What Colors to Wear to a Wedding (& the Ones to Avoid at All Costs)

Even with a dress code in-hand, choosing what color to wear to a wedding is nerve-wracking. Thanks to these tips, it doesn't have to be.

Updated August 17, 2023
friends taking a selfie with the bride at a wedding

When a wedding invite comes in the mail, we go through a roller coaster of emotions. It starts with excitement about the where and when and ends with anxiety over showing up wearing the wrong thing. Even with a dress code, picking out what color to wear to a wedding can feel like it's got the same stakes as choosing your first child's name. But, it can be much easier to decide what to wear by knowing what colors not to wear. From avoiding anything white to choosing complementary, less flashy tones, these suggestions can help you figure it all out. 

Best Colors to Wear to a Wedding

If none of the nearlyweds have a preference or explicit stipulations, then you can pick any color of the rainbow! If your invite doesn't specifically say what guests should wear, there are a few things you can consider to help you choose. The formality, location, and seasonal weather will all be key factors in determining what colors you'll feel good in that will look great in photos. 

Great Ideas of Colors to Wear to a Wedding 

wedding party photo

Some colors that are always safe to pick for any kind of wedding include: 

  • Amber 
  • Mustard 
  • Sage green 
  • Navy 
  • Lavender 
  • Burgundry 
  • Eggplant 
  • Wine red/purple 
  • Mauve

Color Categories to Help You Choose Your Wedding Outfit 

couple sharing a wedding kiss

For broader categories to choose from, look for colors in these ranges: 

  • Jewel tones 
  • Pastels 
  • Primary colors 
  • Earth tones
  • Metallics 
  • Neutral tones 

Tips for Picking the Perfect, Colorful Wedding Guest Outfit 

Playing dress up for your wedding guest outfit is fun until you've tried on 20 dresses, and there's no air conditioning in the small boutique dressing room. To make choosing a wedding guest outfit easy, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What are the wedding party's colors? Avoid wearing the exact shade the wedding party is because you might get mistaken by other guests for being a member. 
  • What's the dress code? The dress code can come with color requirements or unspoken rules for what you should and shouldn't pick. 
  • What season is it going to be in? Each season has a particular color palette, and sticking to that palette will cut down on how many options you have to pick from. 
  • Would a Vegas Showgirl wear this onstage? We totally get it; sometimes you've just got a big and bold style. But weddings aren't always the place to show that off, so stick for something a little less sequined and flamingo pink. 
  • Could you hypnotise someone with the colorful print? Prints are a fun way to incorporate multiple colors and express yourself, but they can get really busy, really fast. Don't tempt too many eyes away from the nearlyweds with psychedelic prints. 
  • Does it complement you? Even with restrictions, you still want to choose a color that you think looks good on you. Don't pick something just for the sake of picking it—make sure you feel good in it, too. 

Formal Wedding Attire Explained 

couple in formal attire

If you get a wedding invitation that states it's going to be a formal wedding, then there are some fashion requirements to consider. While you probably know what traditional wedding guest outfits look like, you might not know what formal wedding wear does. Formal dress is the 'dressiest' dress code, with tuxedos and floor-length gowns being the standard. If you're heading to a wedding before 6:00pm and there's still a formal dress code, you can wear tea-length dresses instead. For tuxedos or suiting, opt for basic black and white. For evening gowns, avoid black and chose pastel, muted, or jewel tones.

However, semi-formal dress is a bit more lax and is usually what people are used to wearing to weddings. It's suits and/or slacks and a dinner jacket with evening or cocktail dresses. 

Informal Wedding Clothing Explained 

wedding guests

There are many reasons why the nearlyweds might've chosen an informal wedding dress code, but it does give you a ton of options for what you can show up in. 

Generally, something like a cocktail dresses, business suits, or sport coats and slacks are perfect choices for informal weddings. They read fancy, but you can raid your own closet to find them. Although it's not a strict dress code, that doesn't mean you can go hog-wild. Favor pieces in neutral tones and solid colors. You can wear prints so long as they're not distracting; a garish yellow, fuchsia and orange dress would be a hit a Mardi Gras but inappropriate for a backyard wedding. 

Seasonal Wedding Dress Codes Explained 

What time of the year someone's getting married will add a whole extra layer to picking out what should be worn to their wedding. While color choice is still important, certain locations and seasons change the rules.

Cold Weather Clothing & Colors Ideas 

Woman in red gown crossing street

For chilly outdoor weddings, guests should choose clothing appropriate for the weather. Keep your flowy sundresses at home. Your goal is to minimize the chances of fighting with Mother Nature, so avoid fabrics that can be caught in the wind and heels that may cause you to fall on icy patches. However, if it's not windy, feel free to don a longer dress for warmth, especially if it's a formal wedding.

A nice dress paired with a shawl, sweater, or faux fur wrap/coat and low heels works in most cases. You can also wear a cleanly pressed dress shirt and slacks during the day, paired with a blazer or sport coat for evening weddings. Jewel tones and darker colors, like emerald, plum, burgundy, deep red, and dark blue, are good choices for cold-weather wedding attire. Similarly, stick with heavier fabrics like velvet, tweed, wool, silk, and cashmere. 

Warm Weather Clothing & Color Options

Guests throwing rose petals on bridal couple

Beach weddings or other tropical event weddings require guests to dress accordingly. For these destination occasions, consider breezy attire like sundresses and/or silk shirt and khakis. Bright colors, like fuchsia and lime green, are more acceptable at beach weddings and outdoor summer weddings than more formal indoor events.

Use your destination for inspiration when it comes to colors. If you're going to a beachfront wedding, think of all the interesting blues, greens, and neutrals you can break out. Or, if you're heading to a beautiful outdoor wedding in the middle of summer, play off typical flower colors when you pick your outfits. 

Colors You Can't Wear to a Wedding

Nearlyweds often say they want their guests to be comfortable. But they don't mean that you need to be so comfortable you show up in your favorite PJs and a bathrobe. One part of being a good wedding guest is knowing what colors not to wear to a wedding; and knowing those is just as important as knowing what's appropriate to wear to a wedding. Because they're usually reserved for the nearlyweds or wedding party, outfits in sheer fabrics and lighter colors can sometimes lead to a wedding fashion faux pas.

Err on the side of formality and subtlety when in doubt, and stay far away from outfits in these colors: 

  • White
  • Off white or ivory
  • All black
  • Bright colors 
  • Bold, colorful prints 
  • Wedding party colors 
  • Mother of the nearlywed's color

We can't say it enough, but avoid colors that resemble or coordinate with the wedding colors at all costs. Also, remember to avoid white unless you are specifically asked to wear it by the nearlyweds—though maybe you should get it signed and notarized just to be sure. More traditional couples may also have an aversion to black, but alternative ones might love the inversion, so check with someone close to the couple before choosing an all-black ensemble for any wedding.

You'll Be Safe if You Stick to Classic Attire and Colors

Hardly anyone shows up to a wedding intending to ruin it, but a careless outfit decision might get you sent to the very back of the reception. If you ever doubt what colors are okay to wear to a wedding, stick with a traditional, classic palette. A simple dress or dark suit and tie/bowtie are almost always fashionable. But once you've carefully and thoughtfully selected what you're wearing for the wedding, relax. The nearlyweds will just be happy that you came to share their special day. 

What Colors to Wear to a Wedding (& the Ones to Avoid at All Costs)