Yes, we realize that brides today don’t always choose to wear white. Just about any color is acceptable for a wedding dress these days—even black, which used to be associated only with mourning but is now viewed as elegant, affluent, and stylish. But why have brides traditionally chosen white?
If you said that it’s because white is a symbol of purity, that is one of the most common theories, though many historians dispute that, since blue was actually considered more virtuous and innocent.
The tradition of wearing white doesn’t go back quite as far as you might think. In 1840, Queen Victoria of England was one of the first women in the public eye to wear an ostentatious, flowing white gown. As the story goes, she chose the color not to symbolize anything, necessarily, but simply because she wanted to incorporate a prized piece of antique lace, which just happened to be white. Before that, silver was a popular choice among royals, along with blue or yellow. And, back then, wearing white was also considered a symbol of affluence, because without our modern-day conveniences of washing machines and dry cleaners, their white dresses were often worn only once.
The custom of wearing white (or off-white, ivory, cream, etc.) didn’t spread entirely around the world. Brides in Eastern cultures, like China and India, continue to choose red most often, since it’s a symbol of good luck and of new beginnings. In the U.S., though, white has been the most popular choice of wedding dress color at least since Queen Victoria’s time. During the Depression, white (non-dyed) fabric was cheaper, so the tradition lived on. During WWII, it became popular to borrow or rent a white dress, rather than spend limited funds on a new one.
These days, it’s up to the bride. Many stick to tradition and wear white, but others feel free to choose a color that matches their unique style, the theme of the wedding, or the season of the year. If you’re planning a Christmas wedding, think rich, festive jewel tones. For a beach wedding, why not go for a bright, tropical color? Our advice is to just choose a color that makes you happy!
Next up: Wedding Legends #2: Why Do Brides Carry Bouquets?