Wedding gowns have not always been elaborate white gowns, as many are today. This custom started with Queen Victoria's choice of a white wedding dress for her marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe in 1840. In this era, blue, not white, was a symbol of purity, and many brides chose to wear blue wedding dresses specifically for that reason. White, on the other hand, symbolized wealth.
Following Queen Victoria's example, it soon became a trend among brides of elevated social status to wear a glamorous white dress. By the turn of the century, white was the standard color for a wedding dress.
All shades of white, such as cream, off white or ivory are currently acceptable as wedding dress colors, while bright colors such as pink, blue or green are thought of as garish. It is considered bad luck to get married in a black dress.
Before this time, brides simply wore the best clothes they could afford for the occasion, without regard for color. For example, medieval brides tended to wear bright colors, with red being particularly popular in Tudor times. Medieval brides from the aristocracy often wore boldly colored layers of velvet, silk and furs. Fabric was not mass-produced as it is today, so it was very expensive. Therefore the amount of material a wedding dress contained was a reflection of the bride's financial status. The more material used, the more voluminous the sleeves, and the longer the train flowed, the richer the bride's family was apt to be.
In the 1700s, a poor bride dressed in simple robes to symbolize that she was bringing nothing with her into the marriage and would therefore would not burden the groom with any debt.
Veils were originally worn by unmarried women to show modesty, and the bridal veil is a symbol of chastity. Only after completion of the wedding ceremony would the veil be lifted to reveal the bride's appearance to the groom. In the 1500s, headdresses with delicate veils became fashionable; lace veils were popularized by Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840.
Modern wedding dresses come in a variety of styles, designer, informal, formal and for beach weddings.
Some wedding stores hold annual sales of wedding dresses, so it may be worthwhile to phone several stores and ask about any upcoming sale dates. Be aware that these sales are often well-attended, chaotic events, and some brides arrive wearing swimsuits under their street clothes in order to be able to try on dresses right in the store aisle and avoid the lines in front of the change booths.
After the wedding, have the wedding dress dry cleaned by a cleaner who knows how to handle delicate fabrics. Once the dress is cleaned and pressed, it should be stored in a sealed box. Make sure the box is air tight and no moisture is trapped inside. Store the dress in a cool dry place away from dampness, mold or mildew.
Unlike the many varieties of wedding dresses, wedding rings are a stable and widespread tradition. Even the ancient Egyptians used the wedding ring as a symbol of marriage. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the circle symbolizes eternity, and the earliest rings were formed of braided grass, hay or leather, as well as carved bone and ivory.
When metals were eventually discovered, the first metal wedding rings were thick and lumpy. Modern wedding rings can vary from a plain gold band to an intricate setting studded with gems. Wedding rings are traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, a custom also started by the Egyptians, who believed that a vein on the left hand led directly connected to the heart. A more practical reason is that most people are right-handed, so a ring worn on the less-used hand will be less likely to get damaged.
However, even this custom is not universal, as not all cultures wore wedding rings on the left hand. Wealthy Elizabethans wore gaudy, elaborate wedding rings on their thumbs, and in the eighteenth century, Roman Catholics wore wedding rings on their right hands, a tradition followed by some Europeans even today.
The different precious and semi-precious stones in the engagement ring have for centuries, symbolized treasured qualities. For example the diamond denotes faith, success and affection.
There are many old superstitions concerning the wedding ring. For instance, a bride-to-be should not shop for a ring on a Friday due to the bad luck associated with that day. Also, neither the future bride nor groom should wear their rings before the wedding ceremony since this would be presumptuous.
Whatever choice you make in regards to wedding dress or ring style, make sure it suits your personal taste, rather than just fulfilling conventional expectations. After all, it's your special day.