Can You Wear Red to a Wedding? The New Rules of Wedding Guest Dressing

Say yes to these dresses.

The invites are starting to roll in, and now we just have to figure out exactly what we're going to wear to all the weddings we'll attend this summer. To help navigate these tricky outfit occasions, we picked the brains of two bona fide experts: lifestyle and etiquette expertElaine Swann, a go-to for wedding advice, and Rent The Runway’s SVP of Merchandising Sarah Tam, who has her wedding guest fashion trends down.

“Don’t wear white” Is still is a hard and fast rule. There’s no getting around this one, lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann tells Lookbook. “It is still is true to this day is that you should not wear white to a wedding,” she says.

There is one exception: the only time you should ever wear white to a wedding is if the bride and groom ask you to, Tina Knowles-style. More and more couples are setting the tone for their wedding by asking their guests to wear a specific color, Elaine has noticed. “I know of a couple who got married on Valentine's Day and they asked all of their guests to wear red,” she says.

Speaking of, is it ok to wear red to a wedding? Just remember you might be really visible in every wedding photo. “It's one color that you probably want to avoid, just because it does stand out,” says Elaine. “I would say to leave that color as your last resort.”

However, Rent The Runway’s Sarah is more willing to say yes to a red dress for a wedding (and hey, Selena Gomez did it!) “Red could certainly be worn, bold colors, even patterns such as florals could be worn,” she says. “I would say there isn't anything really off limits beside white.”

Are there any other colors wedding guests should avoid? Watch out with blush tones for two big reasons. “You will find that blush tone can sometimes photograph as white,” says Elaine. “Then, in addition to that, you will find many mothers of the bride and groom will tend to wear that blush color as well.”

One color Sarah is loving this year for summer weddings is anything yellow. "Yellow is the color this season, from mustard to chartreuse to a bright zingy lemon yellow," she says.

From left: Hunter Bell dress, J. Mendel dress, Jay Godfrey dress, Slate & Willow maxi, Tanya Taylor maxi

What if you accidentally wear the same color scheme as bridesmaids? “If you show up at a wedding with the same color as the bridal party, then make yourself useful and help pass out the programs,” Elaine joked. 

Maybe skip the clubwear. Your wedding look should toe the line between style and modesty, Elaine advises. “The reason why is because this is a very sacred occasion and you have two individuals who are coming together to create a family unit. Weddings tend to be more family-oriented. That doesn't mean you have to show up in a turtleneck, but you might want to leave your miniskirt for the club instead,” she says.

Black tie doesn’t necessarily mean a long gown these days. Dress codes for formal weddings have changed over the years, Sarah believes. “People are just having more fun with the formality. I definitely think that shorter hemlines are 100% fine for black-tie weddings,” she says. “A way to do that is to have embellishments in the dress, where it is just as fancy as the gown in a shorter length.”

Or you could go with a more daring hemline, like a gown with an asymmetrical or a high-low hem. Plus, if it’s an outdoor wedding, no worries about your dress dragging on the ground.

Just make sure your fabric choice is appropriate. “I would say that fabrics that are dressier tend to have a little bit of sheen,” Sarah says. “It could have a pattern, like stripes or florals, but you would stay away from more casual fabrics like a cotton blend or a poplin, things that might be more crocheted, that would be geared toward a day wedding.”

From left: Cushnie Et Ochs jumpsuit, Wai Ming jumpsuit, Alexis jumpsuit, Amanda Uprichard jumpsuit, La Petite Robe di Chiara Boni jumpsuit

Ditch the dress and try a jumpsuit. Jumpsuits have become a staple on Rent The Runway’s site, and shoppers are really into wearing them to weddings — black tie included. "A jumpsuit is just a very modern twist,” Sarah explains, and Rent The Runway data shows jumpsuit rentals will grow 74% over last year. More evidence that there’s a jumpsuit for every fashion situation.

Above all else, follow the dress code. "Think about the venue, and just have fun with it," Sarah suggests. If you're confused by "beach formal" or whatever the wedding invite says, try a quick internet search or ask a trusted friend. "My advice is don't use your own barometer in terms of what to wear. Make sure you run it by someone close to you who will tell you the truth," Elaine says. That should head off any potential fashion disasters.

Are you inspired to shop now? Sarah helpfully shared her favorite summer wedding trends on Rent The Runway this year.

1.  Vacation Prints

If you want to stand out, consider this new take on pattern. "The trend is more beachy," Sarah says. "Think graphic floral prints, abstract and bold geometric patterns in vibrant hues."

From left: Carven dress, Amanda Uprichard maxi, Peter Pilotto dress, Red Valentino dress, Tory Burch dress

2.  Ruffles

Grownup ruffles are a very sweet trend this summer, and "this gives the dress a romantic and feminine twist," Sarah says.

From left: Sachin & Babi gown, Badgley Mischka high-low maxi, Amur gown, Vilshenko dress

3.  Shoulder-Baring Styles

"The focus continues to be on the shoulder," Sarah notes, whether that's off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder, or even the cold-shoulder look.

From left: Nicholas dress, Shoshanna dress, Saloni dress, Christian Siriano dress, Alexis dress

4.  Statement Earrings

Your shoulder-baring gown is your canvas for fun earrings. Sarah says: “My favorite accessory trend: playful earrings. It’s the perfect way to add color and fun to wedding attire.”

Clockwise from left: Kenneth Jay Lane coral earrings, Noir gold leaf earrings, Marni earrings, Lizzie Fortunato tassle earrings, Elizabeth and James gold earrings, Oscar de la Renta tassel earrings

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