Dress Code Debacle

by admin on August 12, 2010

I have been with my boyfriend over a year now.  So far, his close family have all been wonderful, loving, and inclusive of me at every turn.  I like them all and am looking forward to perhaps being a member of their family someday.

A few months ago, he and I had decided to accept the wedding invitation of his cousin in a far-away state.  The drive would be over seven hours each way, a car would have to be rented (we do not own one), and we also had the consideration of paying for the hotel room, food, gas, not to mention the gift!– all normal expenses for an out-of town gathering.

Now, just so we are clear, my beautiful boyfriend’s family and myself are all working class people.  There is not an over-abundance of wealth.  We are not in poverty, but are also not worry-free concerning finances, either.

After we RSVP in  the positive, having set aside over 600$ for a two-day event, we notice on the bride’s wedding website that she has stipulated “No black or excessively dark clothing”.  I was (and continue to be) appalled.  I had intended to wear “my best”, which would have been a black pair of dress pants and a lovely navy blouse I have.  As we are working-class, I haven’t owned a formal, floor-length dress since high school, and have always worn my very best dress clothes to weddings and funerals.  I have never had someone be snide to me concerned this.

It is also fair to mention that I am slightly over six feet tall and am no stringbean.  My dress clothes cost an outrageous amount of money.  My pants easily cost anywhere from 85 to 150$ a pair, are always altered, and there is no way on Earth I would ever buy light-colored pants!  Normal dresses and skirts are out of the question due to scarring on my legs (it is distracting to see and painful to be questioned about).  I checked around online with the tall-ladies stores and found nothing our already-strained budget could accommodate.  Thrift and resale shops also yielded nothing- women of my height and size simply don’t cast aside clothing that fits, apparently.

So, I rescinded my commitment and sent my partner off alone.  For two days, he was somewhat-alone and tagged along with his siblings and cousins.  When he returned, he showed me the photos.  I had expected to see a formal wear pageant depicted.  This was not the case at all.   There were men dressed entirely in black at this function- pants, shirts, and ties (no jackets were worn).  There were women dressed in navy and black as well.  Pants on ladies were also depicted.  I was crestfallen and felt very self-conscious about this.  I had been expected to be there to meet this branch of his family, and felt so embarrassed.

While I don’t imagine it was intended to slight me in particular, I found it in very poor taste to dictate guest dress code at a wedding.  When my best friend married years ago in a lovely church wedding, “your best” was all that was expected.  Should I ever have the fortune of marrying my man, rest assured, “your best” will indeed be the requested outfit should anyone inquire- even if “your best” is a pair of pressed khakis and a polo.  I certainly wouldn’t have the gall to post it on a website!  Isn’t one supposed to be more concerned with your guest enjoying your day with you, rather than ‘looking just right’ for the photos?!  What a joke.  I don’t think I’ll be concerning myself about such trivialities in the future, and keep those that are not close to us at arm’s length. 0627-10

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

SarahLovesFabric August 12, 2010 at 5:13 am

I’m so sorry the OP missed a family wedding over something like this! I was in the opposite position, where the bride of a second-degree friend stipulated that all wedding guests were to be ONLY dressed in black. At the time, I did not own a black dress appropriate to the season, but I was lucky enough to find one on clearance. I considered wearing navy, which I owned, but I was young and terrified of standing out like a sore thumb.
In the event, most guests wore black, although there were some other dark colors present, as well as some outfits that, while black, weren’t exactly formal attire. Upon meeting the bride at the wedding, I got the impression that she was less the control-freak Bridezilla that the invitation had led me to expect, and more a faintly clueless type who thought having everyone wear the same color would be fun, or make everyone feel like part of the bridal party.
Perhaps P. Diddy can host his White Party in the Hamptons every year, but for the rest of us, I’d much rather feel that my “best” is good enough. Don’t these brides have any older relatives to advise them?


sarah August 12, 2010 at 5:32 am

I am a bit confused?
What has how much this wedding cost you got to do with the bride writing on a website (not her invite) that she would prefer people not to wear black or dark cloths? And why would this equate to formal “you say you haven’t owned formal dress for some time” You didn’t say she said you had to wear a dress or anything expensive. Just not black as you say your size made it expensive to get another outfit.

Also how was it worded? I mean presumably as a lot of people went and wore dark/black it was not an order more a suggestion? I my self am large nearly 6 foot and no twig either so I do sympathies with the finding an outfit. However I’m not sure what the breech if etiquette is. It would have been perfectly acceptable to stipulate black tie on the invite. It is of course a shame you did not feel comfortable enough to go. Perhaps if you had explained the situation to the bride she could have done something. I am assuming she didn’t say anything about you changing your mind and not going and out of curiosity what reason did you give to change the RSVP?

Although you say she didn’t do this to slight you that is exactly how this comes across, and even though she almost certainly wasn’t trying to slight you as you say you haven’t met them yet you have decided to “keep those that are not close to us at arm’s length.” Implying the bride? That doesn’t seem fair as you still haven’t met them.

Am I wrong in my understanding of what happened and the etiquette involved.


josie August 12, 2010 at 5:33 am

She didn’t say you had to wear “formal” attire…just requested no black or navy. Maybe she didn’t want it to be “funeral’ish” looking. Alot of people would of never have seen her website request. You should of went and had a good time…yes, your best is always in good taste. It wasn’t a personal slight against you…it was just a request that can be taken or ignored.


sarah August 12, 2010 at 5:36 am

NB Apologies the section “Although you say she didn’t do this to slight you that is exactly how this comes across” was worded wrong and comes across as if I am saying that it seemed as if the bride was giving offence. What I meant was the OP was tasking personal offence.


Slartibartfast August 12, 2010 at 5:55 am

Not “very poor taste,” just mildly rude, IMHO. How was the bride to know you a) didn’t own anything that wasn’t black or navy, and b) couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get something? You should have gone, wearing whatever you intended to wear, as long as it fit the appropriate formality level for the wedding, and enjoyed yourself.


Scarlet August 12, 2010 at 6:13 am

I think that a phone call to the bride or groom when the note on the website was seen could have helped this situation… I would like to believe that if you had explained your situation, you would have been given a pass to wear whatever it was that you had.. Should you have to do that? No, I suppose not… but missing out altogether doesn’t seem to have been the better option either.

I do feel for you though OP, and am sorry for your experience… I’ve done similar before where I stayed back from attending something because I did not have X, only to find out afterwards that it did not matter and there were others in attendance with the same situation as me.. details fail me right now, but I recall the feeling of regret quite clearly.


Bint August 12, 2010 at 7:09 am

Please tell me your boyfriend asked why nobody else had adhered to the dress code, and pointed out that that was why you couldn’t attend.

In your place, I’d have contacted the bride to ask if your outfit was acceptable beforehand, pointing out that you don’t own a dress. My husband has to do this for weddings sometimes. He doesn’t own standard evening dress – he only has his national dress, which is perfectly normal in his country, but some brides don’t like him wearing it.

I don’t see that a dress code per se is a faux pas, but ‘no excessively dark clothing’ is a bit daft and OTT. A dress code should be a guide to one’s guests, not a dictate that they cannot wear something.


Xtina August 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

First, a bride asking her guests not to wear “dark colors”, knowing that most people’s “good clothes” are probably going to be black or dark, is being a bit of a bridezilla, if you ask me. Admittedly, I can’t say it is completely insane as it is her wedding and her choice how things will run, but still—it is rather rude and manipulative to try to dictate what your guests wear.

Secondly, to the OP—you shouldn’t have let that stopped you from going. If you have particular clothing needs and what you have fits the bill—and you won’t be able to buy anything else—I would have certainly worn what I had and not worried about it. It is not as though (1) you were a member of the wedding party, and (2) your dress would have been inappropriate, just not the best color. If you were worried about it, you might have called the bride or a member of her family or wedding party to inquire about how strict the color code was, and explained your situation. Surely an exception could have been made, even if the color code had been strictly enforced (which it obviously was not).

I am sorry you had to miss the wedding over a matter of color of clothing, though. Agree that a bride choosing to try to force color-coordination on her guests is not very nice and probably alienated a number of guests. I wonder if others also didn’t attend due only to the dress request?


Typo Tat August 12, 2010 at 7:56 am

How does “No black or excessively dark clothing” suggests that you needed to wear a floor-length formal dress?

I do not think the young couple is in the wrong. They didn’t ask for much, just that the guests don’t wear their funeral garb to the wedding. It’s not like they asked you to wear a Flintstones costume or a Goth outfit like some couples do. For most people this wouldn’t be a problem, and those for whom it was – didn’t obey anyway.


TylerBelle August 12, 2010 at 8:31 am

The wedding guests wearing the black / dark clothing in the photos could have missed the request of “no black or excessively dark clothing” on the website or not even looked at the site itself, and had worn what they thought best. If that had been the only place where it appeared, not on the invitation or spread through word of mouth, then I wouldn’t have taken it so strongly, at least not made it the deciding vote between wearing with my dark-colored outfit or not going at all. I’m sorry the OP missed out on what seemed like a lovely time.


Laura Wears Blue August 12, 2010 at 8:38 am

“I found it in poor taste to dictate dress code at a wedding.”

Why? Invitations dictate dress code all the time: Business Casual, White-Tie, Semi-Formal, etc.

I don’t like when people wear black to a wedding either. I think black on women should be reserved for less festive occasions, such as funerals or the office (but this is admittedly a personal preference). And when I find myself needing a lovely dress, but don’t have the money to shell out due to other expenses, I look at consignment shops and eBay. For the last out-of-state wedding I attended, I bought a new-with-tags pale blue Calvin Klein dress off eBay for around $28.00.


Caitlin August 12, 2010 at 8:46 am

How bizarre. You sure twisted and turned the bride’s simple request into a lot of excuses. No one would expect you to go spend a bunch of money on new items because of all of your challenges, I mean honestly, take her request with a grain of salt. All that worrying you did seemed a little ridiculous.


littledynamo August 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

@Typo Tat – “How does “No black or excessively dark clothing” suggests that you needed to wear a floor-length formal dress?” It doesn’t. The OP indicated in her post the following:

“Normal dresses and skirts are out of the question due to scarring on my legs (it is distracting to see and painful to be questioned about).”


Jillybean August 12, 2010 at 9:08 am

@Laura Wears Blue – the difference is saying Business Casual, White-Tie, etc, only informs the guest of the formality of dress, not the host’s personal preference within that category. Saying no black or dark colors is the equivalent of saying, “Business Casual, but don’t wear white polo shirts, only wear blue.”

The couple is in the wrong, however, the OP should have simply worn her best and gone. There was no reason to turn down the invitation, as she regrettably found out.


Giles August 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

@Laura Wears Blue

Now, I’m not a woman, but I do have three sisters, two daughters, and a number of female friends and co-workers. A lot of women only have a few formal outfits that serve for festive occassions, funerals, fancy dinners, weddings, etc. Especially young women who might be students or just starting out in careers might not have the money or need for a huge formal wardrobe. I know a lot of men who don’t need to dress up for work only own one or two suits, usually in navy or black, I don’t think women should be expected to present a properly-coloured dress at the drop of a hat.


L. August 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

*hugs* and sympathy to the OP.


DGS August 12, 2010 at 9:32 am

I sympathize with the OP’s hurt feelings, but I do not believe that the bride was rude. She did not dictate the choice of clothing by simply ASKING her guests to abstain from dark attire (I personally find dark attire to be just as festive as light attire; in fact at my wedding, which was black-tie, my bridesmaids were asked by me to wear black evening dresses of their own choosing. The notion that black is not an appropriate color for weddings is no longer prevalent. However, I digress). If you are hosting the party, you can certainly request a particular dress code (e.g. semi-formal, black tie, costume), but you cannot force your guests to adhere to it. The OP could have placed a call to the bride and groom, explained her financial situation and asked if it would be alright for her to have worn her current outfit – I am positive that the bride and groom would have been understanding. No slight was intended, and I do not believe that any slight was given.

Also there are many reasons why certain people are at perfect liberty to request a particular dress code, not the least of which is simply personal preference. Some of my relatives are Orthodox Jews and in reference to their level of religious observance, they do make requests on their side’s wedding invitations that guests dress modestly (i.e. women wear no pants, opt long dresses and cover their shoulders and arms; refrain from wearing low-cut dresses, etc.) While my side of the family, and my husband and I are nowhere near as observant, we do dress more conservatively to attend their functions, as it is a sign of respect for the hosts.


Laura Wears Blue August 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

Also, I don’t know at what time of day the wedding was scheduled, but if this were an afternoon wedding, even Miss Manners agrees that a properly-attired lady would not be wearing black:


Jamesy August 12, 2010 at 10:18 am

I don’t think this is an etiquette issue, just a strange request on a wedding website. I admit, this would have totally stressed me out as well. However, I’m agreeing with the general sentiment pervading the board: that perhaps this was an avoidable situation that you made a big problem.

On the other hand, no one seems to be addressing the fact that the OP had a personal issue that she has had to deal with when attending formal or “fancy dress” (as the Brits say) occasions: her leg scarring, which may have escalated the issue and made her excessively gun-shy. So, in that respect, I understand why this became an even more stressful situation.


Gloria Shiner August 12, 2010 at 10:29 am

I’m seeing a couple of trends lately. One is for people attending weddings to try to dress in the bride’s colors. That’s kind of fun unless the bride chooses a color that looks awful on me – e.g. browns which were my niece’s colors.

The other trend is one I find disturbing, and that is the trend for people to find reasons to be offended whether offense was meant or not. This story appears to fall in that category. Suggesting on a web page that wedding attendees not wear dark colors is not a breach of etiquette. It is not offensive. It is not meant as a slight because of a person’s size or economic status. It’s a suggestion on a web page. If the bride had stated on the invitations: “Anyone wearing a dark color to the wedding will be refused entry.” it would have been offensive.

Which brings up a third trend: people not requesting clarification about things that aren’t clear. As connected as everyone is these days, it’s really easy to contact someone in-the-know and get information.


kero August 12, 2010 at 10:33 am

It’s unfortunate that you missed on their wedding, but I don’t think you should hold it against them as it was not their intention to offend. You could have called her. People probably did not see the website, ignored her requests, or asked her directly.

I have to side with the couple on this one. It is not rude etiquette to make dress codes at a wedding. It’s assumed that formal attire is required, but I have been to weddings in which someone will show up in a sweatshirt and jeans because “formal attire required” was not stated on the invite. (forehead slap)

I am not aware of the culture of your family, but some traditional eastern cultures avoid wearing dark colors to weddings as it is seen as bad luck for the newlyweds (becasue it is associated with mourning). In my wedding, this is probably going to be a request sent in the invitations.


SHOEGAL August 12, 2010 at 10:35 am

I’d also like to know how “requesting” guests to wear “no black or excessively dark clothing” means that you need a formal full length dress or how that these words imply that you couldn’t wear pants? I’m also at a loss to understand how this would be perceived as “bridezilla” behavior on the part of the bride. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this request and I also don’t like when all the guests wear black – color is so festive – maybe this suggestion was just so when choosing an outfit a guest who had some flexibility in their wardrobe would chose to wear their red dress as opposed to a black one. I don’t know – I just think it isn’t unreasonable. Unless the bride wrote something more on the website I’m not aware of – you would have been fine in the outfit you chose. I don think you should get another color blouse though, navy and black isn’t a good color combination in my book.


AS August 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

I am not sure why you or your boyfriend did not point out your issue to either the bride directly, or your bf’s mother or someone in the family. Chances are that the bride would just have laughed and said that black trousers and navy blue top would be fine and maybe the website was just a suggestion. Lot of people don’t like black to weddings as it looks more like a funereal (like my mother, though she never makes it a rule) and most formal dresses are, unfortunately, black. I guess several couples have more strict rules about what people wear to weddings (something like a black tie event would have been more difficult to accommodate for people who don’t attend too many of them, and the dresses are usually costlier ones).
I also agree with the other posters – at no point has the couple mentioned that you have to wear floor length dresses. Also, you probably could have got just a lighter color top, which wouldn’t be too costly, or too hard to find (I am tall too, and I know that tops aren’t too hard to find, unlike trousers/pants or dresses).
As someone said, maybe you just let yourself take offence personally.


Elle August 12, 2010 at 11:58 am

I think it’s acceptable to stipulate the level of formality at an event, but after that, IMHO, the bride doesn’t have the right to dictate color or style. There’s no reason OP should have had to buy new clothes for this wedding. I, also would have contacted the bride to see if black pants and navy-blue shirt would be acceptable.


RM August 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I can’t believe that your boyfriend went without you. If he felt he had to go, he should have tried to intercede on your behalf so you’d feel welcome attending in the clothes you already owned.


RP August 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

@Laura Wears Blue: Yes other events dictate dress codes but those are usually formal or serious event that don’t require you to also buy gifts. To ask someone who’s not in the wedding party to buy new clothes for your wedding by limiting which colors you can wear is inappropriate. Worse, limiting the colors made it impossible for the OP to even find something to buy.

@OP: I don’t think you should feel embarrassed. Everyone else either didn’t see the note about color or they ignored it but that doesn’t reflect badly on you. If you didn’t go into detail about why you didn’t attend then all they know is that you weren’t able to make it and, unless they’re jerks, won’t hold that against you.

I’m curious as to what your boyfriend ended up wearing. Was he also surprised to see so many people in dark clothes?


Jillybean August 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm

@Typo Tat – just because something is dark colored or black does not mean it is appropriate for a funeral, and therefore inappropriate for a wedding. Most of the “little black dresses” that people own would NEVER be appropriate for a funeral.


Livvy August 12, 2010 at 2:15 pm

As stated by LauraWB and others, stating a dress code is actually quite correct – the idea being that the guest will then be able to chose appropriate clothing, and not be uncomfortably under or overdressed.

I would also note that the bride didn’t put the “no black” rule on the invitation itself, therefore, I’d imagine that it was more of a preference. (I too, like to see brighter colors at a wedding, especially if the wedding happens during the day, not at night). If she’d really wanted something so specific, she should have indicated her wishes on the formal invite, as well as perhaps providing a “theme” to explain such a wish. (I do find it a tad passive agressive to put such directions on a website.) Also, surely she could have worn a light-colored blouse instead of a dark one, which would likely have satisfied the demand? Nothing here indicates that a Cinderella-style ballgown is needed. I would also assume that the bride didn’t have bouncers at the door waiting to eject anyone who showed up wearing dark colors.

I think the OP needs to work on her self-confidence a bit. (so what if you’re tall, or have a few scars? It’s all in the way that you carry yourself.) It sounds like her anxiety over her appearance made her turn a small thing into a big excuse, and now she’s admittedly even more embarrassed for having missed the opportunity to meet some of her boyfriend’s family over something so trivial.


Manoomin August 12, 2010 at 3:02 pm

That one simple line about the colors of your clothing was a request, not a requirement, that was blown sky-high out of proportion. Unless we’re missing a *lot* of details, I think the real faux pas was the OP’s backing out of an event that she was still perfectly able to attend after having committed herself to being there.


Anonymous August 12, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I agree with most of the other posters. While it’s commendable that the LW tried to stick to the bride’s request, she took it a little too far. Nowhere, as others have pointed out, did the bride say you had to wear formal, or even all “light”. I have a few friends who fit into the 6’+ category, and am quite sure that all of them would be able to find a nice white or pastel colored shirt at a reasonable price with advance notice. I also find it a little difficult to believe the LW doesn’t have one single light-colored shirt she could have worn with her dress slacks. I don’t ever dress up, and even I have a shirt or two that would have worked in this situation.


Anonymous August 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm

LauraWearsBlue, most people who are an odd shape have trouble shopping online. I’m very weirdly misproportioned (If they actually made them, I’d be in a AAA bra, despite being 145 pounds), and most dresses look absolutely ridiculous on me. The LW may have the same problem, being so tall.


Tina August 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I’m with Laura on the dictation of dress code, that happens quite often. As for the bride asking people not to wear black, well, it’s an old superstition. I always heard “don’t wear black to weddings because it’s bad luck” growing up. Bad luck for whom I was never quite sure.


Victoria August 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I hate to see jeans at a wedding and was annoyed at a cousin for wearing them to mine, but only in private – I’d never tell someone what to wear! How rude.


LEMon August 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm

LWB: Regarding “Invitations dictate dress code all the time: Business Casual, White-Tie, Semi-Formal, etc.”, those are categories of what to wear, not what not to wear. I see it as telling the guest what level of dress-up or down to do so they fit in with the crowd. Limiting color choices isn’t quite the same, and without a reason why, seems very arbitrary.

I might feel slightly different if the bride and groom has listed a reason for a ‘not to’ clothing comment. For example, ‘the church we are getting married is is very conservative. Please no …’ But even then what does the bride do about those who don’t see the website?


Stephanie August 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm

What’s worse, is when the invitation specifies “Black Tie,” which by commonly held definition means black tuxes on the men, and then you get to the event and all the men in the wedding party are wearing brown suits. Not black suits or brown tuxes, either of which would come close but still not quite hit the black tie label… Brown suits.

My suggestion to the LW is to learn how to sew. That way she can do her own altering and even make her own clothes to fit her. A simple elastic waist skirt takes just a few straight seams and hems, can be made out of any fabric she so chooses (most likely for far less then the 85-150 she commonly spends on pants, and since it is custom made, would be long enough to cover anything unsightly. If the expense of a sewing machine and/or sewing classes seems like a lot, think about what you would be saving in alterations and worry about finding clothes to fit you.

It is also my opinion that black pants are fairly standard, even when “dark clothes” are asked to be avoided… Dark bottoms simple put more focus on the top, and if you had chosen a fancy brighter colored top to go along with them, you would not have seemed to be wearing a dark outfit and it would have been completely within reason.


Balletmom August 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm

It’s rude to dictate colors to a wedding, period.

The bride and groom or host/hostesses of an event can inform the guests of the style of the event, so that guests may dress accordingly. That is the purpose of “white tie” or “semi-casual,” “business casual” or “cocktail attire.”

It’s not entirely in good taste to dress in all black for a wedding, but I’d rather see a wedding guest in a solid black dress rather than one in sandals and shorts (assuming the wedding is not on the beach.0

Dictating the colors was bridezilla. It’s never acceptable to ask guests to purchase or wear clothing to match your decor for a wedding. Tablecloths, favors, and floral decorations are for coordination. People are not.


Amazed August 12, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I would have ignored the wedding website entirely. The invitation is the “official” notice of the event. Theoretically, everything you need to know is on the invitation: where, when, why. If someone said “Hey, why are you here in black? The wedding website said ‘no black'”, you need only reply “Huh? Wedding website? I have an invitation and it said nothing about black clothes.”

Next, I sympathize with the LW about her clothing challenges. However, she is asking for trouble by only having one decent outfit, all in dark colors, that can be worn to an event such as a wedding. I can certainly understand the non-desire to run out and spend more money on a new outfit after having committed $600 out of a working-class budget.

However, for future use the LW might be well advised to consider getting herself something nice that can be worn to festive, upbeat parties and other similar events. Something with pretty colors instead of all-black or dark, somber funeral colors. That’s what people do. They have a wardrobe of clothes so when they need to be dressed appropriately they just reach in the closet and pull something out.


LilyG August 12, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I have great sympathy for the poster. I am 5′ 11″ and over 300 pounds. I don’t have many visible scars, but I DO have significant bingo wings and all the nice summer wear-to-a-wedding clothes are sleevless. I am staying home from a college reunion because it’s a pool party and the invite says “sundresses only”. Feh!


Laura Wears Blue August 12, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I see many disagreed with me, which is why I posted a link to Miss Manners’ opinion (a woman far wiser than I). Black is not for afternoon weddings. However, the OP didn’t say what time of day the wedding occurred. If at night/late evening, then black is entirely appropriate.

Why does a long skirt mean formal? It does not, and there are many long skirts to be had in plus/tall sizes. What about a nice blouse already owned by the OP, and a nice skirt, purchased online (eBay, other online outlet)? That combination would probably look wonderful. I don’t know why one would have to purchase a formal gown if a long skirt would be sufficient.

To Giles:
That’s why I mentioned getting a fabulous deal on a great dress on eBay for less than $30. Because I’ve been a starving grad student living 2,000 miles from my family.


BeenThereDoneThat August 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I have noticed the trend lately of brides requesting a certain color–like all black so their white dress will stand out, for instance. I think this is tacky, tacky, tacky. It seems to me that the style of the invitation, and the place/time of the reception was always a clue as to how you should dress, but I’ve seen cocktail dresses at picnic weddings and casual clothing at evening weddings at grand reception halls. However, the OP here sounds like she has a self-esteem problem, so the excuse of not having proper clothing was used . I guess in her own mind, complaining about the rudeness of the bride made her able to live with herself for not being able to attend a social event.


KitchyKoo August 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Gloria Shiner has a beautiful post, in my opinion.

I’ve been to many color-request weddings, I find nothing tacky or off-putting about it. It’s a request, not a demand, and it’s not her fault you didn’t bother to talk to her about it or clarify anything.

To me, this reads like a desperate “I wanted to find something to post on this site and reached as far as I could” story.


Anonymous August 12, 2010 at 11:52 pm

LauraWearsBlue, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, online shopping doesn’t work very well for those who fall outside the norm for women’s shapes and sizes. Getting a great deal online–at eBay or otherwise–is simply not an option for some women.


Simone August 13, 2010 at 12:32 am

I don’t think the OP is being easily offended here, it seems to me that perhaps she is a little shy/self conscious. If the OP had never met these people, as indicated, then it probably would have been extremely awkward to ring and discuss clothing options with them. Perhaps her boyfriend could have but many men feel uncomfortable with that type of thing.

@OP I will agree with what Amazed said – when you have a little spare money, perhaps invest in a coloured blouse to wear to festive occassions. A brightly coloured blouse could easily be teamed with your existing black slacks. Also I am HORRIFIED that people would question you about any scarring on your body. How rude. You are certainly not required to answer their impertinent questions.

( I should point out that I typed several outfit suggestions here, before I realised that I was being impertinent myself. So see how easy it is to be impertinent if someone doesn’t remind you? 🙂 )


LINDA BEBOUT August 13, 2010 at 12:56 am

I hate hate hate people wearing black to weddings.


jenna August 13, 2010 at 5:37 am

Laura Wears Blue – I looked at that Miss Manners link and I disagree with some of it (and I usually completely agree with Miss Manners – we have been trying our best to fit our wedding to her advice, with the exception of RSVP cards, which we have and she dislikes).

But: it’s perfectly normal for a wedding party to wear black these days. So the “funeral” comment was out of bounds.

Also, “pastels and not white, black or red” – umm, really? I’m getting married in three weeks at 5pm and the last thing I want to see on anyone is a pastel color (not that I would ever tell guests not to wear them, but ugh, I hate pastels and would never, ever buy a dress in a pastel color, nor would I ever dress a wedding party in pastels). White is out of bounds for obvious reasons – though I would be fine with someone at my wedding wearing white – but red? Really? What about bright purple, teal, fuchsia, rose, russet – are these inappropriate too, and we all have to dress like Easter eggs?

That 4:30pm wedding is probably going to turn into an evening/night reception (our 5pm wedding will wrap up around midnight) where pastels would feel off. Also, if it’s a winter or autumn wedding, you can forget finding season-appropriate clothes in pastels.

I do think that other than “don’t wear white to a wedding” that colors have no place in etiquette anymore. Etiquette is about treating other people well – about social interaction. Which fork to use, what colors to wear etc. are outmoded outposts of etiquette that really don’t belong in such a respectable system the way “always send a thank you card” belongs.

Anyway, I don’t think stipulating a dress code is rude – to the extent that it says “black tie” or “smart casual” or “beach casual” or “cocktail party”. (Our website blurb on attire said “somewhere between semiformal and smart casual. We trust you to look nice and want you to be comfortable!”) – not all weddings are formal y’know. My Grandma was irritable that our evening wedding is not formal, but whatever. Etiquette is about treating people well, not what kind of party you throw at what time – with a few obvious exceptions (I am guessing that “10am cocktail soiree” won’t get many takers).

Going so far as to ban certain colors is crossing a line. I also think that stipulating a dress code without consideration for your guests is rude – “black tie only” to a wedding in the countryside where most people will have a hard time finding gowns and tuxes, or with a guest list full of people struggling financially, would be kind of rude. At that point I, were I the OP, would have decided that it was a bit brash of the couple (who says the bride wrote this?) to tell me what colors I could wear and that I could safely ignore it without being rude.

For the record, I don’t mind people wearing black to weddings. I think black formal dresses are great as something with a lot of utility the way a colored dress isn’t (though I only own one black dress, and it is very formal – too formal for most things. I’ve worn it twice). I think pants on women at formal events is fine as long as they are formalwear – do a Google search on “welding ceremony wedding” to see pictures of a bride in a lovely formal pants-based outfit. I would be proud to see a guest wear that to my wedding.


Laura Wears Blue August 13, 2010 at 9:11 am

I agree with Gloria Shiner and KitchyKoo.

For those who erroneously claim that online places such as eBay do not have anything for taller, possibly plus-sized women (and I don’t mean to imply anything about the size of the OP, just tall/plus in general): http://clothing.shop.ebay.com/Dresses-/63880/i.html?_nkw=tall&_catref=1&_fln=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m282
There are currently 496 dresses in the Plus/Tall womens clothing category.

jenna: Though I have no real opinion on this particular matter, red is considered inappropriate by some as it is a wilder, sexier color that draws the eye. Link to an etiquette question concerning this: http://www.topweddingquestions.com/topic/14223-can-a-wedding-guest-wear-cream-colored-dress/
As to whether you want your guests to wear pastels to your reception, I assume that your wedding and reception are at two different venues (i.e., church then banquet hall/restaurant/etc). In that case, your guests could change (as I’ve done for many weddings). If that is not the case, however, then I definitely see your side of the issue.

…“black tie only” to a wedding in the countryside where most people will have a hard time finding gowns and tuxes, or with a guest list full of people struggling financially, would be kind of rude…

One should never count others’ money. Assuming the financial situation of another (they have nice cars so they are rich & can attend/they are in college so are therefore struggling and don’t have formal wear) is impolite. Your guests may be invited, and if they must abstain for financial or personal reasons, that’s their business.


Kriss August 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

I’m imagining from the brides side. There she is sitting with a wedding coordinator or a friend helping her with the website. They are firing off questions left and right and finally come to “what is the dress code?” The bride is frustrated already and doesn’t care what anyone wears. “I don’t know” she replies. “Well, there has to be SOME kind of dress code!!” replies the helper. “Uh, I guess… not too much black? I really don’t care!”. End scene.

OP you put an AWFUL lot on one sentence on a website and I agree, you turned it into a lot of excuses. Why would you even consider this enough of a slight to have to say this wasn’t a slight against you? She doesn’t know you! She has tons of family and friends to worry about and I’m sure her share of people she DOESN’T want there. You probably weren’t on her mind at all outside of making sure your name was spelled right on the invitation.

Sorry OP, though I think the bride’s request was weird I feel you were more in the wrong here. Not for not attending but for blowing it so far out of proportion. A simple phone call could’ve solved this. I fail to see why this is even on here. You put yourself in this position by not having an array of clothing ahead of time or the confidence to wear what you already have. It’s not the bride’s responsibility to provide that to you.


phoenix August 13, 2010 at 10:00 am

I think people are being very harsh to the OP. This is why many of my generation are giving up on the idea of etiquette. If you aren’t experienced enough, you can’t win. Not sure what is appropriate to wear? Well, it seems like you should obey the brides wishes. Oh, but then people online say your problem is your own fault for not calling the busy bride and asking for an exception to the dress code she set out. Or that you should have worn your clothes anyway, ignoring what the bride asked you to do. But then other people quote Miss Manners, saying you can’t wear black…which is what you were going to wear normally.

Poor OP, she couldn’t win. If she’d worn what she would normally, people would be calling her etiquette challenged for wearing black to a wedding. Since she didn’t, she’s being blasted for not ignoring the brides wishes or for not calling up someone she didn’t know to question their wedding preferences. By trying to do the polite thing, she’s being repeatedly chastised on an etiquette site.

Everyone, the OP was obviously trying to do the right thing. Cut her some slack! Even the advice everyone is giving here is very conflicted. Black or not, cover your scars or not, etc. If the people on an etiquette site can’t even agree what is appropriate, how do you expect the OP to conform to it? She couldn’t even do what the commenters are saying, since it’s contradictory.


Orange Swan August 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

It’s a shame that you missed this wedding because of this. Seems like a misinterpretation to me. Next time you’re having a problem with a request on the part of your host or hostess, try talking it over with them. I don’t see anything wrong with a bride expressing a preference for colour/level of formality for the wedding as long as she’s tactful and phrases it like a request rather than a demand. When my niece got married, she had a pink wedding. She would have liked the other women in the family to wear pink though she never put it in writing anywhere. I kept teasing her that I was going to wear an orange strapless dress, and she’d look half amused, half perturbed. In the end, none of us wore pink, but we all wore colours that went with pink. My niece’s mother wore navy, my mother wore lilac, my sister wore black, and I wore spring green.


Jill August 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm

In most cases it is inappropriate to wear black (or other very dark colours) to a wedding. I’m pretty sure it was on this site that I recently read the tip, if something is suitable for a funeral it isn’t suitable for a wedding. I agree that the Bride shouldn’t have put this on the invitation, but only because this shouldn’t be an issue in the first place! People ought to know this already. However, as many commenters have pointed out, black is now commonplace at weddings. I really think this was about not wanting to see everybody wearing mourning colours at the wedding, and not about looking just right for the photos.

As for the argument about dress codes, I think simply asking guests not to wear black is much less demanding than having a dress code like Black or White Tie, for which many people would need to buy something new. Besides, surely OP could have worn the black pants with a blouse of another colour, or just contacted the Bride for assistance in figuring out an outfit that would be ok if she really was unsure. If OP (or anyone) is interested, I find that empire waist dress that are strapless or have adjustable straps usually suit my tall figure, and if they are too short on the legs I just get some tights at the supermarket.


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