Brides traditionally wore a range of colours for their wedding day; reds, blacks, blues, and yellows were the choice for brides across the UK and Europe up until the Victorian era. But how did the white wedding dress come to be an integral part of our wedding day traditions? We unravel the story behind the white wedding dress below.
The story behind the white wedding dress
White dresses have always had symbolic status in British history; in the 1800s young debutantes were required to wear white wedding dresses for their presentation at court. In addition, white dresses have been worn at Christian baptisms for centuries.
The idea to incorporate the white wedding dress in the formal marriage ceremony came to be solidified in the 19th century. A white wedding dress was seen as a sign of wealth and status; the father of the bride would buy her a beautiful white wedding dress that was only to be worn on her wedding day. This supposedly symbolised the family’s’ wealth, as it suggested that they could afford the lavish expense of buying their daughter a luxurious wedding dress, that would only be worn once.
Many historians say that a white dress being welcomed and portrayed as a symbol of affluence was a notion first made popular by Queen Victoria, who wore a lace white dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. White dresses were not typically worn by royalty before Victoria; a variety of colourful shades were worn by royal brides across the UK and Europe; with red being a favourite choice of many, because it symbolised fertility. After Queen Victoria’s wedding, the white wedding dress was adopted by many noble women across the UK and Europe.
While symbolising affluence, the white wedding dress also came to be seen as signifying purity and innocence; important qualities for a bride to possess in this era.
White wedding dresses were subsequently portrayed extensively in Hollywood films and were recommended as the dress hue of choice by popular women’s magazines; solidifying them in the minds of the public as the dress of choice for a wedding ceremony.
The Metro shares a popular poem from the era to highlight the attitudes towards white and other wedding dress shades:
“Married in White, you have chosen right
Married in Grey, you will go far away
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Blue, you will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Brown, you will live in the town,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink.”
Changing times and changing dress hues
In previous centuries, red was the shade of choice and brides celebrated their wedding day in a range of other colourful hues. Today, we couldn’t imagine white not dominating the bridal shops. How will wedding dress hues change in the years to come – how long will white reign as the wedding dress colour of choice?