There is plenty of wedding traditions that are getting a work over at weddings these days. From couples writing modern wedding vows to taking the groom’s last name. How much of what you think you know about wedding dress traditions is actually myth? Most brides think that a “traditional wedding dress” is white, long, with a train, undoubtedly expensive, newly bought, chosen by the bride, and meant to be worn only once. Right? Wrong.
Not only is the “traditional wedding dress,” as described above, potentially harmful to the environment (toxic bleaching techniques, increased waste due to one-time wear, and the carbon footprint of shipping, etc.), but it also rests on beliefs about tradition that are shaky at best.
The history of the white wedding dress is fascinating, and shattering the myths associate with today’s “traditional wedding gowns” can help you think outside the box when it comes to planning your own eco-friendly wedding attire.
Wedding Dress Myth 1. Wedding dresses are white because white symbolizes purity.
Many people think that white now dominates Western weddings because the color symbolizes purity or virginity, two important concepts in traditional weddings
However, this is not the case in many Western cultures, even today. In France, for example, white is the traditional mourning color for royalty – not a wedding color. In England, blue is associated with the Virgin Mary, and is the color that symbolizes purity and virginity.
Wedding Dress Myth 2: White has always been the preferred color for wedding dresses.
The white wedding dress was largely non-existent 200 years ago. Instead, brides used to wear their best gowns, regardless of color. Darker colors, which wouldn’t be ruined with minor stains, were actually preferable. Wealthy brides favored the richest colors and fabrics money could buy and might be married in furs, velvet, or silk. White was not a color associated with weddings at all.
This changed with the wedding of Queen Victoria in 1840, who chose to be married in white. Why? Like many brides today, she had some lace she loved and wanted it incorporated into her dress.
The Queen’s decision coincided with the rise of photography, and her wedding portrait was widely distributed across Europe. In today’s terms, her dress “went viral.” Since then, brides (as well as the wedding industry) have followed her example, giving us the white wedding dresses that are so popular today.
Go truly vintage by wearing a colorful wedding dress you can enjoy for years to come. Many eco-friendly bridal designers now offer wedding gowns in every color of the rainbow.
Myth 3. Wedding gowns must be expensive.
The budget line for a wedding dress today can be as high as several thousands of dollars. But it wasn’t always that way. Before the rise of the wedding industry, the expectation was that women would wear a gown they already owned and would wear again. Even Queen Victoria likely wore her white wedding dress again.
So what changed?
It started with the wealthy, elite families who regularly poured (and still pour) fortunes into their children’s nuptials. For them, weddings were about often about politics or business, and the event itself acted as a signaling mechanism for the family’s social status. Following the fashion set by Queen Victoria, these families began adopting the white wedding dress precisely because it was more expensive: the white color, highly vulnerable to stains, could only be worn once in many cases, and buying a garment for one-time wear was seen as the epitome of luxury.
Then came prosperity at the heels of World War II, which put the white wedding dress within the reach of the middle class, and Hollywood, who portrayed and idealized the white weddings that we know today. After that, the dreams for the perfect wedding soared, and the price of the wedding dress soared with it.
By wearing a beautiful non-wedding dress (in any color including white), you can get a lot more for your money. You can also rent a wedding dress for your green wedding.
Myth 4: The Gown Must Reflect Your Personality Perfectly
Perhaps the reason why the wedding dress plays such a large role in today’s weddings is because it has come to symbolize the personality, preferences, and taste of the bride. The months-long search for the Perfect Dress is not because of a dearth in options, but because most brides feel that the dress must reflect them perfectly (and, of course, look fabulous on!).
This emphasis on uniqueness has contributed to soaring prices. If there is only one perfect dress, after all, then the astute bride must be willing to pay whatever it takes to get it.
However, the idea that a wedding is a direct reflection of the couple is a relatively recent development. For centuries, a marriage reflected a social pact orchestrated by the families for their children to take their place in society. It was about passing on norms, adhering to tradition, and acknowledging the broader community. The dress may have been selected by parents, by the matchmaker, or by the groom’s family to reflect their preferences. In other words–just about the opposite of the modern wedding!
While you probably don’t want a family member choosing your dress for you, deciding to update a family heirloom gown or vintage wedding gown is another great way to honor the true meaning of a wedding, and your legacy as a bride. Many celebrities are going green in this way now too.
The white wedding dress we have today is actually the result of some key trendsetters and luck. In reality, a wedding dress can be chosen for many reasons. Just because the wedding industry presents one image of the perfect wedding doesn’t mean it’s true. Choose the wedding dress that’s right for you and your green wedding!