Wedding Dresses: UK Wedding Traditions

Marriage is one of the greatest occasions in a person’s life. And for the bride more than anyone else, it is her big day, the day she gets married to the man of her dreams, and it is also an opportunity for her to be the centre of attraction. For this reason, the wedding dress is very unique.
Throughout history brides have tried to make their wedding dress special, to suit the special occasion. The wedding dress is meant to make the beautiful bride the cynosure of all eyes, and the less beautiful bride look a little bit splendid.


In medieval times marriages were sometimes used by countries to seal alliances. Since such a marriage is of great political importance, it was paramount that the bride to be look magnificent. This is meant to impress on the other country of her own country’s prestige and a show of their apparent grandeur. To this end they used the best and most expensive material, like satin, velvet, damask silk, fur and fabrics woven with Gold and Silver thread.

In addition, colours such as red, purple and true black dyes that only the rich could afford were also used. Precious gems like rubies, diamonds, emeralds, pearls and sapphires were also sewn on the wedding dress. There were cases when the dress would be so thickly covered with jewels, that the fabric beneath was completely hidden. There was such a case in the 15th century, when Margaret of Flanders was to get married. The dress was so richly adorned with jewels that she could move in it. Two gentlemen attendants had to help her into the church.

As time went by constitutional monarchy emerged and royal marriages were of dynastic rather than national importance. That didn’t stop royal brides from dressing marvelously for their wedding for the purpose of impressing her new country.

Not all brides came from the royal family and could afford such luxurious wedding dress. But they still wanted to look special, and this meant sometimes trying to copy the dress of a woman of a higher social class. A bride from the higher strata of society will look her best with gems and fur trimmings. Velvet or silk fabrics is what a well-to-do middle class woman would go for because mink and sable will usually put a drain on her purse. The bride from the dregs of society will dress in linen, or fine wool, and much fabric would be used as possible.


Many superstitions grew around the wedding tradition. This superstitions were centered on bring about the bride’s happiness and to ensure fertility. The colour of the dress was used to predict what luck will befall the marriage.

Getting married in white or a variation of white symbolised a girl’s virginity and innocence in the face of her imminent change of state. This colour was not practical for a lot of purposes and it was not always a favourite choice.

Blue symbolised fidelity and eternal love. Brides who wore blue on their wedding day believed that their husbands would be always true to them. If wearing a blue gown proved difficult, the brides would get around this by wearing a blue garter under their dress.

Green was considered the fairies colour and it was bad luck to call the attention of the little folk to oneself during a time of transition. Wearing any natural shade of brown or beige was considered rustic. There was even a popular saying associated with this colour, “marry in brown and you will live out of town”. The implication of this statement was that you would never make it good in town because you will be a hick.

Marry in yellow and you are ashamed of the fellow. Yellow was considered to be a heathen colour and unholy to be worn into the house of God. But in the 18th century yellow became a trendy colour for some time and many brides wore in on their wedding day.

Some brides that could not afford a more elaborate dress would take their regular wear and adorn it with decorations just for the sake of their wedding. There was also a tradition of attaching ribbons tied into bows to the dress. The guest in the wedding would pull of these “bride laces” during the post wedding festivities and kept as wedding favours or souvenirs. Flowers gradually replaced this custom.

The introduction of machine made fabrics and cheap muslins imported from India in the late 18th century ushered in the era of the traditional wedding garb as we know it today. By the 1800s wearing a white dress with a veil was in vogue. As usual with fashion, this style began in London and gradually spread to other cities and towns, and eventually reached the rural communities. In 1816, Princess Charlotte gave it royal approval at her wedding to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. In 1840 Queen Victoria made it a virtual rule when she chose to wear white silk and Honiton lace for her own wedding. She also set the fashion were bridesmaids carry the train.

We are now in the 21st century, and it is without doubt that the wedding gown will continue to evolve in style. People are no longer constrained by certain traditional factors like the brides of old, and have now come out with different marvelous styles.

Okdress.co.uk has been a part of this wedding evolution. We understand that brides need to look their absolute best on their wedding day. So, what did we do about this? Well, you can find out by going through our wedding dress category. There are great wedding dresses in different styles and colours that will be make you glitter and be the cynosure of all eyes on your big day.

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