Tradition? Etiquette? Whatevs!
During the Victorian period in the United States, white was considered to represent the virtue of the bride as being pure of heart and came to represent the virginity of the bride. Although not the first to have a white wedding, Queen Victoria was the first royal to wear a white wedding gown, yes, the pic is from VICTORIA on PBS but you get the idea, they didn’t have great wedding photographers back then like we do now. Until that time white was considered a color of mourning. Gowns of other colors sparked the writing of poems that claimed the bride’s choice of color in a wedding gown prophesied her future happiness.
Queen Victoria popularized the use of white wedding dresses and in modern times, a white wedding is depicted as the bride wearing a white gown. Prior to the use of white as a fashionable color for wedding gowns, most women wore their regular clothing or bought a gown that could also be used later for more formal functions. The color was not as important as the style of the gowns, and even in the early and mid-19th century in the United States, gowns that were also functional for other uses often showed the families financial status.
The concept of white meaning virginity has lost its legitimacy and many women have been known to wear white gowns during a second and even third wedding ceremony.
In 1922, when Emily Post, then considered the foremost authority on etiquette published her guide to etiquette covering all of the small details of wedding planning that were often overlooked. Later guides of her writings pointed out the requirements of a white wedding, including the organist, bridesmaids and all other participating in the wedding. Her writing also noted that the wedding ceremony should also represent the unique style of the bride and groom.
This directive for being unique has been interpreted to mean that a white wedding is not unique only to brides that remain a virgin and that other colors for the wedding gown, as well as the dress of other wedding participants was open for interpretation.
Initially, this may have gone against the beliefs of many traditionalists, but was a welcome change to many as they could make their wedding their own without doing things simply because of tradition. Many families still have individual traditions for weddings, but for most white wedding are still included in their wishes.