Once whites and ivories were your only choice, but times have changed. Today's brides are looking for options -- and falling in love with the red wedding gown.
More and more Western brides are thinking about doing the formerly unthinkable -- getting married in a bold red gown.
Not that red is a stranger to marriage. Hardly. Red plays a major role in Chinese, Hindu, and some Muslim weddings, and was a popular choice in medieval times. But for modern Westerners? Yes -- we too are starting to marry in red. At least some of us.
It's been happening more and more in Europe over the past decade. Maybe that's because Europe recalls long stretches of time when wedding gowns weren't white. For eons, a woman simply wore her best dress -- one she could certainly use again -- although to keep luck on her side she might gravitate to certain colors and avoid others. With all the choices, it was harder to keep the good colors straight, so the folk world offered a poem with a few fortunate outcomes and many poor ones:
Married in White, you have chosen right ...
Married in Brown, you will live in the town ...
Married in Blue, you will always be true ...
Blue gowns were popular since early times, since blue represented purity and the Virgin Mary. This tradition continues in the "something blue" a bride wears today. White was less common, especially among anything other than the bluest bluebloods, because of its difficulty in coming clean in the wash.
But eventually, several big players popularized white, most notably the fashion hound Queen Victoria. Ever since -- especially in a world where clothes are mass-produced and a woman can afford many dresses, even one she'll only wear once -- white's been all the rage.
Yet even more recently, some have found this timeworn symbol of purity and affluence a little constricting. Some brides want a little less predictability and more choice. And not everyone looks good in white, as some brides point out.
While a percentage of European brides have snapped up dramatic red gowns for the past decade, Americans have been more cautious. It's only been about the past four years that tentative pastel washes and small colored accents have made the scene here.
That's beginning to change. A small but growing number of brides -- and designers -- are getting bolder. Formal, stunning, all-red gowns are making inroads into Christmas or holiday weddings, especially the cozy kind in front of a crackling hearth. You'll see more red at Valentine weddings, rose-themed weddings, and Las Vegas weddings -- not to mention second weddings where the bride's more apt to select exactly what she feels good in, and nothing less.
Thinking of red for yourself? Maybe your forebears did too. During the American Revolution, it wasn't uncommon for brides show their support for the rebellion by donning a red dress.
Fortunately, these days it's not a political statement. A bride wears red because she wants to. She's comfortable with herself and with the dress she finds most beautiful -- even if that choice still raises some eyebrows in the back of the chapel.