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Why do brides wear white?

By Maria Famakinwa


Have you ever wondered why most brides wear white on their wedding day? It has been an unspoken rule for years and most brides stick to it as the way to go without asking questions.

 Putting on white during a wedding is fast becoming a tradition and an acceptable norm among brides in most countries, Nigeria inclusive, and any bride whose gown’s color is not white will be given a different interpretation. Unfortunately,  many of the brides do not understand why the wedding dress colour should always be white but  see it as the trend that must be obeyed, irrespective of the reason.

 Findings by The Hope revealed that the white dress for wedding trend started on February 10, 1840, during  Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert. Before then, according to history, the most popular colour to get married in was red. Wearing white at that time was said to be considered a bad omen because it was connected with mourning. Despite this, Queen Victoria was said to have decided to make a bold fashion statement by wearing a white lace and silk-satin gown for her wedding, which since then became a hit, as many decided to copy the trend.

The Hope spoke with some legally married women about the colour of their wedding dresses and the reason for such colour. Mrs. Dupe Iranlowo, who got married two years ago, explained that the colour of her wedding gown was white and decided to choose white because that is the preferable colour for most brides. “I did not know why brides go for the white dress, but because I did not want to be described as archaic and old-fashioned. I had to obey what was in vogue even though I was five months pregnant then.

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“Three months after my wedding, a friend of mine got married and her wedding gown was yellow. Her husband also wore a yellow suit and they looked so radiant in it that everyone commended their dress. Since then, I made up my mind to tell would-be-brides to go for their choice of colour, after all, no law says a bride must wear a white dress on her wedding day. I have seen brides wearing different colour of dresses on their wedding days and they looked pretty in them. Besides, some brides now go for different colours for their wedding gowns. Some even bought skirts/trouser suits for their weddings which are not white. Before you know it, wearing white as a wedding colour for brides will fade away. Wedding day comes once in a lifetime and one should be at liberty to choose what she likes.”

Sharing a similar sentiment, Mrs. Blessing Joe, a serving corp’s member who tied the knot six months ago revealed that she never found out why brides prefer white dresses but saw it as a beautiful colour to complement the bride in once in a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. ” I am presently 26 years old. I grew up with the mentality that brides must put on white dresses, especially gowns, on their wedding days, and since no one is questioning the idea or offering any useful information about why wedding gowns should be white and not other colours, I decided to join the majority, otherwise, I would have chosen my best colour which is pink as my wedding gown colour.”

When told about the genesis of white wedding dress, she urged people to ask questions about things they do not understand, rather than joining the trend. “That is one of the negative aspects of westernization. It prevents one from practicing one’s culture. For Queen Victoria in 1840 to have chosen white colour for her wedding, instead of red which was popular and acceptable then goes a long way to show that one’s wedding day is a special day and the bride should be at liberty to choose her wedding dress colour. 

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“Churches that conduct marriage ceremonies should also be educated on the need to allow brides to choose their wedding dress colours. The fact that someone wore a white wedding gown  centuries ago should not make  it compulsory for brides at this age. Many brides like me would have loved to appear more colourful on their wedding day if not for the norms and unwritten law the society attaches to white as the bride’s wedding colour.”

In the submission of another newly wedded bride, Mrs. Wumi Olapeju, white  represents purity, which according to her indicates that only virgin brides are allowed to wear white as a sign of purity and innocence of girlhood. 

When told that some brides who wore white were also pregnant, she said,” It is true. I was also six months pregnant when I had my wedding in a registry and my wedding gown was white. I believe that many brides are choosing white as their wedding colours because it is in vogue and acceptable by the culture of the land.  Any bride who decides to choose a colour aside from white for her wedding dress will not be reckoned with in society.  So, in order not to incur societal wrath, brides feel that it is better to do things according to the laid down norms.

However, there were some brides that we wedded the same day that wore purple, brown, and blue among others and I loved them because their colours were captivating. They looked so different from some of us who wore white dresses. I am very sure that in few years to come, the idea of wearing white by brides on the wedding day will not be popular because the world is changing, so also is the style,” she observed.

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On if she would have chosen a different colour if allowed, she  answered in the affirmative, “Many brides would have preferred other colours to white for their wedding  if the culture of the land would permit it because white is a colour that demands respect. You have to be careful, and watchful in handling it. I would have chosen blue which would have aided my natural look and accentuated my beauty. If bridegrooms could choose any colour of suit they like, why not the bride?”

Mrs. Seun Adulawo, who married a year ago, sees nothing wrong in brides wearing white for their wedding since it is a long-standing tradition that according to her should not be questioned. “Wearing a white dress on the wedding day for brides is a welcome development which makes the bride look beautiful and unique. White signifies purity, though, the bride might not be pure but wearing a white gown on that special day makes her attractive to everyone present. I love and support the idea of the bride appearing in a white dress and it is generally acceptable within and outside the country,” she said.

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