Is it time to explore alternative wedding themes and alternative wedding dresses?
Think ‘wedding’ and the first thing that pops into your head is that pearly white bridal dress. But what we think of as a timeless tradition is actually a fairly new idea.
Queen Victoria was the particular trend setter in this case. In 1840 she wed Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and, quite controversially at the time, she chose to adorn herself and her twelve bridesmaids in all white dresses. Her intention, however, was not to cement in society the connotations of innocence and purity that quickly became affiliated. Royal weddings like this were used to exhibit the family’s wealth. Usually this would mean an explosion of extravagance with the wedding dress made from expensive fabrics of all different colours and decked in elaborate jewels.
On this day in 1840 Queen Victoria’s mind was not set on flaunting wealth. She composed her dress herself from lace made in Honiton, Devonshire. It was not intended to denote purity and she did not expect her decision to be the catalyst of a strict tradition that would last into the 21st century. Her choice rather supported the working-class lace economy in England and her decision to refrain from elaborate extravagance was credited as great modesty.
It was Godey’s Lady’s Book, an American magazine that idolised Queen Victoria, a decade later remarked:
“Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue whatever be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”
People in the following years would become accustomed to the white dress as the mandatory bridal outfit. A habit that became a tradition that became cemented in society for years to come. So much so that, to the present day, the white wedding dress is widely considered an essential and indispensable part of a wedding. Suggestion of any alternative, for the most part, will likely be swiftly cast aside.
This idea of swerving away from the white wedding dress, for some, may be considered iconoclastic but for a tradition not two centuries old with no convincing foundations this strict necessity of the white wedding dress lacks substance. As a society we are so attached to the style because we fixate on it from an early age and then fear that breaking away from constitutional habit will mean that the wedding won’t be the one that was always imagined. All because of the fashion decision of a previous royal figure.
Choosing an outfit that is not a predominantly white dress is considered against the grain, radical and rebellious, but that doesn’t make it implausible – you are free to do whatever you want and times may be changing!
What are the Alternatives to the Traditional White Wedding Dress?
Before Queen Victoria married Prince Albert weddings were not dictated by a specific colour code. Marriage was simply about the joining of two families and this involved a range of colours. Today weddings are often meticulously planned, they are designed to enhance the wow-factor of the white dress with colours that compliment it. Baby blues, lilacs and reds are colours frequently imposed on bridesmaids and guests as the bridal dress becomes the uncompromising focal point of the entire occasion. Brides have even been known to request not just specific dress codes for bridesmaids and attendees, but even changes in personal physical features!
Weddings are undoubtedly one of the most significant and special occasions of an individual’s life. They are a day to go all out, to enjoy dressing extravagantly and to spend in doing so, but they do not necessarily require such a conformist, regimented theme as has become common in Western tradition. Look at weddings in Hawaii, for example, sometimes white is the colour of choice but they nearly always entail an explosion of colours and are celebrated in an altogether more lenient attitude.
The thought of changing the wedding dress from white is a frightening idea to some, but choosing an alternative can be exciting. Any colour can be worn by the bride as well as any type of outfit. In other countries, like China, red is worn for its association with the colour of romance, a more relevant colour don’t you think? Other colours, like baby blue, draw comparisons with romantic characters, such as Cinderella. White is not the only colour in which you can look elegant, it is not the only colour which can make you stand out and it is not the only colour available. Many other colours can have equal impact and prominence when chosen correctly.
Rare cases over the years have seen brave enough figures moving away from the white wedding dress. Yoko and John Lennon wed in unconventional outfits in 1969 whilst Elizabeth Taylor wore a coloured bridal dress on more than one occasion, including dark green and yellow! The 21st century has seen a range of celebrities like Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefani gradually move away from the traditional white wedding dress. Jessica Biel was recently acknowledged with making the coloured bridal dress an official trend. To the controversy that surrounded her decision she stated:
“I wanted the dress to be very romantic and feminine and a shape that I very rarely wear. I have never been crazy about all-white wedding dresses, for me at least… It was a bit of a leap of faith at the time, but it turned out better than I could have imagined.”
In fact, changing the entire theme of your wedding and even embracing multiculturalism is something that could become more common in the future. In an age that is increasingly tolerant and less reliant on religion, weddings could become far less fastidious. The obsession with white could be on the decline. To add to this travelling far and wide is more common than ever, people live abroad and meet their spouse abroad. Choosing wedding outfits of another culture may be different and exciting for guests, but it can also be personal when it has specific meaning to you and your relationship.
In places like the UK, where multiculturalism is rife, the opportunities of buying foreign attire is far from a hard task. Buying luxury South Asian dresses, for example, can be done easily and at good cost. Wedding in outfits from other cultures may seem a big step but it can make for a truly beautiful and unique wedding which offers a stunning mix of colourful and exotic garments that you don’t find your traditional western black and white weddings. It also opens up the variety of activities possible on the occasion. Some Asian dresses, for example, need to be stitched to fit perfectly, something that could be done as a hen party or pre-wedding event. Changing the theme of the wedding in this manner can be both significantly different and cost efficient. White bridal dresses are expensive because everyone wants them – follow the crowd or take that leap of faith?