Black or White at a Wedding? Let’s Have a Closer Look…

Ever since Queen Victoria forbade guests from wearing white to her nuptials, donning this hue for a wedding has been considered by many to be a blunder of epic proportions. Likewise, an all-black ensemble was best avoided at a wedding, as it was  widely regarded as funeral attire. But, do these ideas endure in modern Ireland and is wearing white or indeed black to a contemporary Irish wedding still considered a major fashion faux pas?

Black or White at a Wedding? Let's Have a Closer Look...

Blaithin O’Reilly Murphy, Author and expert on all things wedding affirms, “Yes, it is still very much considered in bad taste to wear an all white/cream/ ivory ensemble to a wedding, unless expressly asked to do so in the dress code of the wedding invitation.”  Michelle Johnstone Clark, Wedding Planner and founder of Waterlily Weddings, expresses a similar sentiment, “Yes! Please do not do it! I think it is beyond rude”

Globally however, wedding guests, particularly celebs, do appear to push the boundaries. Critics asserted that at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Joss Stones was on dangerous ground with her patterned white dress. Blaithin O’ Reilly Murphy doesn’t agree however, “Joss Stones look was definitely not bridal and a good example of an acceptable way of wearing white to a wedding. When we talk of no white at weddings we mean a total white/cream ensemble.”  Michelle Johnstone Clark  agrees that the singers attire was entirely appropriate for the occasion, suggesting, “There was no mistaking her look for anything near bridal.”

It can be considered equally poor form to attend a wedding in an all-black outfit, which has been considered funeral apparel as far back as Roman Times. Balithin says, “Wearing dark colours/ black is best practice when attending a funeral in Ireland, but this does not necessarily exclude them from being a palette option for wedding attire. An all black ensemble [unless a black tie/ evening dress code] is best avoided by women unless teamed with colourful accessories or accents.”  Blaithin continues, “Colour palettes should ideally be matched to the dress code, season or setting of the wedding with common sense used for good measure.”

Black or White at a Wedding? Let's Have a Closer Look...

Another guest at Megan and Harrys 2018 wedding, actress, Charlotte Riley,  was also considered by some to have bent the rules by wearing dark attire to the high profile event.  Blaithin O’Reilly Murphy considers, “In some ways when we look at celebrity weddings they are a law on to themselves. Often they a wonderful challenge for the celebrity guests of sticking within the dress code and standing out… which is the goal of a celebrity at such events.  I think Charlotte may have chosen the dark base for her dress, betting that many would opt for summer shades for a May wedding. By adding the pops of colours in the floral pattern, she avoided, what might otherwise have been considered a dreary funeral look.” 

Couples may however opt to break with tradition and convention altogether.  Victoria and David Beckham for instance, famously requested that all guests wear only white and black to their 1999 nuptials held in  Luttrellstown Castle, Ireland. Blaithin says of this request; “I think like many celebrities and couples do, setting their own or your own dress code to enhance the vision you have for your wedding day is entirely up to you.” Michelle Johnstone Clarke declares; “We are talking about the Beckhams- they can ask their guys to do whatever they love- they are just too fab! Plus who does not have a black or white outfit that they love!”

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It is undeniable that Ireland is an increasingly multicultural society. So should we relax the rules and encourage wedding guests to wear an outfit that reflects their cultural identity? Michelle contends, “I think the bride and groom invite you for who you are and attire that reflects your personality and culture is part of you and why they love you.” Blaithin suggests, “Provided it doesn’t go against a dress code that a couple have set I think any culture or person should feel free to wear any traditional attire that is appropriate for the event or setting.”

This begs the question, has the rule book been thrown away in modern Ireland? Blaithin O’ Reilly Murphy suggests, “To a degree the rule book has been thrown away. For some couples who wears what is not important at all. For others it can easily cause offense if some guests don’t make the effort. The rules exist still and are a great guide but common sense and most importantly common decency is what is guiding guests more and more.”  Michelle Johnstone  Clarke contends; “I am not sure young people attending weddings have a rule book anymore. The one thing I would want to keep is to make your attire appropriate. There is nothing worse than seeing too much flesh at a church wedding or someone’s outfit screaming Bachelorette party vs elegant wedding day.”

It is clearly imperative that one attends a wedding in Ireland suitably dressed in an outfit appropriate to the Bride and Grooms own specifications and respectful of  the vision they have for their special day.  As in all aspect of life, high profile celebrities push the boundaries and influence trends when it comes to wedding guest attire. Recent decades have brought something of a relaxation of the rules. It remains clear however, that at all costs one must avoid the cardinal sin of upstaging the bride by wearing an all-white ensemble to an Irish wedding. Nor should one attend the event in a dreary all black ensemble more suitable for the funeral parlour, than the happiest day of a couples life.  Be assured this is not a grey area. It is simply black -and white.