Weird History

Why Are Wedding Dresses White?

The history of white wedding dresses tends to get a little confusing. In the modern, Western world, we generally consider white dresses to be signs of purity or virginity, since mainstream Christian values hold that it is ideal to be a virgin on your wedding day, and there are longstanding traditions and cultural associations between whiteness and purity. 

As it happens, wedding dresses were not always white. In fact, white used to be a color associated with mourning. But everything changed after the royal English wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840. 

Queen Victoria was already the Queen when she married Albert; therefore, she had the freedom to use her wedding to make a statement of her choosing rather than just acting as something pretty to look at. She chose to use elements like hand-made lace and a flower crown to support the artisans of her kingdom and show them that she was "one of them." It just so happened that white was the best color choice to show off that beautiful lace.

Although she was the first to make white wedding dresses popular, the history of white dresses in weddings goes back farther than you might think – for many different reasons. Some historians believe that since white fabric was costlier and harder to keep clean than other colors, it signified the high status of its wearer. Many wealthy families throughout European history used white for wedding dresses simply to show off their money. 

So before 1840, white wedding dresses were essentially about showing off your wealth. Queen Victoria's wedding inspired Europeans to instill other meanings in the color (purity, virginity, etc.), but the truth is that history was a lot less romantic about it.