Why are brides expected to wear white?

In the last three months of my life, two of my best friends have gotten engaged! It is a crazy time as it makes us all feel so old and mature even though we act like children most of the time. In wedding planning, my roommate (one of my engaged besties) has had to search and buy a LOT of white dresses. Not including her wedding dress, she will purchase anywhere from 4-6 white dresses for other events. We spend so much time on the internet searching to find the perfect white dresses she can wear at all her various bridal events.

White has been the color for brides for so long but have we ever stopped and asked ourselves, “why the color white?” 

I personally adore the idea of marrying someone one day and buying a beautiful white gown. However, a lot of people do not know the history of why the bride “should’ wear white. Most people know (or assume) that it has to do with purity and the pureness of the bride as she is betrothed to her significant other. When doing some more research, there is a lot of history following a bride’s choice of clothing and color for their wedding. Back in the 1700s and 1800s brides did not wear white due to its traditional origin of being a color of mourning instead wore red. To think of any brides wearing red nowadays is such a startling thought because that rarely happens. That’s how white was to brides during that era. As time went on, the tradition evolved due to famous historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Victoria who both wore white.

To read more on the history of white wedding dresses read: https://www.southernliving.com/weddings/dresses/white-wedding-dress-origin-meaning

What is the symbolism behind the color white? Does it support feminist culture?

When doing more research on the color associated with brides and weddings, the two words that stuck out most were purity and freshness. The woman wore white to show they were pure in their private lives and were “good enough” to be betrothed to their significant others and would not offer any tainting by being dirty or sinful. They wanted the world/society to see they had lived a pure and clean life and were good trophies to marry off. There were even levels of “whiteness” in dresses. Meaning, a bride could only wear stark pure white if she was completely pure and a “good girl.” If not, she could wear a pearl or blush, etc. The white in dresses and their symbolism was a very important aspect for a bride and for a wedding since it was their moment to show to society they were clean and pure, deserving of a union.

However, the meaning of white might have begun that way but does not seem to be the case anymore. I asked several of my friends who are married or who are getting married their views on the color white. Most of them said they were it simply because of tradition but no longer see it as a way to expose their “purity” for all their guests to see. For example, my sister loved the idea of a white dress but with the fairness of her skin and the darkness of her hair, a blush wedding dress suited her much more. It did not take away from the wedding day in any capacity nor did anyone comment that this was a weird idea.

Something else that has recently taken over weddings is bridesmaids standing alongside the bride in white dresses as well. I saw this for the first time on Tik Tok the summer of 2021 and personally attended a wedding this past summer where the bridesmaids wore white (TikTok for reference: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRumU7BE/)

I think the purity and virginity aspect of white at weddings has lessened and is now more for the aesthetic and vibe of the wedding. It has become a creative outlet for brides and grooms to create the wedding of their dreams and less about women’s personal “purities” and information. I think many people do not even associate white with their own personal purity at their weddings. Weddings have become more for the actual people getting married rather than what society tells them.

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