Color Coordinated Guests

by admin on August 14, 2013

A while back I attended the wedding of a lifelong friend- never a close friend, but just someone I had grown up with. Her bridesmaids were three friends from college (none of whom I had met before) and her older sister was the matron of honor. I had no expectations of being asked to be a part of her wedding and was honored to simply be invited as a guest.

On the day of the wedding (a summer evening wedding, with the ceremony at the church she and I grew up in and an outdoor reception to follow) I pulled out a favorite dress- black and tea length with just a touch of cream-colored embroidery on one side. I had purchased the dress in Europe the summer before and thought it looked classy and elegant and was the most summer-wedding appropriate thing I owned (and I did NOT have money for a new dress!).

The ceremony was lovely and the bride looked stunning. Afterwards, in the reception line she greeted me enthusiastically and introduced me to her new husband, and her parents and sister all told me how good it was to see me again. At the reception, however, several people approached me and asked, “Were you trying to match the bridesmaids?” in that sickly-sweet tone of voice that always holds underlying accusations.

It was only then that I realized the bridesmaids’ dresses were all black and ivory- they looked nothing like my dress, but the colors were pretty similar. Well, shoot, now I remembered that the bride had mentioned her colors at her shower that spring, but it had been months (she had to have an early shower because of her and her mother’s work schedules) and the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind as I selected my dress. Did these people think that I was trying to let the bride know I was mad at her for not asking me to be part of the wedding or that I was trying to take attention away from the wedding party?

I honestly don’t think the bride herself noticed or cared that I was wearing her wedding colors (and, as it was her and her groom’s day, that should be all that matters!!) but I can’t help but wonder if this was a wedding guest faux pas? I’ve heard of not wearing white or bright red to weddings, but is it so horrible to unintentionally wear the colors of the bridal party? 0813-13

My daughter’s wedding colors were orange and chocolate brown and I wore a cranberry color.  We would have been flattered if guests had dressed in similarly festive Autumn colors.  So, don’t sweat the petty people.   It’s not worth wasting any further thought on the matter.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

judy kreider August 14, 2013 at 9:43 am

I don’t consider black to be a matchy color…..if you went in the exact same shade of fuschia, maybe. But black is just black.

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Laura C. August 14, 2013 at 9:48 am

A number of years ago, a friend’s wedding colors were black and silver (NY wedding). The bride was thrilled that most of the guests inadvertantly matched her colors. She got a kick out of it.

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Cat August 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

The answer to, “Were you trying to match the bridesmaids?” is “No.” That’s all-just “No”.
There will always be people who imagine an ulterior motive where none exists. It’s called projection. It’s what they would do and they enjoy accusing you instead.
If you really want to be annoying say, “No, I just came from a funeral.” and walk away.

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Mae August 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I really love this response!

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Snarkastic August 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

If only! What a great response.

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Wild Irish Rose August 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

My bridesmaids wore pink. It never occurred to me to insist that guests not wear pink because my bridal party were in pink. That’s just stupid. OP, you did nothing wrong. I once wore white to someone else’s wedding. The only person who said anything was my husband, who of course waited until we were on our way home from the wedding to mention it. I had never been told not to wear white to a wedding, and I still cringe when I think of it. My daughter will definitely be told!

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KJR August 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I did this once too, in my early 20s. No one said a word, thank goodness!

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Holly August 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm

A young girl recently did this at my sister’s wedding as well – she was the date of a groomsman. I think someone must have pointed out the faux-pas, because they disappeared between the ceremony and reception and when they came back, she was suddenly wearing black!
This made the bridal party’s entrance 30 minutes late as the groomsman went home with her to change, so I’m not sure which was worse!

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Michelle C. Young August 18, 2013 at 7:50 am

Delaying everyone is definitely worse, in my opinion. Some people have a limited amount of stamina for partying, and they want the party to end at a reasonable time, so that means a delay in starting means a delay in their bedtime. Trickle effect, you know.

The trick to wearing white to a wedding is to call it something else, such as off-eggshell or pastel bone.

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No Wedding August 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I did too, also in my early 20s. (Must be the age!) Though mine wasn’t totally white, the bottom half of the dress had a blue/green/brown floral pattern. But now I would have just worn a different dress rather than chance it.

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Nicole August 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

I personally don’t see a big issue with wearing white to a wedding, taking into account the style of the wedding and that the guest’s dress doesn’t look “bridal.” For instance, I don’t think a white cotton sun dress would be inappropriate at a summer wedding, providing it’s not a casual wedding where the bride may be wearing something similar. I think people try to “see too much” in this instances and look for hostility that isn’t there. When I was 17 I attended a wedding with my boyfriend (his cousin’s wedding) and wore an ivory baby-doll style knee length dress. No one had ever informed me of the “don’t wear white” rule and I didn’t think the one other dress I owned (black velvet) was appropriate. Leave it to some other guests to rudely ask me if I was jealous and trying to upstage the bride!

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LovleAnjel August 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

That is very weird. I really appreciated the people who decided to “go” with my wedding scheme, it means they really put some thought into it. It’s not like you were in a white gown!

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Tanya August 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

Given that at many of the weddings I’ve attended, a good 1/3 of the female guests are dressed in black with some touches of white or another color, it’s kind of ridiculous to assume that anyone wearing black is trying to “match the bridesmaids.” If the bridesmaids were dressed in peach satin and you had showed up in a peach satin gown of similar length, maybe I could see someone leaping to that conclusion (though it would still be incredibly rude to ask you about it)– but for something as common as black and ivory? No way…

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Lo August 14, 2013 at 11:21 am

“Were you trying to match the bridesmaids?”

“Yeah. I just can’t get enough attention from people so sometimes I try to weasel my way into other folks’ life events.”

Well, maybe not but I’d have been tempted. Who even notices or cares about wedding colors except the people getting married? I can’t imagine a situation when the color someone wore would be an etiquette violation– even white, as long as you don’t show up in a wedding dress. Pretty sure everyone knows who the bride is.

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Sarah Jane August 14, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I’m going to have to agree with Lo wholeheartedly on this. I know it’s “considered” rude to wear white to the wedding, so I don’t. But seriously…unless a guest shows up in full-length white lace and pearls and sequins and a veil on her head, why do we suggest someone would confuse her for the bride? And what’s this argument about “stealing the spotlight” from the bride? If you think about it, not many people look that great in white, anyway.

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InNM August 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Thank you! I have had people ask me if I care if a guest wears white to my wedding. I tell them no, the wedding is so small that if they don’t know that I am the bride, white dress or not, they probably shouldn’t be there.

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ddwwylm August 15, 2013 at 4:24 am

When I was getting married and dress shopping with my mom, I suggested several outfits to her before she finally said “I can’t wear that, it’s ivory”. I hadn’t even been thinking of colors, just pointing out dresses I thought were pretty. It just wasn’t even something that crossed my mind, and didn’t register with me until she pointed it out. I totally wouldn’t have cared, but she was quite adament that she could not wear white or ivory.

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VoteGilligan August 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

I’m not wearing white to our wedding–well, not all white. My dress has a black bodice and a black and white skirt. I imagine that almost everyone is going to “match” me. The bridesmaids are wearing whatever they want. If people don’t know who the bride is, they are at the wrong wedding.

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Reboot August 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

It’s really not going to be a problem if my boyfriend and I end up getting married; I look awful in white, so I intend to wear dark red or blue. I’m also going to be having a pretty small wedding for a number of reasons, so I highly doubt there’ll be anyone there who won’t know who the bride and groom are. :P

(That’s something that always bothers me about the whole “don’t wear white; you’ll outshine the bride” thing. What about the groom? There’s much less variation in formalwear for men, but nobody seems worried about a male guest having the same suit as the groom.)

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Mer August 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm

However, I’ve actually heard that male guests (this goes especially for FOB/FOG/groomsmen) should not wear more dressy clothing option than the groom does. That’s why male guest should not choose full evening dress (the tails) unless invite especially states that.

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Kate August 16, 2013 at 6:20 am

Exactly. I got married three weeks ago, and one of my best friends wore a white dress with black detail. I recently saw a photo of the two of us next to each other, and our dresses are virtually the same colour (except mine didn’t have black on it). Nobody came up to her that night and congratulated her on her marriage or asked her if she was the bride!

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Lisa S August 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

There are only so many colors in which clothing is made, so, no matter what color you choose, there is always the chance that you might possibly wear the same color as the bridesmaids. You do your best: you don’t wear white or ivory, and after that, it’s a crapshoot.

How many times have you shown up at work to find out that you and a couple other colleagues wore the same color shirt/dress? Someone makes the joke “Oh, I guess we got the memo!” Everyone giggles, and we all move on with our day. No one thinks twice about it.

I can’t believe that you were so bothered by this that you had to spend time writing a letter explaining your actions. Just because some idiots made some insipid comments doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong.

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Wild Irish Rose August 15, 2013 at 9:26 am

“How many times have you shown up at work to find out that you and a couple other colleagues wore the same color shirt/dress? Someone makes the joke “Oh, I guess we got the memo!” Everyone giggles, and we all move on with our day. No one thinks twice about it.”

This is hilarious because it happened to me not once, but twice, and not only identical colors but identical OUTFITS. One was a green blouse I wore to work, and as I was turning a corner in the hallway I almost literally ran into a co-worker wearing the exact same blouse. We just stared at each other for a minute and then burst out laughing.

The other time was at a company holiday party. I had bought a black velvet gown with white chiffon trim. I bought it at a department store, off the rack. So I wasn’t terribly surprised to see another woman at the party wearing the exact same dress. I thought it was funny, but she wasn’t amused and avoided me like the plague the entire evening. I thought it was sad that she let that spoil her evening, but it’s the risk you take when you buy off the rack.

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Michelle C. Young August 18, 2013 at 7:55 am

I never did understand the “insult” of seeing someone dressed the same way as you. I get a kick out of it, myself. “Great minds think alike,” or “We got the memo,” or just “It was on sale!” It’s all the same to me.

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Harley Granny August 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I’m still too old school. I can’t wear black to a wedding….ok…enough about me and my quirks….

I would have replied…”No why do you ask?” Followed by “What an interesting assumption.”

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Kimstu August 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Yup. I personally still don’t like the modern trend of black dresses at weddings, especially daytime ones, either in the wedding party or on the guests. Most black dresses are actually not all that flattering or interesting on most women, especially when they’re surrounded by other women also wearing black dresses: instead of dramatically standing out as the one black swan among multicolored ducks and geese, you’re just another crow in the flock. And the overall visual effect of a bunch of black-garbed women tends to be gloomy and drab rather than festive and wedding-y.

Still, that’s ultimately a style issue rather than an etiquette one. If today’s etiquette rules decree that it’s okay to wear a black dress to a wedding, then it doesn’t become rude or inappropriate just because the bridesmaids happen to be wearing black dresses too.

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Mer August 15, 2013 at 4:19 am

In my country not that long ago black was the common color brides wore when getting married :) Black was considered to be dressy but also usefull afterwards. It was ofcourse time when most of people could not choose to have a dress usefull for only one day. Black dress would serve the women through their lives in different situations.

This just as a fun fact of how things change. Now white is also the common color for wedding dress and black is slightly shunned.

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Kimstu August 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm

@Mer: Exactly! Black is a very useful and practical color (not showing dirt, etc.), hence traditionally used for “special occasion” dresses in many societies where the same one or two special-occasion dresses had to last a woman all her life. This is also one of the reasons black persisted as a color for mourning in Western societies: even if grieving relatives couldn’t afford to buy new clothes to mark their bereavement, they could always have some of their own clothes dyed black.

And then since black was conventionally the color of mourning, it stood out very glamorously among light/bright colors if it was used for a party dress. But it doesn’t look particularly glamorous when lots of people are wearing it at the same event. The black dress has now become more or less the standard special-occasion uniform for women, just as it used to be in those traditional societies! ;)

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Sarah Jane August 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I agree with this. I love black, but these days it is COMPLETELY overdone. If you want to stand out or be remembered (and some people don’t, of course…that’s their right), wear another color.

Daisy August 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm

The whole point of not wearing white to a wedding is that no one should be able to mistake you for the bride. This is generally accomplished if you leave off the veil, train, matching satin shoes, and pearl beading. The same thing applies to the bridesmaid colours. If you’re not decked out in the same dress, shoes, jewelry, and flowers, I can’t see how you could possibly be giving offense. Some people just aren’t happy unless they have a grievance of some sort.

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Michelle C. Young August 18, 2013 at 7:58 am

If people actually watch the ceremony, and see who is taking the vows, it’s generally hard to mistake someone sitting in the pews for the bride.

“Oh, no! There are three women wearing white! Which one is the bride?”
“Ummm, the one standing up front, and getting married?”

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Catvickie August 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Reminds me of my SIL’s first wedding. Her aunt came in a full length white dress with little girl frilly puffed sleeves and a pink long sash around her waist. First, at least I knew the bride only should wear white, second, the dress was full length (!) and third, the style looked ridiculous on a woman her age. It should only have been worn by someone under 10 years old.

I was just glad it was not me!! LOL!! Hubby and I still crack up over it. . . . .

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Vickie August 14, 2013 at 7:13 pm

We guests were all milling about outside before my cousin’s wedding earlier this year and noticed that oh, 7 or 8 of us were all wearing (shortish) cocktail that shade of royal blue that was popular this season. We laughed and took a picture of all of us.

We all felt a little uncomfortable when the bridesmaids entered and they were all wearing the same shade of blue. Also we matched the table cloths and and the cake decor.

Everyone just found it funny and the bride didn’t seem to mind.

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Jennifer August 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm

At the time of a good friend’s wedding, like the women in the story, I only had one or two nice dresses. The morning of the wedding I had a nagging feeling telling me to wear the blue dress but I choose the pink one instead. Sure enough the reason I should have chosen the blue dress was that my dress was the same shade of pink as the bridesmaids. The bride didn’t care and only one guest asked me were the bathroom’s were because they thought I was ‘maid.

The funniest thing about the wedding was that the bride ended up wearing the same dress that I worn for my wedding a few months prior!

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Marozia August 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I think it sounds OK. If you match the wedding colours, it should be fine.
People stress about the dumbest things!

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Lou August 15, 2013 at 5:06 am

I always avoid wearing the wedding colours, it is usually obvious from the invitation what they are. This is partly as I have attended a wedding where a bitter guest deliberately tried to emulate the bridesmaids as she was hoping to be one, and partly because a lot of brides buy their bridesmaids dresses from the high street, there is a real risk I could end up in the same, or very similar dress.
Wearing a different colour is just easier, though I wouldn’t freak out if I did match.
Holly – surely the guest in your story being the date of a groomsman should have known what the wedding colours were ahead of time???

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Surianne August 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

How can you tell from the invitation what the wedding colours are? Just curious…I’ve never heard of that before.

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E August 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm

People often buy invitations in their wedding theme colors.

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Lou August 22, 2013 at 4:04 am

Most people match the invitations to the style and colours of the wedding, so if the invitation is tied with a green ribbon, or decorated with a pink flower motif then the bridesmaid colours will usually match.
This has been the case at every wedding I have attended, I assumed it was the norm.

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Cherry91 August 15, 2013 at 6:42 am

I was bridesmaid at a family friend’s wedding a few years ago (she promised me when I was a little girl that if she got married, I could be her bridesmaid. I don’t think she expected for me to be 19 when she fulfilled that promise, but she honoured it!) and was wearing a lovely gold dress. While I’d mentioned to a few people who’d asked about the dress, no one but the bride and my mother saw it until the day of the wedding. Just because I was wearing gold does not mean no one else could! And you CERTAINLY cannot try to claim black as an offlimits colour.

OP, your dress sounds gorgeous, and the guests probably felt jealous about how good you looked. If your dress looked nothing like the bridesmaids and the bride said nothing, there is no issue whatsoever – with you, anyway!

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Kristen August 15, 2013 at 7:45 am

I remember I once went to a wedding and my date was in the party and would be wearing a tux. I decided to treat myself (it was black tie optional) and got a floor length fuscia gown. Lo and Behold the bridesmaids wore floor length bright red gowns. I felt like a jerk and was and still am embarrassed by it. But reading your letter OP made me realize I’ve been wasting my energy. It was an honest mistake and you had no intention other than wearing a dress you loved. Let yourself off the hook. I’m going to let myself off the hook too.

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Sarah Jane August 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

If I had been the bride, I’d have simply been thrilled that you went for the “black tie” option :)

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bloo August 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

If I’d been the bride, I wouldn’t have even noticed what you were wearing because, like at my own wedding, I was focused on joining my groom in a sacred covenant with my family and friends. It would’ve taken something terribly inappropriate to cut through that happy haze! :)

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CW August 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

My wedding colors were black and garnet (due to my husband’s love for his undergraduate school). I’d say at least 50 out of the 90 people at the wedding were wearing something black. I couldn’t have cared less. I even encouraged the mother of my flower girl to wear a black dress because it looked really good on her. If anyone at a wedding can’t figure out a) who the bride is or b) who clearly is or is not in the wedding party, then they probably shouldn’t be there.

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Library Diva August 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Wow, people worry about this stuff? I just got married in May and honestly could not tell you if any of my guests matched the bridesmaids. I’m guessing not, since they wore light purple, which is not a super-common color for evening wear. I guess that any brides who are concerned about guests doing this can just pick an unusual color, and if as a guest, you would feel mortified if you appeared to be trying to steal thunder from the bridesmaids, you can always contact the couple and find out what color they’re wearing so you can avoid it. I think this non-issue is the reason why the expression “don’t sweat the small stuff” was coined. Unless you show up in exactly the same dress and try to photobomb all the pictures, you’re fine.

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Tracy August 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

“That’s something that always bothers me about the whole “don’t wear white; you’ll outshine the bride” thing. ”

To me, the warning is “Don’t wear white; you’ll LOOK LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO outshine the bride.” As long as your white isn’t remotely bridal, it should be okay. Doesn’t mean I’m going to do it, though. ;-)

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Reboot August 16, 2013 at 4:13 am

Oh, I get that, I just wonder why nobody ever seems to worry about male guests showing up in an outfit like the groom’s, especially considering how much easier it is for male formalwear to look similar. There’s an awful lot of “the wedding is all about the bride and not the groom” that bugs me about the wedding industry, though, to be honest.

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Tracy August 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I think that’s the whole point… men aren’t warned to dress differently from the groom because they have so few options, especially if they’re dressing formally.

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mechtilde August 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Oh yes. This. So very much.

Unless you are younger than 12, then wearing white is really not a good idea.

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Lakey August 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Black? Good grief. Everyone has a nice black dress that they pull out for events. Those whiny people really had to be stretching it to think that you were trying to match the bridesmaids.
Some people look for something to be negative about.

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whatever August 16, 2013 at 1:36 am

I have worn the same gown, a jewel-tone purple dress, to at least four weddings now. I bought it in a town near my parent’s house in Connecticut; it’s my favorite dress, in my favorite color.
At one of the weddings, in Hong Kong, the dress inadvertently exactly matched the color of the bridemaid’s gowns. All the bridemaids wore different styles, too, so I actually did look like I belonged with the bridemaids. Everybody laughed it off, though; the bride was happy that I had “psychically” guessed her wedding color from halfway around the world!

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Toreen August 16, 2013 at 10:49 am

If the bride didn’t complain, don’t worry. When my mom got married in 1966, all 8 of her father’s sisters wore white. Her mother almost hit the roof, but mom didn’t notice until the photo proofs came back

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sv August 16, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I once went to a wedding where I matched the bridesmaids…and I mean MATCHED. I did not know the bride well – my husband was a friend of the groom – and had no idea what the colours of the bridesmaids dresses would be. To make things even worse, not only was my husband in the wedding party ( which consisted of 7 groomsmen!!) but I matched the bridesmaids in colour AND style. It was the only dress I owned that was suitable, it looked great, and I loved it. Imagine how horrifying to realize what had happened!! The dresses were not exactly the same, of course, but since they were the same colour it was close enough. So while my husband sat at the wedding table party I sat with strangers, dressed like the bridesmaids and wanting to crawl away with humiliation :) Funny now but not at the time!

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Angel August 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Some people just HAVE to say something negative. I think they just enjoy the sound of their own voices! If the dress was not like the bridesmaids dresses–why say anything??

If I were you I would have just answered “no” and walked away to get a drink!

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Angepange August 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm

A little off topic, but Admin’s comment reminds me of a saying my one friend has… Don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff!

Seriously though… My wedding colours are shades of purple… I would LOVE my guests to all wear shades of purple, but maybe that’s just me. It reminds me of my moms cousin’s wedding when I was 6. Now, I LOVE weddings, always have. My mom had made me a gorgeous dress to wear, and I was delighted when, a few days before the wedding, the bridesmaids dresses were revealed and they were the exact same style as my dress AND a similar fabric (a lovely 80s sofa fabric floral!). My mom didn’t even realize the similarity until, on our way home in the car, I delightedly exclaimed that I would look like the flower girl! (I REALLY wanted to be the flower girl!) My mother, horrified, set about making me a brand new, much less pretty (in my 6 year old “want to wear the other dress” opinion!) dress for the wedding to avoid the etiquette breach. I kicked myself for a long time for saying anything, but my adult self is very glad that my mom made the new dress :)

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Melanie August 22, 2013 at 3:30 am

Did you get to wear the first dress for something else? I hope so!

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GreenCat August 19, 2013 at 12:15 am

I inadvertently went to a wedding wearing the wedding colors – spring/lime green and chocolate brown. I didn’t know the colors ahead of time – I just arrived and realized that the cute outfit I had chosen blended in with the decorations. Fortunately it was a very,very, very informal wedding – so there were no attendants in special clothes to be accused of “competing” with!

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ladycrim August 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I wore a silver dress I already owned to my brother’s wedding. The bridesmaids were all in different metallic shades, so I certainly could have blended in if I wanted! Nobody implied that I was, though. (And my SIL knew in advance what my dress looked like, so I’m sure she would have spoken up beforehand if it was an issue!)

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Meow August 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I wore the exact same shade of burgundy as the bridesmaids dresses at my cousins wedding. I got a lot of comments about looking like the bridal party. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I was 14 and that happened to be my Grade 9 graduation dress worn for that party a few months before. Sort of funny looking back on it now, but it was also the only (appropriate) dress I owned. You can’t bogart a colour for a day and expect that no one else will wear it, esp. black! And for late fall… burgundy :p lol

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