Going Beyond the Traditional White Wedding Dress for Your Big Day

When you think about weddings, you probably picture a bride in a white dress. However, you don’t have to let your imagination be limited by color. Several celebrities have recently been married in alternatively colored dresses, and designers make wedding gowns in a variety of flattering hues. With so many options, you’re sure to find the right dress for your special event.

Wedding Dress History

Although white wedding dresses have been traditional for centuries now, this was not always the case; wedding dresses have changed throughout history. Many women in the past chose practical outfits for their wedding that could be worn again after the ceremony was over.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, teenage brides wore pale green wedding dresses to signify fertility. Brides in their twenties wore brown dresses, while older brides donned black dresses. From the Saxon times until the 18th century, only poor brides wore white to their weddings as a sign that she was bringing nothing with her into the marriage. 

There were varying rhymes about what the color of the dress meant about the bride’s future. For example, some said that white meant “chosen right,” while blue meant “love will be true.” During this time, yellow, red, gray, and green wedding dresses were considered unlucky. 

White wedding gowns came into popularity when Queen Victoria chose this color for her wedding in 1840. This was quite unusual at the time, as many brides wore colored or even black dresses. During Victorian times, the entire bridal party wore white for formal weddings.

While white become a traditional wedding color in the 20th century, not all brides adhered to this dress code. In American frontier times, women often chose linen or wool dresses in a variety of colors that could later be worn for special occasions. During the Great Depression, many brides wore short white dresses for their wedding because they could later be dyed another color for everyday use. 

During World War II, many women opted out of having a traditional wedding because the period of time between the engagement and wedding was shortened to just a few weeks or even days. At this time, women chose to wear their nicest outfits or even rent or borrow a white wedding dress.

White Wedding Gown Etiquette

While white is the traditional color for brides today, Emily Post (the authority on all things proper), says that choosing to wear a different color is not a serious breach of etiquette. 

However, she does warn that older generations may be alarmed by any color other than pure white. If this happens, you can spout a little wedding dress history, making sure to include that the bride didn’t always wear white in the past. In fact, brides in China and India often wear red as a sign of good luck! 

There are some etiquette rules pertaining to second marriages. While most agree that wearing white is perfectly acceptable, they would advise against wearing a veil, attaching a train to your dress, and carrying orange blossoms (these are signs of purity).

Alternatives to the White Dress

If you have decided that a white dress is not for you, there are plenty of options out there. To stay safe, you could wear neutral shades such as beige, ivory, champagne, platinum, or gold. Soft colors are also a nice alternative to a white dress: think pale pink, green, and blue. 

Bolder colors definitely make a statement. Some brides, like Sarah Jessica Parker, choose to wear black on their big day. While there is some taboo about wearing black dresses at a wedding because of the color’s association with funerals, some brides feel that these types of dresses lend an air of sophistication to the event. 

Of course, you could always add a fun flair to your white wedding dress with embellishments in a number of colors. Gwen Stefani got married in a gown that was white on the top and dipped in pink on the bottom.To change the look of a plain gown try sashes, fascinators, or funky shoes.

Don’t let “tradition” keep you out of the color that you want to wear on your wedding day–as you can see, tradition really doesn’t limit you to just one shade! Explore your choices and feel confident that you have the freedom to go with your heart.