Weddings performed during and immediately following the Medieval Era were often more than just a union between two people. They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries. Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes. Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony. Brides from wealthy families often wore rich colors and exclusive fabrics. It was common to see them wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk. See Arranged Marriage
The woman to the far right is wearing a typical wedding dress from 1929. Up until the late 1930s, wedding dresses reflected the styles of the day. From that time onward, wedding dresses have traditionally been based on Victorian styles.
Over the centuries, brides continued to dress in a manner befitting their social status—always in the height of fashion, with the richest, boldest materials money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount of material a wedding dress contained also was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests. Today, there are wedding dresses available in all price ranges, and Western traditions have loosened up to include a rainbow of colors and variety of lengths, which are now considered acceptable. Women may purchase ready-made gowns, wear a family heirloom, or they may choose to have a dressmaker create one for her. In addition, today many bridal salons have samples of wedding gowns in their stores where the bride selects a certain style and orders one to be made to fit.
Wedding dresses have traditionally been based on the popular styles of the day. For example, in the 1920s, wedding dresses were typically short in the front with a longer train in the back and were worn with cloche-style wedding veils. This tendency to follow current fashions continued until the late 1940s, when it became popular to revert to long, full-skirted designs reminiscent of the Victorian era. Although there has always been a style that dominates the bridal market for a time, and then shifts with the changes in fashion, a growing number of modern brides are not choosing to follow these trends. This is due in large part to non-traditional and non-first-time weddings, and women who are marrying later in life.
Today, Western wedding dresses are usually white, though "wedding white" includes creamy shades such as eggshell, ecru and ivory. Philippa of England was actually the first documented princess in history to wear a white wedding gown during a royal wedding ceremony: she wore a tunic with a cloak in white silk bordered with grey squirrel and ermine).
White did not become a popular option until 1840, after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Victoria had worn a white gown for the event so as to incorporate some lace she owned. The official wedding portrait photograph was widely published, and many other brides opted for a similar dress in honor of the Queen's choice.
The tradition continues today in the form of a white wedding, though prior to the Victorian era, a bride was married in any color, black being especially popular in Scandinavia.Later, many people assumed that the color white was intended to symbolize virginity, though this had not been the original intention. (It was the color blue that was connected to purity.) The white gown is in fact a symbolic Christening gown. The are a variation of the white surplice worn in the Western Catholic tradition by members of the clergy, church choirs and servers and the gowns worn by girls making their first communion and at their confirmation and also by women making religious vows. Today, the white dress is normally understood merely as the most traditional and popular choice