Many women dream of the day they will be a bride and wear the dress of their dreams down the aisle to their awaiting groom. Glowing white wedding dresses look beautiful and elegant, giving a sense of newness to the bride and the beginning of a new chapter of the bride and groom’s life that begins on the day of their wedding, becoming husband and wife.
However, wearing white wedding dresses is a relatively new tradition in the western world and became popular in the mid-1800s. Let us look at this tradition and the symbolism behind the white wedding dress.
Where Does The Tradition Of Wearing A White Wedding Dress Originate?
The practice of wearing a white wedding dress originates back more than 2000 years to the Roman Republic (509 B.C.- 27 B. C.), when brides wore a white tunic. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the white trend ended until a royal wedding sparked a modern tradition.
From the middle ages to the mid-19th century, before white wedding dresses became popular, women would choose other colors over white for their wedding dress to suit their tastes and practical purposes; after all, the color white is tough to keep clean!
When a bride chose a wedding dress years ago, they would often select one they could wear again or one of the best dresses they already had hanging in their wardrobe.
So how did white wedding dresses become the traditional choice of brides in the western world? After Roman times, the first record of a white wedding dress was worn by Philippa of England, who married Eric of Pomerania in 1406 and went on to become the Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
However, the tradition mainly began with Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, and Queen Victoria broke tradition and chose a white wedding dress for her big day. Traditionally a royal bride would wear rich colors, fur, jewels, and gold embroidery.
Queen Victoria chose the white wedding dress to help show off the delicate lace detail the struggling British lace industry made to boost their business and lace wedding dresses. She also wanted her wedding to her husband to represent the woman he loved rather than a monarch, as she was indeed in love with him. She also refrained from wearing the heirloom jewels, and in place of a crown, she chose to wear a wreath of wax orange blossoms.
Queen Victoria’s dress symbolized that she was a bride to Prince Albert instead of a Queen marrying a lesser-status individual. Victoria made her wedding feel more relatable to ordinary people by dressing like other wealthy young women. On the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, the growing middle class of England was experiencing growing wealth and began to follow her lead as newspapers and magazines everywhere published her wedding day pictures.
Queen Victoria also encouraged her daughter and daughter-in-law to wear white wedding dresses. Victoria’s family was the first royal family to be photographed often, and as the pictures were widely circulated, their fashion choices became trends for the masses. As royal weddings often do, Queen Victoria’s choice of a white wedding dress started a trend that is still popular in the west today.
After the royal wedding, wealthier brides began to embrace the white wedding dress trend. Eventually, this trend spread to all levels of society. It became a tradition in the 20th century, and wedding dress boutiques and designers began to create unique works of art for brides to wear on their wedding day.
Symbolism Of White Wedding Dresses
White was associated with Vesta, the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family served by temple priestesses dressed in distinctive white clothing.
White also symbolizes prosperity, virginity, and a lifetime commitment to one person, and traditionally brides wear white wedding dresses to display innocence, youth, and new beginnings.
When white wedding dresses first became popular, only wealthy brides could choose to wear a white silk gown. Brides well-off were married in elegant, clean areas instead of a space filled with muck and grime of the Industrial Age. The white wedding dress began to symbolize wealth and status rather than virginity and became a symbol of ceremony and ritual for the bride rather than a dress of practicality.
In other cultures, brides wear different hues for their wedding ceremony outside Western society. For example, red is the most auspicious shade in India and China, while traditional brides in Nigeria wear bright colors, and brides in Ghana wear cloth with intricate patterns.
Whether you wear a white wedding dress or design your wedding dress, the most important part is that you feel beautiful and amazing on your wedding day!
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