Let’s start a brief history of weddings with the dresses with the colours of the wedding dresses.
A white dress is what most people in the West associate with weddings. This isn’t surprising when white is universally regarded as the colour of purity, and weddings are about celebrating and cementing a monogamous, loving relationship.
However, the tradition of brides wearing white wedding dresses only started in 1840. It started when Queen Victoria wore a white wedding gown when she married her consort Albert. The style and colour trickled down to the rest of the population, and the rest as they say is history.
But it was not always so, and even today outside of the West a range of colours besides white has always dominated the wedding day.
For example, in ancient Rome, brides wore blue to symbolise love, modesty, and fidelity. And in ancient Israel brides wore a garment with a blue border to symbolise love and fidelity.
Dresses In Blue and White
With the coming of Christianity, we see the Virgin Mary in blue because purity was associated with the colour blue
Blue remained a popular colour for wedding gowns all the way through to the Victorian age, when Queen Victoria popularised white.
Further afield, in China, brides have traditionally worn red. Some brides also wore red in the United States during the Revolutionary War in the 18th century to symbolise independence. And some American brides wore purple during the Civil War to represent honour and courage.
In Korea, brides wear a lime-green gown called a wonsam, embroidered with flowers and butterflies and worn over the hanbok, the doll-like traditional wedding dress made of patterned silk. And in Morocco brides also wear green as well as yellow.
Going back to the 16th century, Roman Catholic brides in Spain wore black gowns and lacy mantillas to show their devotion to their spouse until death.
The upshot of all of this is that no colour dominates throughout the world or throughout history. That said, white has caught on more than other colours. That is of course because Western culture has permeated every corner of the planet.
The earliest evidence of the celebration of weddings is in the Old Testament. Genesis tells the story of Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel. The custom of having a wedding feast lasting seven days is mentioned: ‘So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.’
And in Judges, Samson’s wedding feast includes a celebration lasting for seven days: ‘So his father went down to the woman, and there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men.’
Another record of a wedding ceremony comes from ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerians had a wedding ritual that involved a legal contract that outlined the rights and responsibilities of both parties and a ceremony to cement the contract.
In ancient Egypt, marriage was considered a civil and legal relationship. The Hittites, an ancient Anatolian people, also had specific rituals and ceremonies associated with weddings. In ancient Greece wedding ceremonies included the exchange of vows and a feast.
Moving forward in time, in ancient Rome specific days were established for celebrating marriages, and in medieval Europe the Church regulated marriage and could enforce vows made in contemplation of marriage.
A Brief History Of Weddings
And now today in the West, marriage is almost divorced from the church. Today, couples sanctify their union at a register office. And of course, some couple s have rejected marriage completely, along with bearing children. What does the future hold? They say that the world’s population will halve by 2050 as birth rates fall. And then where will marriage be? And so ends a brief history of weddings.