Why do brides wear white?

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Ah weddings. Marrying a couple in holy matrimony. The groom and his groomsmen in tuxedos while the bridesmaids all playing supporting role for the bride. And then the bride gets walked in with her opulent, pure white dress. What a magical time.

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But have you ever wondered why the brides always wear white and never anything else? “It’s to symbolize her purity!” you may have been told. But little do you know, that’s actually incorrect. You see, with so many interesting facets of human history changing, so too did the history of the wedding dress. For instance, did you know that…

Weddings weren’t always about love

Just like in Game of Thrones, weddings weren’t about love, but about politics and power. In fact during the middle ages up until perhaps 100 years ago, weddings were made strategically between royal families and nobility. By joining two families together in holy matrimony, this symbolized the ultimate alliance, as the alliance was now made in blood.

In fact, it was not uncommon for after a war with a particular kingdom or between two noble families to have a son from one family marry the daughter of another family. This automatically joined the two families together and stopped the fighting.

But on the wedding day, the bride didn’t wear white. She wore the most expensive outfit her family could afford, no matter the color!

White was a bold choice

During the middle ages and on into the time of the renaissance, white was used to symbolize the mourning period after death. So when Philippa of England got married in a tunic with a white silk cloak fringed with ermine and gray squirrel fur way back in 1406, people were in an uproar!

mary queen of scots

There is little evidence that any other European royal decided to break with tradition and wear white on their wedding day until Mary Queen of Scots decided to over 150 years later in her marriage to Francis Dauphin of France. This almost started a war, due to the fact that French tradition at the time stated that the color white was the color of death amongst the French monarchy. It’s ironic ten that her husband died a mere two years later.

Queen Victoria

It wasn’t until Queen Victoria of England got married to Prince Albert in 1840 that white really became a wedding staple, and before that, brides got married in any color they want! Yet Queen Victoria had quite a following (it was called the Victorian age for a reason!), and whatever she did people tried to emulate it – especially in the United States.

queen vic

Once photographs of her in her white wedding gown began circulating throughout the globe there was no turning back, and white has been a wedding dress staple ever since. That means white wedding dresses have been a wedding tradition for less than 200 years.

White still isn’t universal

Many cultures still don’t wear white on their wedding day – it is mainly a western European cultural tradition. Many brides still wear black on their wedding day in Sweden and Norway.

Meanwhile, in more eastern cultures such as Indian and Chinese culture, the bride will almost always wear red as red is considered to be good luck and the color most likely to ward off evil spirits. In these countries, white is only to be worn at funerals.

chinese wedding

In the pacific islands, specifically Indonesia, the women wear floral pattern Kebayas, which are basically really nice blouses made of silk.

While the wedding dress traditions may be set in stone, it turns out that this is far from the case. In a world where people are no longer getting married for power but for love, all that matters in the end is that the bride and groom are happy and love each other. The color of the dress won’t change that.

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