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The Rules of White

The 2010 Spring wedding season is off and running, and it has once again come to my attention that certain members of the general public may as yet be uneducated on the Rules of White. I happily take it upon myself to offer said education. Particularly in the South, we have no excuse for ignorance in this area. Agree or disagree, it matters not. These…are the Rules of White.

1. Do not wear white at anytime between Labor Day and Easter. (Unless you are a bride, and it is your wedding.)
2. Do not wear white to any wedding. (Unless you are a bride, and it is your wedding.)

Addendum to Rule #1: Thanks to the addition of lovely “winter whites” in wool and other winter-friendly fabrics, Rule #1 may be discarded at the wearer’s discretion. In fact, in the past several years, it has become increasingly common and accepted to wear white all year round. I think the only forms of white (and this is just my personal opinion) one should avoid between Labor Day and Easter (the day upon which wearing white has typically resumed) are white linen and white sandals. Now, should you choose to wear white linen on, say, December 21st, I will honestly have nothing to say about it. That is a matter of personal choice and I neither condone nor condemn it. In general, I have nothing to say about Rule #1, save as it relates to Rule #2. I myself once owned a pair of lovely winter white trousers that I wore with relish to more than one winter event (all of them non-weddings), just before loaning them to an employee who got herself fired from my company and disappeared with my britches. It was unfortunate, to say the least.

Addendum to Rule #2: There is no addendum. It has not been and will never become acceptable to wear white to a wedding that is not your own. If you are not the bride, and you are not getting married that day, leave the fricking white dress on the fricking hanger where it fricking belongs. What about a black and white dress, you ask? Is it mostly white? Then don’t wear it. What if it’s ivory, you wonder. Do brides wear ivory? Yes. Hence, ivory = white. Find something else. What if I ask the bride’s permission beforehand? Honestly. Why would you? As my 6th grade English teacher once told me, When in doubt, leave it out. If it’s that necessary for you to stand out, that essential that people look at you, that you are noticed, find something very colorful. But for the sake of everyone around you, please just don’t wear white. It is nothing more than plain and simple rudeness.

I have consulted on several weddings in the last few years where guests have shown up in some manner of white attire. One was a summer wedding, and I realize it’s tough to avoid white in the summer…especially nine days before Labor Day, when the time warp on white-wearing is closing in all around you…but seriously, is it that hard to have a little consideration and pull something else out of the closet? I would think this choice would be especially simple if you were, say, one of the wedding’s vendors and were assumed to already have a basic understanding of the workings of weddings.

My most unfortunate encounter with a Rule #2 violation occurred at a wedding reception one February. A guest actually wore a stark white strapless tea-length party dress. I tell you, if the dress had been twelve inches longer, folks would have been handing her gifts and telling her congratulations. As I scanned the room for the bride several times throughout the night – I was her planner, after all – my eyes kept finding Stark White dress girl. A good friend of the bride, and my trusted assistant for the day, kept threatening to get drunk enough to ask Stark White to go find a denim shirt to put on, but the bride insisted that she didn’t mind. I started slipping her extra glasses of champagne anyway. In this case, I understand why the bride didn’t mind – this was a reception after an out-of-town wedding, and both bride and groom were extremely gracious and relaxed about the entire evening. However, one should never rely upon the graciousness of a host or honoree as a guarantee of forgiveness or permission to disregard such a common tradition.

Why, you might ask, is this such an important rule? First, it is a Western tradition that brides wear white. Some say it dates back to Roman times when the color white was a symbol of celebration, and some say it dates to Queen Victoria’s marriage to Albert, when she wore white and brides everywhere started copying the queen. Regardless, it is a tradition that almost every bride in America chooses to follow.

Second, on her wedding day, a bride is being presented to her groom – flawless and beautiful. Their union is the cause for celebration, and her beauty is meant to be second to none. Wearing white as a wedding guest detracts attention from the bride in her celebration and beauty. In short, it makes people look at you and not her, when everyone is supposed to be looking at her. And not you.

Whether or not you agree with this tradition, it is still a tradition. If you are invited to a wedding, the bride and groom obviously want you to be there to share in their joy. Due to the manner in which modern-day weddings and receptions are being held (with seated dinners, heavy hors d’oeuvres, etc.), the bride’s family will usually have gone to an expense to ensure that each guest can be present for and partake in the celebration. There are several ways in which you might show respect for the happy couple and their families on their wedding day. One of the best that I can think of is to dress respectfully and modestly in your nicest outfit – that isn’t white.

7 responses to “The Rules of White”

  1. Avatar Angela says:

    Thank you so much for your rules of white. Nothing annoys me more than someone wearing white at a wedding – especially when it was mine. Regradless of why people think one wears white as a bride at their wedding…find another color. It's not that hard.

  2. Avatar KFrayz says:

    question: once the bride is fully intoxicated on her post nuptial bubbly…is it acceptable, to approach her in my sleek any color other than white dress, and ask to try her pretty white dress on?

  3. Avatar llxt says:

    Hi A–I'm a total believer in no white after labor day, etc. But you forgot the 3rd rule for white wedding wear… If the bride doesn't have any business wearing white (and we all know what I mean by this…), then she forfeits her right to be the only one in white. I mean…hasn't white really lost its significance anyway???

    • Avatar andrea8979 says:

      Naturally, being a good, rule-abiding Southern female, I'm afraid I must feign ignorance on this point. (If I don't, I get kicked out of the club.)

  4. Avatar Angela says:

    Thank you so much for your rules of white. Nothing annoys me more than someone wearing white at a wedding – especially when it was mine. Regradless of why people think one wears white as a bride at their wedding…find another color. It's not that hard.

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