The white wedding dress hasn’t always been the first choice for a bride. In ancient times, brides dressed in brilliant colors, especially red or yellow. In biblical times, the color of choice was blue because it symbolized purity.
Until the 1900’s most brides did not have a special dress for their wedding day. They simply wore their best dress. The following traditional rhyme offered advice on what dress color to choose:
Married in white, you have chosen right
Married in blue, your love will always be true
Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl
Married in brown, you will live in town
Married in red, you will wish yourself dead
Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow
Married in green, ashamed to be seen
Married in pink, your spirit will sink
Married in gray, you will go far away
Married in black, you will wish yourself back
A green dress is thought unlucky, unless the bride is Irish. It was said that if the woman had a green gown it implied that she had loose morals, because the green symbolized grass stains from rolling in grassy fields.
White, or a variation of white, was a sign of purity and innocence. Ann of Brittany wore the first known white wedding dress to her marriage to Louis XII of France in 1499. However, it was not a practical color. Cloth was very expensive to bleach and if one wanted a white dress, it would require more than one bleaching. It was believed that the whiter the cloth, the more affluent the person. So when the rich wed, they chose a white dress to show off their wealth.
White did not become a practical choice for a wedding gown until the 1800’s when machine made fabrics and cheap muslins imported from India became affordable to common society. The Victorian era placed a heavy emphasis on feminine purity and chastity, and since white represented these attributes, it was considered a most suitable color for a bride. Queen Victoria made the white wedding dress fashionable in 1840, when she broke with tradition and wore white on her wedding day instead of the traditional silver worn by royal brides.
White hasn’t always signified purity and innocence. In Roman times, white was the symbol of joyous celebration. In China and Japan, white is the symbol of mourning and thought to be appropriate as the bride is leaving her family of birth to Join her husband’s, thereby undergoing a symbolic death. Today, the white wedding dress is worn as a symbol of joy and not as a sign of purity and innocence.
There are many superstitions surrounding the wedding dress. It is thought unlucky for the bride to make her own wedding gown. The bride should not loan her wedding dress to another, for is thought unlucky for the lender, but good luck for the borrower. It is said that the bride should not wear her entire outfit before the wedding day. Some brides leave a final stitch on the dress undone until it is time to leave for the ceremony. Once a bride has looked at herself in the mirror wearing her complete outfit, it is said she must not look at herself again, or have bad luck. If the bride rips her dress on her wedding day, it is said the marriage will end in death. And finally, it is unlucky for the groom to see his bride in her wedding dress before she arrives at the ceremony.