According to the Bride's Book of Etiquette, for the past 2,000 years, beginning in the Roman era, the white wedding gown has been a symbol of celebration. During Victorian times, in the 19th century, white symbolized affluence because it was assured that a woman would only be able to wear a white dress once or twice, before it was soiled. Historically, marriage is a joining together of two families, not just two people. The bride's family had to guarantee her virginity because it represented their honor. The way in which the color white was chosen to be the bridal color, was drawn from a little girls first communion. When a little girl takes her first communion, she put on virgin-white dress. White is the purest color of all therefore, the white wedding dress become a symbol of purity.
Originally, the veil protected the bride from evil, jealous spirits and stares from curious outsiders. The veil was worn to confuse the devil and protect the bride from evil doers. They varied in color. Some were red (the color of defiance) or blue (meaning constancy) or yellow (the classic color of Hymen, god of marriage). The Greek and Roman brides wore flame yellow or red veils which was thought to ward off demons. Early Christian brides wore white symbolizing celebration, youth and purity. The veil is usually worn covering the face and then when it is lifted, it is a symbol of the bride being revealed as the treasured beloved. The white veil can still be seen today in traditional western wedding ceremonies, although many modern brides do not have the veil cover their face. They wear it as another ornament that goes along with their wedding gown. It is still the color white but it is usually placed under or on top of their up-do hair style. The wearing of the veil is currently only a sentimental gesture or formality.
Almost everyone knows the old English rhyme goes like this, "Someone olde, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in her shoe . . . " This has been passed down from decades ago and each of these things symbolizes something special and unique. Something old: continuity, something new: optimism for the future, something borrowed: borrowed happiness, something blue: fidelity and a sixpence in her shoe: good fortune.
It is very traditional for the wedding party to dress alike. During Roman law, in order to make a wedding legal there has to be 10 witnesses present. In order to confuse the netherworld and the evil spirits that lurked at the altar, several witnesses dressed exactly like the bride and groom. Also, in Europe it was very common that the bride and groom and all of their friends walk to the church together. They were afraid that perhaps someone who rejected the marriage would see them and put an evil curse of the bride and groom. In attempts to prevent that, the wedding party would dress exactly like the bride and groom to trick the evil doers. This leads to the present day wedding party attire. It is no longer respectable to wear what the bride and groom wears, in fact if a wedding guest wears white, it is seen as taking the spot light off of the bride and is very disrespectable. The bridal party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) now wears matching dresses or suits according the couples preference.
-The Royal Engagement-