Can you wear white shoes to a wedding? The simple answer is yes. There are no “official rules” about wearing or not wearing white shoes as a wedding guest. But it is not necessarily as easy as that. There are several things that you need to consider before you do it.
In Western culture, the bride usually wears white at her wedding. In years past, it represented purity and innocence. Today it probably has more to do with tradition and formality. It is generally considered inappropriate for guests to wear all white to a wedding, mainly because it distracts from the bride. When considering your footwear, think about the bride. This day is for the couple, and the focus should be on them. What the bride is going to think is paramount. If she is planning a formal wedding with a very traditional atmosphere, she may frown upon anyone else wearing white (even just the shoes). If the wedding is a more casual affair, she may not care. I recently attended a wedding where the bride switched to cowboy boots for the reception. This lady certainly could have cared less about the guests’ footwear.
When in doubt, skip the white shoes. Or, if you are close to the bride, simply ask her what she thinks. Don’t pressure her, though: she has a lot on her mind planning a wedding. But casually bringing it up is fine.
The Official Dress Code of the Wedding
In some cases, the bride and groom will tell you what the required dress code is. Pay careful attention to what they have written in the announcement and invitation. If they make specific requests, it indicates that the wedding will be formal. Play by the rules and avoid wearing anything white.
Honestly, that probably also applies to the girl who wore cowboy boots. She has a dress code in mind if she requests western attire at the wedding. Go cowgirl but skip the white boots.
Pay attention if you are attending the wedding of someone from another culture. In some cultures, white does not mean innocence and purity: it is tied with mourning and funerals. When in doubt, check the internet for specifics about that culture. Again, it is all up to the bride. In Chinese culture, white does represent purity but is also used in mourning. If possible, check with her to get her ideas on the subject.
Watch the Season
There was a rule that you could not wear white shoes after Labor Day. White was considered a summer color and a terrible fashion faux pas to wear white shoes in the winter. Today? Many people just do not care about that sort of thing. If you want to wear white shoes out to dinner in November, it is your decision. In the case of a wedding, we once again come back to the bride. Is this something that is going to upset her? If the wedding is a formal affair, it is definitely worth considering. In formal affairs, “rules” are meant to be followed. You do not want to be the one doing something “wrong” on her special day. Your opinion does not matter. If you think it will upset, irritate, or vex her, avoid wearing the white shoes.
Consider the Location
The location of the wedding (and the reception) is vitally important. Even if the invitation reads “black tie,” the location could still be the beach. Couples sometimes enjoy mixing formal and casual. A black tie wedding on the beach is a good example. And while the bride may be perfectly fine with getting her wedding gown splashed with seawater, do you really want the same to happen to your shoes? Walking in the sand is going to have a (terrible) impact on your white shoes. Even if the bride does not care about your footwear, do you want to destroy those shoes in the sand?
Check the Weather
The bride could care less what you wear. The wedding theme is relatively informal (although you still want to look your best). The Universe is okay with you wearing white shoes. Until the weather misbehaves. Turns out, it is going to pour the entire day. Do you want to destroy those shoes running from the car to the church in the pouring rain? Probably not. More importantly, you do not want to be the one everyone at the wedding notices fussing over her shoes. Your arrival at the church should be pleasant and undoubtedly non-disruptive. You do not want to be the one everyone remembers changing from sneakers to beautiful shoes as you enter the church. And even if the bride does not see it… yeah. She will hear about it. Remember, you are not the focus of attention. Keep that focused on the bride and groom.
The Bride (again)
Yes, again, the focus comes down to the bride. If you know the bride well (sister, close friend, etc.), you probably know her ideas on the subject. You can probably answer the question as to whether you can wear white shoes to her wedding without even thinking about it.
If you are not close to her (think about a cousin’s bride you have never met), the answer becomes much trickier. Again, this day is about the bride and groom; honestly, most people will never remember what you wore unless you screw up. If you are not close enough to the bride to get her thoughts on the matter, it is probably safer to just wear a different set of shoes. You do not want to be the one the bride and her close friends criticize at the head table.
Guys, white shoes at a wedding are probably something you want to avoid entirely. White shoes will look out of place for most formal weddings (and even those that are not so formal). Even very casual weddings on the beach will call for boat shoes that match your clothing. Unless the wedding has a theme where the white shoes would fit (think a 1970’s themed wedding), you want to skip the white shoes. Oh, and do not bother asking the groom. He will probably care less than the bride, and his answer may not align with the bride’s thinking.