Making a Case for Wedding White

Emma Frankart Henterly
A wedding white Pronovias gown from White of Dublin, worn by Colleen Kennedy in May 2016.

If you’ve been on our site this week, you might have noticed our feature story on non-white wedding gowns. Blush, champagne, gray and even black are becoming a major trend in bridal attire of late—four of our last five photo shoots have featured colored gowns among the traditional ivories and whites—but that doesn’t mean that the staple bridal color of the last 150 years is going anywhere.

“I would say 90—maybe even 95 percent, to be honest—[of our brides] are still wearing ‘wedding white,’ ” says Heather DiMasi, co-owner of White of Dublin. “Wedding white now kind of encapsulates white, ecru, ivory and all those different shades.”

If you think that white wedding gowns have been the norm for the history of marriage, we hate to say that you’re wrong. But you’re not alone! The trend began in 1840 with Queen Victoria, DiMasi says, who bucked the traditions of the day by wearing a white wedding gown to showcase a lace she favored.

“[White] wasn’t actually a sign of purity or virginity back then; blue was actually your color for purity and virginity,” DiMasi explains. “So Victoria wore it … and it was more of a sign of your wealth and status in society. It just became very, very popular.” DiMasi says the increasing role of religion in society helped complete the shift from blue to white as a color of purity.

“I think today what we see is that white—wedding white, whatever you want to call it—I think it symbolizes more purity of the soul, a fresh and new beginning.”  

But DiMasi, along with many other boutique owners, cautions against striving for a pure-white ensemble. “If something is that very, very white-white, it almost casts an optical blue look [in photos],” she explains, adding that the blue cast often is unflattering. “I think most girls look prettier in a beautiful shade of ivory.” And if you worry about what grandma will say about your wedding-white-but-not-actually-white dress, don’t. “Nobody is going to know that you’re not in a white dress,” DiMasi assures. “As you walk down the aisle, it looks white.”

The trick to finding your perfect shade  of wedding white is all about matching the undertone of your skin and hair to that of the gown. Women who nail that pairing, DiMasi says, will shine—literally—on their wedding days. “You just see them glow, because they are in a color that complements them so well.”

And for second weddings, when wedding white might be considered a faux pas?

“If you are getting married a second time, heck, wear white!” exclaims DiMasi. “You are starting into a new, fresh, clean relationship. … It symbolizes a fresh, new beginning and a fresh start with your new husband.”