It is always very interesting to keep a close eye on the wedding traditions that appear to last over centuries. Since, white wedding dress is considered as a wedding landmark to almost all of modern weddings and most of the brides are dreaming of a long white wedding dress with a veil since their childhood, we were eager to find out more about the white wedding dress tradition.
The tradition of the White Wedding Dress is commonly credited to Queen Victoria’s choice to wear one at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.
Royal brides before Victoria did not typically wear a white colored wedding dress, instead were choosing “heavy brocaded gowns embroidered with white and silver thread,” while at the same time color red had generally been a particularly popular color in Western Europe.. European and American brides had been wearing a plethora of colors, including blue, yellow, and practical colors like black, brown, or gray. As accounts of Victoria’s wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe elites followed her lead. Because of the limitations of laundering techniques, white dresses provided an opportunity for conspicuous consumption. They were favored primarily as a way to show the world that the bride’s family was so wealthy and so firmly part of the leisure class that the bride would choose an elaborate dress that could be ruined by any sort of work or spill. The color white was also the color that girls were required to wear at the time when they were presented to the court.
Although women were required to wear veils in many churches through at least the 19th century, the resurgence of the wedding veil as a symbol of the bride, and its use even when not required by the bride’s religion, coincided with societal emphasis on women being modest and well-behaved.
Etiquette books then began to turn the practice into a tradition and the white gown soon became a popular symbol of status that also carried “a connotation of innocence and sexual purity.” The story put out about the wedding veil was that decorous brides were naturally too timid to show their faces in public until they were married.
By the end of the 19th century the white dress was the garment of choice for elite brides on both sides of the Atlantic. However, middle-class British and American brides did not adopt the trend fully until after World War II. With increased prosperity in the 20th century, the tradition also grew to include the practice of wearing the dress only once. As historian Vicky Howard writes, “[i]f a bride wore white in the nineteenth century, it was acceptable and likely that she wore her gown again …” Even Queen Victoria had her famous lace wedding dress re-styled for later use.
The portrayal of weddings in Hollywood movies, particularly immediately after World War II, helped crystallize and homogenize the white wedding into a normative form.
The white wedding style was given another significant boost in 1981, when three-quarter billion people—one out of six people around the globe—watched Charles, Prince of Wales marry Diana Spencer in her elaborate white taffeta dress with a 25-foot-long train. This wedding is generally considered the most influential white wedding of the 20th century.
Howard, Vicky (2006). Brides Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition, p. 157–159. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Ingrassia, Catherine (2007). “Diana, Martha and Me”. In Curran, Colleen. Altared: bridezillas, bewilderment, big love, breakups, and what women really think about contemporary weddings. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 24–30. ISBN 0-307-27763-1.
Jellison, Katherine (2008). It’s Our Day: America’s Love Affair with the White Wedding, 1945-2005, p. 65-67. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence
Martin, Judith (2005). Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 371. ISBN 0-393-05874-3.
Otnes, Cele and Pleck, Elizabeth (2003). Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding, p.31. University of California Press, Berkley.
Pleck, Elisabeth (2000). Celebrating the Family: Ethnicity, Consumer Culture and Family Rituals, p. 212. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.