Why Are Wedding Dresses White? A Bridal Guide

Whether you’re opting for a traditional wedding or thrive on unorthodox practices, you’re probably wondering, “Why are wedding dresses white?” Keep reading to discover the history of the white wedding dress, as well as other less traditional options.

City Hall Weddings knows the nuances of all the American wedding traditions and can help you plan your dream wedding in historic places like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. Call to learn more!

A bride is putting on her wedding dress.

The History of the White Wedding Dress

A white wedding dress is one of the most universal wedding traditions and is still the most popular color. According to Brides Magazine, 83% of brides still wear white on their special day.

The Epitome of Victorian Romance

Did you know that, prior to the 20th Century, most brides didn’t pick out a special dress? Instead, they merely wore their best outfit. While the practice of white dress first originated in 1406 when Philippa of England married Eric of Pomerania (she went on to become Queen of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), it wasn’t until Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 that the tradition became iconic.

When Queen Victoria wore it, it symbolized romanticism and true love. At her wedding, she wasn’t Queen Victoria, but rather a woman completely in love with her partner. With the Industrial Revolution establishing a growing middle class, more women had money to spend on a dress they’d only wear once in their life.

Becoming a Modern Tradition

While white wedding dresses retained their popularity throughout the first half of the 1900s, it wasn’t until after World War II that they became nearly universal in the West. With the boom of both conservativism and wealth in the 1950s, a white wedding dress symbolized an affinity for previous generations and traditions, especially in the 60s and 70s with the rise of feminism.

It was during this time when the wedding dress came to symbolize purity, chastity, and virginity as a means of retaining and projecting traditional marriage values amidst other societal upheaval. That tradition remains today, even though modern wedding dresses are more about communicating style, fashion, and wealth than displaying any type of virtue.

Modern brides of any background, gender, or lifestyle embrace a white wedding dress because of the wide variety of options and price ranges. Whether you buy into the traditional symbolism of the dress or just like how classic it looks, you can find the perfect white dress for your wedding.

Other Popular Colors and Their Traditional Meanings

Now that you know the answer to, “Why are wedding dresses white?” you can consider other, less popular options. However, just because they’re not traditional doesn’t make them any less beautiful or elegant.


The old saying goes, “If married in a pearl, you’ll live in a whirl.” Ivory, pearl, eggshell, and other off-white shades are increasingly popular options because they give a nod to the traditional practice of wearing white while allowing better consideration of your skin tone.

Greys and Blacks

Grey and black dresses go with a wide variety of color patterns and imbue any wedding with a moody and romantic feel. They symbolize a strong and powerful woman not afraid of her sexuality, but in a muted and classic way (especially compared to a red dress). Dresses of this style range from classic Victorian gothic to modern, sleek, and slim fitting.


Red dresses look good with any body type and a wider variety of skin tones when compared with white. Red wedding dresses feature prominently in Chinese and Indian culture, and the color symbolizes luck, courage, and undying love. Wearing this color as your wedding dress is a great way to make a statement against Western traditionalism.


Green symbolizes new life, and is there a better statement to make at your wedding? It’s a perfect color for a nature lover and communicates peace, vitality, and harmony. If you’re planning a wedding where you want to showcase your positive energy or love of nature, a green dress is a great choice.


Have you heard the phrase, “Something borrowed, something blue?” Blue remains a popular choice for a wedding dress because of its deeply rooted symbolism in multiple cultures and traditions. It’s metaphorically related to whites as it implies purity, femininity, innocence, and the infinite.


Yellow symbolizes joy, harmony, and the sun, and is great for floral or tropical-themed weddings. With a yellow dress, the color speaks for itself, and you don’t need a special design to look outstanding.


Brown is a classic rustic color perfect for autumn weddings. It pairs well with other colors with an earthy palette, such as orange. Each shade of brown symbolizes something different, from a nude hue that communicates patience and reliability to a dark brown that captures the essence of reliability.

If you choose brown as your color, you’ll project an aura of strength and stability without restricting what colors can complement your color scheme.


A pink wedding dress compliments any skin tone and imbues the wedding with an element of playfulness. If you want to radiate feminity without bowing to the tradition of wearing white, pink is the perfect compromise. If you’re a bubbly or flirty person, consider showing that personality with a pink wedding dress.

What Should the Groom Wear?

Now that you know the answer to, “Why are wedding dresses white?” you might wonder about the groom’s clothing. The groom’s clothing doesn’t traditionally symbolize anything, so they should wear whatever matches or compliments the bride and the wedding theme.

Even if the groom chooses to wear the traditional black, which goes with anything, they can incorporate the bride’s dress color with a tie and pocket square. If they want to challenge tradition as much as the bride, they can find a suit in almost any color.

City Hall Wedding is passionate about answering all your wedding questions. Do you want more tips for planning your wedding or have questions beyond, “Why are wedding dresses white?” such as why the bride wears a veil? Read our blog or contact us for all your wedding answers!