Wedding Tradition Breakdown: White Wedding Dresses

Weddings are a fun day and an opportunity to celebrate the love between two people. While many couples love to infuse their personality and tastes into their wedding, they often have to grapple with a long list of wedding traditions. One of the biggest wedding traditions is the bride wearing a white wedding gown. This tradition is so engrained in wedding culture, it’s rare to go to a western wedding and not see a white dress. But how did this tradition start? Our wedding photographers are going to break down the history of this wedding tradition!



Although the tradition of white wedding dresses is complicated, the popularity of white dresses can really be credited to Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria chose to wear a white court dress when she married Prince Albert in 1840. Debutantes, or young women of high social status, had long been required to wear white court dresses when they were presented at court.


Before Queen Victoria, brides did not typically wear white. Instead, they wore heavily brocaded gowns that were embroidered with white or silver thread. Red, yellow, and blue were popular wedding colors. Other brides opted for practical colors like black, brown or gray.


By the end of the 19th century, most upper-class brides in Europe were wearing white gowns to their weddings. However, the middle-class in Europe and America didn’t adopt this tradition until after World War 2. Hollywood weddings in media and cinema further established the tradition of white wedding dresses in culture.


Symbolic Meaning

Following Queen Victoria’s wedding, the color white became a symbol of wealth and social status. Laundering techniques were limited at the time, so wearing white to a wedding symbolized that the bride’s family could afford an elaborate dress that wouldn’t be ruined by work. Later on, it became a tradition to only wear the wedding dress once, which further cemented a white wedding dress as a symbol of wealth.


These days, most people are taught that a white dress is a symbol of purity and innocence. This symbolic meaning of white is especially ingrained in Christian weddings. The traditional veil, which is another popular wedding tradition, was worn in tandem with the white gown to show women were modest as well as pure.



Today, many brides continue the tradition of wear white wedding dresses. Most brides our wedding photographers work with no longer believe in the symbolic meaning but always grew up envisioning themselves wearing white on their big day. However, many brides are becoming more lax about this tradition. Some opt for off-white, cream, ivory or blush instead of pure white. Others are embracing Asian or Middle-Eastern wedding traditions of wearing bright colored gowns such as gold or red. Our photographers have also been to weddings where brides wore black or their favorite color!


Final Thoughts

Traditions can play a big role in our lives, but our wedding photographers always say the best wedding photos happen when brides feel comfortable. Wear what makes you happy! If that’s a white dress then great, but if it’s a gothic black gown or a bold pink one, that is perfect as well! Another option we’ve seen at Toronto weddings lately is to wear a white gown for the ceremony and then switch to a fun, colorful dress for the reception. There are tons of options.


It can be easy to get caught up in following all of the wedding traditions. It’s important to remember that this tradition didn’t always exist though, and it was born accidentally.


Contact us if you need a wedding photographer for your big day! We’d love to photograph your wedding, whether you’re wearing a white dress or not!






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