Is it now acceptable to colour co-ordinate with the bride?
Actress Rosamund Pike looked dazzling in a cut-out hot pink Alexander McQueen dress at her stepdaughter Olive Uniacke’s wedding on July 2. Even more dazzling was literary agent Olive, who eschewed the usual white bridal gown for a corseted full-length style also in hot pink. Together they looked beautiful, glamorous – and very similar.
Pike, 43, is the partner of Olive's father Robie Uniacke, 61, and she and the bride are clearly close, but even in this fashionable set (celebrities such as Poppy Delevingne, Dua Lipa and Nicholas Hoult were among the guests) this fashion move felt bold. From a distance, it was impossible to tell who was the bride, not least because in one photograph Olive is bare-headed, while Pike laughs in a black hat with a face veil.
Grandmothers everywhere may be shocked, but this move away from traditional wedding outfits has become a major post-pandemic trend. “Couples are seriously considering their plans and how to best represent themselves,” says wedding dress designer Kate Halfpenny. “The tide was already turning and these last few years when choice was taken away actually liberated a lot of people from the pressures of expectation.”
As evidenced by Charlotte Murdoch Freud, the daughter of Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud, who married musician Luke Storey at a village church in the Cotswolds – also on July 2. The setting may have felt conventional but the outfits were anything but – and the bride, who goes by the name of Tiarlie, wore her black hair in bunches, dyed her fringe mauve and lifted her full princess skirt in one picture to reveal a tattoo of her new husband’s name on her thigh.
Although it was her mother Elisabeth Murdoch who arguably broke even further with tradition by wearing a cream three-piece suit, which she accessorised with a colourful buttonhole and long diamond earrings. Elisabeth’s father, Rupert Murdoch, wore an almost identical white suit, while Claudia Winkleman arrived in a long black sheer dress with a black jacket on top.
Unsurprisingly, Debrett’s Wedding Etiquette handbook would strongly advise against all of this. “It is best to always avoid white or cream and black,” it states. “Overly bright colours and patterns should be avoided as they may dominate photographs, and care should be taken not to overshadow the bride.”
I got married in May this year, and I’m not sure I agree. Ours was a fairly traditional wedding in London that, by pure luck, fell on one of the first hot weekends of the year. I did wear white, but I was delighted to see my guests in an array of tangerine oranges, hot pinks and bright reds – and when my best friend and my brother’s girlfriend both wore cream-based dresses, I couldn’t have been happier. It is, after all, rather hard to forget who the bride is when she’s being showered with confetti and saying ‘I do’.
“There used to be so many rules around wedding colours and not outshining the bride, but increasingly mothers and daughters and brides and maids of honour are wearing the same shade dresses,” says Halfpenny. “The wedding is a celebration and a co-ordinating colour scheme can be a wonderful way of further involving friends and relatives, and that’s great, so long as it’s the couple’s choice. Those rules are there for a reason and although it would be very difficult to outshine a bride on her wedding day, it’s always best to check the dress code.”
Interestingly, none of our female guests asked for help on what to wear, but at least half the men did. Understandably, as it’s so much more complex – at our wedding, my husband, his ushers and my father wore morning coats, but most of the male guests wore suits; equally, a colleague’s father was the only man not in a morning suit and he was mistaken for a waiter all day. If there’s no dress code, it’s best to check.
As for women, you can play detective with the venue if you’re unsure: if it’s a country church, for example, a slinky cocktail dress probably won't feel right. Smart London or grand country house wedding? Go in a more fashionable direction. The only thing I have learned over the years is to find out what the bridesmaids are wearing, as there are few things more awkward than being ushered off for photographs when you’ve barely met the bride.
And if in doubt, why not follow Pike’s lead and opt for hot pink? It’s a wonderfully cheerful and fashionable shade this season. And best of all, if the bride happens to be in the exact same fuchsia hue, it’ll be a happy accident with a very glamorous precedent.