Sometimes we do things without really knowing quite why we do them. Point in hand, I heard the story related of a girl who after getting married loved to make a traditional pot roast on Sundays for dinner. Before putting the roast into the pot she would always trim a little bit off of each end of the roast. One day out of curiosity, her husband asked her why she always trimmed off the ends of the roast before putting it into the pan. The new housewife had no answer other than that is just the way her mother always prepared it. Now curious herself about the reason why, she called her mother and asked her why she always cut off the ends of the roast. The mother thought a minute and then answered the same as her daughter….I don’t know…that is just how my mother always did it. Now even more curious, and certain that there was a perfectly wonderful answer as to why, the girl called her grandmother and inquired why she always cuts the ends off of the roast before putting it into the pot. Without hesitation her grandmother simply replied…”Oh, because I never owned a big enough pot for the whole roast to fit into.”
I love that story. How often do we do things just because that is the way it has always been done? In regards to wedding planning, this opens the question…Why white?
White Weddings originated in Britain and referred to a formal or semi-formal celebration. The term originates from the white color of the wedding dress, which first became popular with Victorian era elites who in turn began wearing white after Queen Victoria redirected the wedding world when she debuted a white lace dress at her wedding. The term now encapsulates the entire american wedding routine which customarily speaking includes a ceremony followed by a reception.
Prior to Victoria’s white dress, bride’s often wore “heavy brocaded gowns embroidered with white and silver thread,” with red being the most predictable color of choice. Other choices included a plethora of colors, including blue, yellow, and practical colors like black, brown, or gray.
As word of Victoria’s wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe the elites followed her lead. White dresses provided an opportunity for conspicuous consumption. They were a notable a way to show the world that the bride’s family was so wealthy and so firmly part of the leisure class that the bride would choose an elaborate dress that could be ruined by any sort of work or spill. This tradition has carried through into American culture today, with wedding dresses typically being worn only once…but then again, seriously, where would you ever wear it?
Etiquette books began to turn the practice into a tradition and the white gown soon became a popular symbol of status that also carried “a connotation of innocence and sexual purity.” Along with the white gown, veils that were traditionally worn in only religious ceremonies became the status quo for decorous brides. The bridal veil began to be the fashion accessory that depicted the bride. Today we see bride’s walking their own fashion runway (aka wedding aisle) adorned in a variety of veils, tiaras, English fascinators, and let’s not forget the era of floppy white hats from the late 70’s and 80’s.
In recent years assumably fashion forward brides took a daring leap, thinking they were breaking from the traditional white and venturing into dresses with colored sashes and bows, eventually giving permission for wedding dresses to take on a whole new color palette, but as with with nearly all fashions we have merely readapted colorful wedding dresses that debuted centuries ago and have just cycled back into a new era.
Today the new tradition is “uniqueness.” Every bride choosing the style and color of dress and wedding celebration that expresses her own style and personality. So when you begin that wonderful shopping spree to find the perfect dress and to plan the perfect wedding for “you” feel perfectly comfortable in asking…..”Why white?