The Origins of the White Wedding

kaylarStarred Page By kaylar, 17th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Fashion>History

A brief history of the European tradition of a white wedding

It Wasn't Until.....

Common sense would assume that from the beginning of the Wedding ceremony the dress of the Bride, (in European tradition) would be white.

After all, the colour (or non colour) of white symbolises Purity, and virginity was pretty important in a bride.

Yet, until the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1840, there was no such thing as a 'wedding' gown. There was no magic to colours, and brides wore their 'best', whatever their best happened to be.

The Selection

There are many reasons offered why Queen Victoria selected the White dress. Some discuss the significance of the colour; (the purity aspect) while others mention that white was the cheapest colour and she was being frugal.

Others refer to the fact she owned some beautiful lace which she had worked into the dress.

Whatever the reason, the White Wedding of Victoria became a fashion statement which was soon emulated all over the continent and into America.


Brides wore their best dress, the long white veil symbolised their virginity.
Some of the dresses might have been worn before, most would be worn after.
The idea of a special dress made for the marriage ceremony was simply unthought of and there was no wedding industry.

Up until 1753 there were no laws governing marriage ceremonies. (This is in reference to European marriages as Judaic/Islamic weddings had their own laws)

In Europe, especially England, Heiresses were abducted by fortune hunters, who claimed they had been married, and of course, being male, they took the fortune of their victim.

As mentioned above, the only 'laws' governing marriaged were religious. If one were not of a particular religion or if one didn't belong to a church these did not apply.

In England, for example, the Church stipulated that banns should be called, a marriage licence obtained and that the marriage should be celebrated in the parish where at least one of the parties was resident.

It was not until the Passage of Lord Hardwicke's Act that certain elements became requirements, including Consent.

To avoid the law some couples traveled to Scotland. In the 1770s the construction of a toll-road passing through the hitherto obscure village led to Gretna Green becoming synonymous with romantic elopements.


Since the acceptance of Queen Victoria's dress as the standard, most weddings are 'White'. The dress is specially made, to be worn once. And is so obviously a wedding gown it can not be mistaken for anything else.

Those who are not virgins, who have been married before are not 'allowed' to wear white. These should wear 'off white' or another colour when they were not virgins.

Recently the sexual activity of the bride is ignored, (maternity wedding gowns) and the colour of the dress dependent on whether the bride had been legally married previously.

If the bride had not been legally married previously, regardless of how many children she had, white is often selected.


Fashion, Purity, Queen-Victoria, Wedding, White

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author avatar kaylar
I am passionate about history, culture, current events, science and law

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
18th Oct 2010 (#)

for some reason I thought this was going to be about the Billy Idol song.
Good info though, my wife has also written similiar.

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author avatar kaylar
18th Oct 2010 (#)

oh wow, I didn't know that it's kind of a follow on my Queen Victoria article

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author avatar Denise O
18th Oct 2010 (#)

Love the article.
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar kaylar
18th Oct 2010 (#)

You're very welcome Denise

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author avatar James R. Coffey
20th Oct 2010 (#)

Hummm . . . very interesting.

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author avatar kaylar
20th Oct 2010 (#)

thank you James

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author avatar Retired
24th Oct 2010 (#)

stumbled and Dugg, and great page.

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author avatar kaylar
24th Oct 2010 (#)

Thank you...

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