ceremonies require a cocktail dress, garden party dress or a fancy skirt and top. Formal weddings will require you to wear a cocktail dress or an evening dress.
If you’re attending a Catholic ceremony, you’ll need to ensure your shoulders are covered and your neckline is very modest. While not all churches are strict about dress code, it’s always better to be too modest than not modest enough.
Here are some great outfit examples to serve as inspiration.
A beach ceremony comes with a much more casual atmosphere. In most cases a beach wedding will have a casual or a dressy casual dress code. If none is stated on your invitation, you can’t go wrong with a pretty maxi dress or sundress. Here are some cute examples to have you ceremony-ready.
Attire for a garden wedding typically ranges from semi-formal to dressy casual. When choosing a dress, you can take your inspiration from a garden itself by looking for dresses with pretty florals or patterns. While garden weddings are typically a time for brighter colors, you can wear a black floral dress or a black skirt with a more vibrant top.
Here are some good examples to get you started.
Does a country wedding equal denim? While you might associate jeans with rural living, that doesn’t mean you can break out your black jeans for a country-style wedding. Whether the ceremony is being held outdoors or in a barn, the dress code can still range from semi-formal to casual.
In most cases, a pretty floral, lace or gingham dress will work well. And be sure to choose shoes that are comfortable for walking over uneven ground.
Black Wedding Attire FAQ
Once you have your dress picked out, it’s time to start thinking about the finishing touches to your outfit. Not sure how to style your black dress? We’ve got you covered. Read on for all of our style advice on accessorizing your look as a wedding guest.
What jewelry goes best with a black dress?
When accessorizing for a wedding, it’s best to choose subtle, elegant pieces to enhance your outfit. Remember, what you’re wearing should never steal attention from the bride, so wearing anything too showy is a major faux pas.If you like bold jewelry, then wear only one piece. For instance, choose only earrings and avoid wearing a necklace as well.
Your best bet for a wedding-appropriate look is fine jewelry, but you can certainly get away with tasteful costume jewelry as well. Classic gold, silver or platinum jewelry is always lovely with a mostly black outfit, but you can use gemstones as well. For instance, if you’re wearing a black dress with subtle green beading, wearing a pair of emerald earrings is a natural choice.
The neckline of your dress will also dictate what you wear. If your dress has a square or scoop neck, your necklace can be longer or shorter than the neckline of your dress. V-necks, meanwhile, look gorgeous with pendant-style necklaces. If, however, your dress is heavily embellished in the bodice, a necklace is overkill. Stick with earrings or a simple bracelet instead.
What kind of shoes do you wear with a black dress?
When choosing shoes to go with a black outfit for a wedding, always err on the side of dressy. Think a pair of sleek heels, high-heeled strappy sandals or pretty flats. If you’re wearing pants or a long skirt, a pair of polished boots can also look fab.
When it comes to color, black shoes may seem like the natural choice, but it’s not your only one. Metallics can add a touch of pizzazz to a mostly black outfit while a nude-hued shoe is ideal for ladies who want to lengthen their legline. If you want to add a pop of color, choose a shade from your outfit to match. If, for instance, you’re wearing a black dress with a burgundy and pink floral print, wearing a pair of pumps of either shade would look amazing.
What color nylons should you wear with a black dress?
Whether you call them nylons, tights, stockings or pantyhose, you probably should be wearing them if you’re wearing a dress or a skirt to a wedding. Unless you’re attending casual beach nuptials, wearing pantyhose is proper etiquette. Not only do nylons keep imperfections under wraps, they simply look more elegant than bare legs.
Choosing a color really comes down to personal choice. Sheer black hose always look elegant with a black dress or skirt, but you can also pull off sheer nude tights that match your skin tone. Patterned hose can be super cute, but only if your dress is a pain black or has a very subtle print.
What do you wear with a formal dress when it’s cold?
If you’re attending a winter wedding or early spring or late fall nuptials, choosing a coat to wear over your dress is vital. Not only do you want to stay warm, you want to look good too.
If you’re wearing a long dress, a maxi coat will look elegant and keep you warm. If you don’t have or can’t find a long coat, you can also wear a coat that hits just above your knee. You can choose a wool coat, faux-fur or a winter-lined silk evening coat.
If you’re wearing a cocktail dress, a mid-thigh length coat in a matching or neutral color will look fab. A faux-fur wrap or shrug is also an option as long as it looks high-end.
If the weather is particularly chilly, don’t forget to pair your coat with a pretty silk scarf. Adding a scarf not only keeps your neck warm, but can add a pop of color to your wedding ensemble.