Origins of Todays Wedding Traditions
Why does the bride wear white? It might surprise you to know that this is not to symbolize her virginity. This, and other, wedding traditions exposed.
Dress and Veil
Many a woman has been judged by whether or not she wears a white dress on her wedding day. Many an eye has rolled when a, less than virginal girl wears a white gown, so it should come with great relief to know that although we think of the brides white dress as being a symbol of her purity and virginity, historically this was not the case.
It was, in fact, another wedding tradition that symbolized the woman to be a virgin. Let us examine the color of the dress first.
People of royal blood were traditionally married in a silver dress. Purple was worn by aristocrats. Blue (something blue) was worn by the commoners. This was the symbol of fidelity. Failing this brides just wore whatever dress they happened to have at the time. Layers and layers were added, often as a bride tried to indicate her wealth, and status. Finally Queen Victoria, who liked that white symbolized purity and chastity, wore a white dress trimmed in orange blossoms, to her wedding in 1840. As pictures of the royal wedding were circulated, it was no time until white wedding gowns were being worn by commoners too. The gown, and color of it, never did indicate a virgin status of the bride.
The veil, and more importantly, how the veil was worn, indicated how pure a woman was. A long veil over the face was claiming her status as a virgin. A woman who had been wed in the past, or who had children could not wear a veil in this manner. She could only wear a short veil, one that did not fall below her cheeks. Additionally the veil acted to conceal the bride in arranged marriages, which were not that uncommon.
Today’s brides occasionally opt for cream dresses and any either wear no veil or have it up, and off their face, at all times.
In medieval times it was not a honor to be a bridesmaid. They were dressed the same as the bride and their role was to act as decoys. In these times brides were considered property and whomever got her was rewarded with a dowry. Any bride-to-be who was from a wealthy family was at risk of capture.