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The Bride's Guide Blog

Etiquette: Tell Guests What Color to Wear?

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Suppose you're in love with the color blue, and you wish everyone who came to the wedding would wear one shade or another of it. Can you ask people to?

It seems a little pushy -- talk about a control freak, right? Then again, putting "black tie" on the invitation is perfectly acceptable.

What do you think?  Put your comments here, and see my answer after the jump.

None of my etiquette sources rule on this, so I had to do a little pondering. And to be honest, I'm still not completely willing to accept it as polite.

Even a request ("please wear blue") may feel a lot like a command; few of us want to disappoint a bride on Her Big Day. And unlike, say, guests at a Halloween costume party, people can't just decide to stay home if they don't want to participate. They don't want to miss out on such an important occasion just because they already have a tan suit instead of blue seersucker.

"Black tie" or "casual" gets written on invitations as a service to guests -- not to dictate what they wear, but to clue them in so they won't feel under- or overdressed. And it leaves the field wide open in terms of fashion or color choices.

There is also a weird "control freak" vibe. If you do decide to try this, please don't explain it by saying, "It'll look great in the pictures"; that seems sort of selfish. Say instead, "it'll give the wedding a wonderfully festive feel."

It's best not to put such a request the invite itself -- it's too complicated to fit into the "black tie" spot on the lower right. Use a reception-card insert and verbiage such as, "We invite you to join in the wedding's color palette by wearing a shade of blue."

What do you think? Are you making a request like this for your wedding?

Comments (30)

  • I definitely feel like it's a little pushy! unless, you have a group of people coming that all understand the vision and they are onboard and it's fun for everyone and they understand where you are coming from.

    otherwise, you are stifling people's personalities and choices of clothing! And it does seem a little "control freak".

  • Some people simply lack the funds to go out and buy special attire. I wouldn't ask guests to do it.

  • i think this is a charming way to personalize your wedding. it will make a great impact in the photos. however, consider the budget your guests may be on, and that not everyone will want to invest in a color they wouldn't normally wear. what if you offered folks a variety of little blue paper flower pins to sport during the celebration.

  • I think you could say something like black tie recommended... maybe say "blue attire recommended" - but I'd say unless you're inviting only your parents, you can't and shouldn't require it... and while it may look cook in pictures, if you have guests that show up not in blue- are you really going to be mad?

  • I agree with Elizabeth - maybe you're having a destination wedding with 40 guests or less, and they're all on board - let's all wear blue!
    For a big wedding, the idea seems misplaced and a little too much to ask for. It's hard enough to organize a wedding; I can't imagine stressing about which color the guests are going to wear.

  • The request for a guest to wear a particular color seems a bit rude to me. A "Black tie" request is suggesting the "type" of affair it will be and it is not limiting someone (mainly woman) to wear a certain color. I think many brides are getting carried away with the "it's my day" approach. When I got married, it was important to me that all of my guests enjoyed themselves and celebrated this important part of my life. Telling guests what color to wear is setting a selfish tone for that day and most guests will resent the limition.

  • I am planning an all white destination wedding on the beach. My bridesmaids are wearing White, the groomsmen are wearing white shirts with kahki shorts, and I really want may guests to wear white also. It is going to be a small wedding with mostly family and close friends. I have had no objections to my request, everyone thinks it will be fun.

  • Author Comment:

    @Melissa--how are you spreading the news about your wish for white?

    Did you put it in your invitation, on your website, or simply mention it to people when you were communicating about other stuff?

  • The brides guide is pretty useful. Thanks.

  • I went to a wedding 2 years ago where the bride told people (word of mouth)that she wanted people to wear black and white at the wedding. My fiancé was a groomsman, so I was pretty close to the "planning" and knew about her wishes, so I wore a black and white dress. Not everyone knew about her plan. Other problems arose when the stepmother of the groom actually forgot her dress at home (she traveled for the wedding)and had to run around looking for something in black or white on the day before the wedding in a tiny remote town in Maine without large stores! Not everyone wore black and white and nobody really seemed to care.

  • In some Filipino weddings, the family wears apparel in the color the bride chooses. I think to ask everyone in your entire wedding may be difficult but providing ribbons or scarves in the color could make things easier and just as festive.

  • Author Comment:

    @ Chic 'n Cheap: That's a GREAT way to handle this! Because most of the pictures, especially the formal portraits, will have the closest family in them, you'll get the impact there, and it'll flavor the colors in the greater gathering.

    And suggesting or requesting that they wear a certain shade (as long as you're not too terribly picky) won't come across as pushy. And it's easier to communicate with them.

    Plus, if your mom says to your aunt, "We're all going to wear pink, because of the photos, and Susie said it would be great if anybody else wore pink, too," then your aunt can make the *suggestion* to her branch of the family tree, etc., and nobody will feel pressured, but they might feel it would be fun to participate.

  • I would not ask people to wear a certain colour as for a guest it can become quite expensive for them as well, telling the guests a general theme is enough.

  • I'm all for letting guests know if you want a particular color or type of apparel being worn. In my experience (designer/stationer), it's very easy to put "garden apparel" or "black tie" or "white attire", etc. on the invitation.
    I think guests are there to celebrate and support the couple—in their joining of hands and in the simple celebration of the day. Also, there are guests that might not know what to wear, so a simple direction really helps them with 'getting it right'. I don't really think it's bossy, but actually gracious. In terms of expense, I don't think it translates into "go buy a new outfit".

  • I was so pleased when my aunt, uncle and cousins came to my wedding sporting my chosen colors. That they wanted to incorporate the theme of the event into their actual attire was so touching and just plain fun, and even though it was only one small group, I felt it really added something special. That being said, I would never in my wildest bridezilla dreams ever have actually requested it of anyone. If the guests want to match on their own, they can circulate the idea amongst themselves. If the bride wants her guests to match, she should host some other sort of theme party. And lets be honest, the color palate might not work for everyone. Who cares how prettily your guest outfits match,if they also have matching grouchy faces from being forced into garish garb?

  • For some cultures this is the norm! A lot of my old co-workers, at a very diverse government agency, had some awesome wedding traditions that were just universally accepted by their culture. My old Puerto Rican co-worker went to a wedding where everyone (over 200 people) wore ivory or tan -- in the middle of the winter!! It was so much fun for us to go on a hunt for the right color dress for her to wear :)

  • I have been pondering this myself lately as we plan our wedding. I really do not want anyone to wear black. Although black is classic and can make you look slim. But our wedding is outdoors at a creekside restaurant in the spring. So we were looking to make a bouquet of different colors and florals from the guest attire. I think this is a great way to say it too; We invite you to join in the wedding's color palette by wearing a shade of blue.

  • If I received an invitation to a wedding telling me what colour I had to wear, I would use the money that would have gone to the couple's gift to buy my dress, since that's an expense I otherwise wouldn't have incurred. I think the whole idea of telling your guests what to wear is rude.

  • My wedding is coming up, and my question is the exact opposite: How do you politely ask guests not to wear the bride's dress color? I feel like it's an unspoken agreement when the bride wears white, but my wedding will be a cocktail party, and I've chosen to wear red (much more flattering than white for me).

  • Author Comment:

    @valerie: I don't think you can do that.

    White is the only color the bride has the right to reserve, I believe.
    You can ask those close to you--close enough for you to talk with in person, on the phone, or during a regular e-mail--to avoid it. But you can't really dictate what other people will wear. Especially not red.

    That's simply a risk that comes with wearing a non-traditional color. You don't get to tap into the tradition of being the only person in the room wearing that color.

  • I like the idea for a small intimate beach wedding... and as a suggestion for your family photos... Most family's end up purchasing something new for a special event, so that's fine. But I think it might be a little out there for the general population. Most of the time, I can't just buy any shade of dress, I'd like to...unless I'm ordering a bridesmaid gown!

  • We had a color dress code and a guest list of about 160. Some people had never heard of it but I knew it had been done before.

    The theme to our wedding was Fall and we asked people to wear fall colors, including black. No white, red, pink or huge floral prints. Save about 5 people (they literally didnt get the 'memo') everyone did it.

    I did NOT want to get my pictures back and see people in our gorgeous venue, in November, wearing baby blue and white pastel.

    Needless to say, our pictures turned out fantastic.

    We had attended a wedding just 30 days before ours in October. Well, we were having a heat wave and it was very hot October past...people showed up in BRIGHT, tube dresses that were fit for beach wear. It was atrocious.

  • I want to tell my guests that I do not want them to wear black or any dark colours.

    This is a tradition in my family to celebrate life with colours rather than "shades." I'm struggling with how to say this to my guests.

    Any suggestions?

  • Well I asked my guess to wear all black, thats a easy color. And everyone coming to my wedding knows im into fashion , and the majority of my guest are too , so giving them a color and letting them accerise in color will actually be fun. To me it's not different then going to a all black or white party bday party. I would ask a strange color like blue or pink but black cheap , and everyone has black. So it really depends on the type of people you are inviting and your personality. And I have a night wedding with special lightnening! That black going to make the wedding look fablous.

  • My friend is asking all guest to wear black. That's on top of our all-black bridesmaid dresses. I told her I think it's strange, but she wants it that way. Last I checked they call that a funeral...

  • Why not? I'm getting married next fall and I plan to have everyone clad in black. Sounds like a funeral? Maybe, but with the right decorations and the happy atmosphere that weddings usually bring out, I don't think so. Would it be rude and pushy? Not at all. It's just not the norm...yet.

  • I am having a destination wedding in a beach. We invited only close family
    And friends. We are small group. My color motif is baby pink and sky blue
    I asked all my guests to wear either sky blue or pink casual shirt or summer dress.
    Nothing too fancy after all I do want them to be comfortable. Since my guests
    Are mostly family and in the bridal entourage I think it's fine for me to request everyone
    To wear the color motif. I hope they don't think I'm too demanding.

  • We are attending a destination wedding for a family member in a few weeks. After purchasing airfare and booking the resort, I just got a text requesting that the female guests all were some shade of purple. The men had a few more options. Personally, I think it is a little rude and/or selfish to ask for a couple of reasons: we only had five months notice on the location and this request is so last minute. After spending over $3,000 to attend, I don't really care to search for a color I never wear and spend even more money. When expecting your guest to wear a specific color, if you plan things out and make your desires known far in advance, you may get a better reception from them.

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