The Evolution of Weddings

Traditions, Rituals, & the Color White

A modern take on a traditional, full-bodied style

Photos provided by Mike Colon

Throughout the centuries, rituals have changed and evolved. Various cultures have different traditions and customs for weddings. In Western countries, we imagine the bride wearing a white dress and rice being tossed at the happy newlyweds after they have recited their nuptials. How did these traditions begin? What is the symbolism for throwing rice at the newly married couple? And why shouldn’t the bride and groom see one another prior to the ceremony? Let’s review some history and modern-day rituals.

Similar to numerous other customs, “rice throwing” began with the ancient Romans, meant to wish fertility and prosperity for the newlyweds. But most people do not know that Romans, originally, threw wheat. Sometime afterward, wheat was replaced by rice as the Western symbol for fertility. In some cultures, surprisingly, it is custom for the bride and groom to eat the rice after it is thrown. Although that’s meant as a compliment to the bride, it leaves a distasteful and bitter taste in your mouth! But some nationalities have done away with “rice throwing.” For instance, newlyweds in Italy have candy and sugared nuts sprinkled over them and in Morocco, the bride and groom are showered with raisins.

There are also wedding day superstitions such as the bride and groom not seeing one another prior to their nuptials. This superstition dates back to the time of arranged marriages. People thought that if the soon-to-be-married couple saw each other before the ceremony, they may change their minds about the marriage. Thankfully, arranged marriages are not too common today and most couples opt to see each other several times before saying, “I do.”

When it’s time for the bride to select a dress, does she typically opt for a purple wedding gown? Not quite. Prior to the mid-19th century, brides often wore red wedding dresses. During the 16th century, British novelist Thomas Deloney described a German bride as “being habited in a gowne of sheep’s russet…” while Rafaello Sanzio, the amazing Renaissance artist, painted the Virgin wearing a red bridal gown.

The white wedding gown gained traction in 1840 when Great Britain’s Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. The Queen adorned a white gown trimmed with lace. Illustrations of her white gown quickly spread. Since that time, white has been the most popular color for wedding dresses among Western women.

Today, women can select from a wide variety of dresses. From the traditional gown to the edgier nouveau gown, brides often feel overwhelmed with gown selection. 

Alya Zahid, owner of H.KLES Bridal in Rancho Santa Fe, is no stranger to helping brides select the perfect gown.  
“Brides often come into our boutique with an idea of what they are looking for. But I always encourage them to try on as many dresses as they like in order to find ‘the one.’ Sometimes it works out, but most of the time brides fall in love with something completely different. You never know how a dress will look and feel until you put it on. This is quite unique to wedding gowns. Once you fall in love with a wedding gown, you will still love it long after your wedding day,” Zahid explains. 

For brides who are seeking a more unconventional look, a touch of color, transparency, or even two-piece gowns may suit their taste. Also, bell-sleeved dresses, cap sleeves, and off-the-shoulder are trending at the moment for brides who wish to wear a more modern or nouveau dress. The open-back bridal dress is also in vogue, coupled with illusion netting, which allows for greater creativity with the details of the dress. The lace alone, or in addition to beading, appear to be tattooed onto the skin. Sleek, sophisticated and soft accurately describe the modern trend for bridal gowns.

Zahid adds, “We’re also seeing more nude or blush lining, giving dresses a touch of color. Some brides love long veils, while others prefer to have a jeweled accessory. Hairstyles are very much into the boho, natural-messy look.” 

Another bridal expert, Ginny Lopez, owner of Something Bleu Bridal Boutique in Oceanside, aims to learn more about the bride before suggesting a dress type.

“We initially start off every appointment with a private consultation. We love to find out who she is, her style, and vision for the most important day of her life. We want our bride to be in a silhouette that is made for her body, so she feels as beautiful and confident on the big day. If we are going for a traditional or classic look we would suggest either a full lace strapless form-fitting gown to give her a modern, clean, and crisp bridal style or we could go with the more traditional full-bodied gown that will highlight her beautiful figure while adding some fullness to give her that ‘princess’ feel,” shares Lopez.

Lopez says celebrity weddings gowns are incorporating mesh and transparent components to show off more of the brides’ figure and add some sex appeal.
“There is so much empowerment being embodied in these looks. For hair accessories, if the bride has a gown that is all lace, they tend to go for minimal accessories as they want their dress to be the center of attention. If the dress has minimal to no embellishment or lace, we suggest adding a little sparkle in their hair. A vine crown is a perfect example of a hair accessory that would be perfect for the more rustic-garden venue gown where the bride can highlight the beauty of the outdoors with her accessories to compliment her dream dress as well. We love it!”

Regardless of your culture, wedding ceremonies are a joyous occasion and selecting a dress is a personal choice that should not be stressful or challenging. You have been waiting a long time for this day so just breathe and enjoy the moment!