Weddings of the Middle Ages and immediately following were often more a matter of politics than love, and so the bride wore a dress that made her family look good. Brides from wealthy families often wore bold colors in fabrics like velvet and silk and layered in furs. But when it came to lower-class everyday folk, colors of dresses held symbolic meanings which nixed some colors and made others more popular. But even in ancient times the meaning of colors was often debated.
- Blue wedding dress: In 1870, blue dresses made a popular choice because they were the color of heaven and represented purity, virtue and a connection to the Virgin Mary. Brides who wore blue thought their husbands would be true to them, and this is the reason many modern brides carry something blue on their wedding day. A blue wedding dress is still popular today and thought to be the color of water representing calmness and peacefulness. In modern tradition, blue signifies stability, security and lifelong loyalty.
- Red wedding dress: In Medieval times, red was reserved for nobility and the wealthy, and in Victorian times it was avoided because it was the color of "scarlet women" and hussies. However, it is the traditional color in the Eastern cultures of China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam, and today, red wedding dresses are growing in popularity in the West and thought to symbolize positives like passion and being in love (think Valentine’s day).
- Pink wedding dress: Pink was thought to be the best color to wear for May weddings because it complemented most complexions. However, some thought it to be an unlucky color which can be seen in sayings of the time like, “Marry in pink and your fortunes will sink!”
- Green wedding dress: You would think that since green is the color of hope and new growth that it would be a top choice for a wedding dress, but it was actually one of the few colors that were avoided in the Middle Ages because it was considered unlucky. Why? Because it was the fairies’ color and you certainly didn’t want to draw their attention during a time of transition.
- Yellow wedding dress: Bright yellow wedding dresses were trendy back in the eighteenth century, but before then it was considered an “unholy” shade to wear in church and was associated with heathen and non-Christians.
History of White Wedding Dress
Many people think of the white wedding dress as a symbol of virginity, but that wasn’t the original meaning. That symbolism was connected to the blue wedding dress while the white dress actually was tied to wealth and royalty. Examples of brides wearing white can be traced back as early as 1406, the 1840 marriage of England’s Queen Victoria to her cousin Prince Albert.
During the Great Depression, when times were difficult most people didn’t have money to spend on a gown they would never wear again. For this reason, brides returned to the tradition of wearing their best dress which tended to be a darker color. But in the second half of the 20th century, following an economic boon, white became the popular color choice for wedding dresses again.