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White Wedding Gown- What Does It Symbolize?

When one thinks of wedding gowns the image that comes to mind is a long white gown paired with a matching veil and bouquet of roses. Even those who have not been to weddings know that the bride is most often dressed in pristine white. Women and girls often imagine themselves walking down the aisle, hand in hand with their partner, in a white, fairy tale gown.

White gowns are a favorite choice for most brides, and they have always been in fashion. In traditional western families, white gowns are the preferred choice for the bride, and they are immensely desired for their simplicity, style, and elegance.

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In this article, we will be exploring the origins of the white gown, their significance in religion, different gown styles, and ornaments that can be paired with them.

Symbolism of the White Wedding Gown

The symbolism of white wedding gowns comes from the symbolism of the color white. There are many shades, with both cool and warm undertones. A white wedding dress signifies:

  • Perfection
  • Goodness
  • Purity
  • Light
  • Virginity and chastity
  • Innocence

Ivory, which is a warm variation of white, has the same symbolism as the color white. 

White wedding gown symbolism

Origins of the White Wedding Gown

It might come as a surprise, but white wedding gowns were not common until the 20th century. Prior to this, colored gowns were the norm for all brides, irrespective of economic status. Dresses of different colors were generally chosen by all who wanted their weddings to have a streak of warmth and life. Also, there was a practical aspect to this – white gowns could not be worn on regular days as they would get dirty easily.

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This tradition was changed by Queen Victoria when she wed Prince Albert in 1840.  Much to the shock of her royal guests, Queen Victoria was adorned in an elegant, white gown. Although she was frowned at, she was firm in her decision to wear a dress of her choosing.

Queen Victoria wore the white gown for two reasons. One, she wanted to support the lace trade by wearing a handmade dress. Two, she wanted Prince Albert to see her as his wife rather than as a wealthy and rich monarch.

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria Influenced the Color of Wedding Gowns

Although Queen Victoria started the trend of wearing the white gown, it did not become prevalent until much later. Most women did not prefer a white dress due to its expense and its light color, as it could not be used for regular wear. 

But after the Second World War, when materials became cheaper, many people wanted to be wed in white gowns because of their symbolic significance.  Since then, white gowns have become the norm for western, and more specifically, Christian wedding rituals.

White Wedding Gowns and Christianity

Traditional and religious brides tend to choose white dresses, to keep with the norm. However, there’s an increasing number of new brides who’re flaunting tradition, opting for unique wedding dresses featuring bold colors, like black, blue or green wedding dresses. Unique combinations like ombre are also becoming popular.

Bride wearing white wedding dress

Western Christian Traditions:

White wedding gowns are primarily preferred by Western Christian families. They are worn by the bride as a symbol of purity, innocence, and goodness. Christians consider weddings to be a sacred bond ordained by God. The bride and groom come together in a pure, holy, relationship that Christians value above all.  To emphasize the heavenly and pristine nature of the union, the bride generally prefers to be dressed in white.

Eastern Christian Traditions:

The tradition of wearing the white gown is not a norm for all Christians.  For instance, the Christians in India substitute the wedding gown for a white saree (A long garment wrapped around the body). By doing this they recognize the symbolic significance of white, but also incorporate their local traditions.  However, white wedding gowns are becoming more common in India, especially within the affluent Christian families.

White Wedding Gown Styles

Wedding dress styles

When buying a wedding gown there are numerous styles and designs to choose from (see these, for example). Gowns are selected not only in terms of design, style, and material, but also on the basis of their size, shape, and fit.

While some gowns can be worn by all women, others are specially designed for women of specific body types. It is crucial to choose the appropriate gown that accentuates one’s features. This is why it takes several months and plenty of trips to the designer, to get the perfect, dream gown.

To get a better idea about gown styles, some of the common ones are listed below.  

The Empire Line gown:

  • The Empire Line Gown is a type of gown where the waistline is raised much higher than the natural waist.
  • This gown can be worn by women of all body types.

The A- Line Gown:

  • The A-line Gown is narrow at the top, and wider towards the bottom, resembling the letter A.
  • It is appropriate for women of all figure types and especially those with larger busts.

The Ball Gown:

  • The Ball Gown has a tight and fit bodice attached to a full, long skirt.
  • This wedding gown can accommodate all body types but is particularly ideal for slim or pear-shaped women.

The Trumpet:

  • The Trumpet Gown has a straight skirt which flares out below the hips. The skirt is shaped like the bell of a trumpet.
  • This gown tends to flatter women of all body types.

The Mermaid Gown:

  • The Mermaid Gown is tight from the bodice to the knees. Below the knees the skirt flares out.
  • This type of gown is best for slender body types or for those who are comfortable wearing fitted clothes.

Accessorizing White Wedding Gowns

couple holding hands

The radiance and beauty of a white gown can be further enhanced with appropriate jewelry. Choosing the right accessories can be a difficult choice, and it is not uncommon for brides to be overwhelmingly adorned with ornaments. The bride would look her best when simple and elegant ornaments are worn to accentuate her already beautiful features.

Choosing earrings and necklaces not only depends on the style of the dress but also the design of the neckline. It is essential to choose ornaments that will further accentuate the shape of the face and curvature of the neck.

The best jewelry options for various necklines are listed below.

High Neckline:

  • For a gown with a high neckline the bride could wear drop earrings or studs.
  •  A necklace would not be necessary since the gown would already be covering the neck area.

Strapless Neckline:

  • For a gown with a strapless neckline, statement earrings are ideal.
  • A short necklace or a choker would also enhance the bare neck.

Scoop Neckline:

  • For a gown with a scoop neckline, drop earrings tend to flatter best.
  • Rather than a large necklace the bride could instead wear a choker with matching earrings.  

Boat Neckline:

  • For a boat neckline, the perfect option would be a necklace studded with one pearl, stone, or diamond.
  • Those who prefer a bolder look can opt for colorful studs.

Off the shoulder Neckline:

  • For an off the shoulder neckline, dangling earrings tend to look stunning.
  • A choker with studs would also be an appropriate choice.

Wrapping Up

White wedding gowns are never out of fashion and are greatly desired for their simplicity and elegance. Their symbolic meaning makes them a popular choice for traditional Christian weddings.  In contemporary times, there are numerous styles and designs to choose from, and paired with the perfect accessories, they will make the bride look like a fairy tale princess.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.