Attend any traditional Western wedding, and there’s a 99% chance the bride wears a white dress. Go to any bridal shop in the U.S., and it’s bursting at the seams with miles and miles of ivory lace, organza, silk, and other white fabrics, as far as the eye can see.
But it wasn’t always like this.
The white wedding dress has only been popular since the 19th century — when Queen Victoria wore it for her wedding in 1840 — and only in Western cultures. Move outside Western cultures, and a rainbow of wedding colors becomes available.
So, if you and your bride want to be unique and ditch the white wedding dress, there’s little reason to hesitate. If you specifically want to embrace the darkness, elegance, and beauty of black wedding dresses, here’s what you need to know.
You can trace the black wedding gown to ancient China, specifically, the Zhou Dynasty, some 3,000 years ago. At that time, brides and grooms both wore black robes with red trim. This black gown attire continued to be popular during the Han Dynasty, but slowly fell out of favor during the Tang Dynasty, replaced by turquoise and green.
More recently, Catholic Spanish brides popularized black wedding gowns during the 17th century. During this time, brides believed that a silk black wedding dress symbolized the love and devotion the bride held for her husband until death.
While black is still a relatively unusual color for a Western bride to wear, the color is more common in China, Japan, and South Korea, where brides combine black fabric with gold or red embroidery. In these countries, the black wedding dress meaning correlates with good fortune, prosperity, and happiness. Additionally, the black wedding dress symbolizes a ward against bad spirits and bad luck.
While, in Western culture, black is more commonly worn to funerals, as a symbol of mourning, black is shaking off its reputation as an “unlucky” color and is a symbol of strength and power. This reputation change extends to wedding dresses.
Several celebrities have broken the norm and worn black dresses to their weddings.
In 1997, Sarah Jessica Parker wore a sexy black wedding dress with a full skirt when she married Matthew Broderick. Kristen Bell opted for a chic black top and pants set when she married Dax Shephard in 2013. Also in 2013, Avril Lavigne wore a beautiful black wedding dress when she wed Chad Kroeger.
Perhaps most famously, Christine Quinn, the star of Selling Sunset, wore not one but two custom black bridal gowns when marrying Christian Richard. The dresses cost an incredible $50,000.
Wedding fashion fads and styles come and go. While white is still the firm favorite for wedding dresses, wearing black is becoming more popular as modern couples break from tradition. Black is no longer consigned to the fancy dress wardrobe or only brought out for Halloween. Instead, it can make a dark and delightfully eye-catching statement.
So what does a black wedding dress symbolize at your wedding? It can really mean whatever you want it to, but here are some ideas and emotions commonly associated with the dark hue:
Ultimately, a black wedding dress presents a chance to showcase the bride’s unique personality, style, and preferences.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that black wedding dresses are somewhat harder to come by than white wedding dresses. Most bridal shops only carry one or two designs in black, at most, so you may need to custom order your black wedding dress.
Etsy is a good place to look. The site features some stunning black lace wedding dresses and other equally gorgeous designs. Some sites actually specialize in black wedding attire as a whole, such as Hannah’s Black Bridal.
Another often cheaper alternative is to buy a black dress that’s not necessarily intended to be worn as a wedding gown. There’s no end to amazing black formal dresses, cocktail dresses, evening dresses, ball gowns, and more that can be used for a wedding.
As the saying goes, “Anything goes with black,” and it’s true; most colors do go with black, but there are a few exceptions that you should avoid:
Instead of the above, consider a black tux or white suit or a suit in jewel tones such as rich greens, reds, or blues.
In the 17th century, a black wedding dress symbolized devotion until death. In some Asian cultures, black wedding gowns symbolize good fortune, prosperity, and happiness. In Western culture, a black dress can symbolize strength, power, confidence, elegance, and mystery.
Black has long been worn in mourning and was previously associated with bad luck and misfortune. However, times are changing, and black is no longer taboo. A black wedding dress is no longer seen as unlucky.
Some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures wear black wedding gowns, though they’re still not the top choice.
Black has long been associated with death and mourning, but as superstition fades from modern life, black is no longer a taboo color reserved exclusively for funerals. Black wedding dresses are becoming more common and are perfectly acceptable for a wedding.
Some brides do wear black wedding dresses, though it may be difficult to find one in a bridal shop. Black wedding dresses are usually custom-made, or, often, a black cocktail dress or ball gown is worn as a bridal gown.
The outfits are just one tiny aspect of a wedding. There’s so much more to plan and organize! At The Groom Club, we’ve made it our mission to provide as much information, tips, and ideas as possible to help grooms throughout the entire wedding planning process.
Whether you’re trying to plan the ultimate bachelor party, need help picking the perfect honeymoon location, or are just looking for ways to keep everything under budget, you’ll find all this and more by heading to The Groom Club.