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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wedding Dresses From Around The World

What could be more romantic than wedding gowns? Last week the heroine in the novel I'm finishing had to buy a wedding dress in Gaborone, Bostwana (Africa). Because my 2008 tour in Botswana didn't include shopping at bridal boutiques, it was off to the Internet to do research.

All I needed was one picture and a word or two of description, but as with most research, I found a lot of interesting material that should never show up in a novel.  So here it is in a blog instead.

Strange Names
The first thing I noticed, when I searched "bridal wear, Gaborone, Botswana", were some unusual names for bridal shops, including:
Discount Outfitters
Mad Dog Weddings and Bridal Wear
My heroine eliminated visits to those three boutiques right off the bat.

Color the Bride in White
In western cultures, we tend to use white or off white for bridal gowns, and use the symbolic colors for bridesmaids' dresses, flowers, and decorations. But this isn't necessarily true for other cultures, and many others use more colorful dresses as bridal attire.

According to The Bride's Book of Etiquette, white has been the color symbolizing celebration since Roman times. In the Victorian era, the white/off-white gown symbolized wealth, since it meant that the bride could afford a dress which would be worn only once or twice before it was soiled. That was considered frivolous. Most wedding attire was practical; embellished for the wedding, and then altered for special events or even everyday use.

Veils were originally intended to protect the bride from evil, jealous spirits and stares from outsiders, and they varied in color. Red was worn to confuse the devil. Red also symbolized defiance. Blue symbolized consistency. Greek and Roman brides often wore yellow, the classic color of Hymen, the god of marriage. Early Christian brides wore white, symbolizing celebration, youth and purity.

Whether wedding colors are chosen for bridesmaids' dresses and decorations, or for the 
bride and groom's attire, colors have symbolic meanings when it comes to weddings. However, nearly every article I read gave a different interpretation of the symbolism in general and as the color relates to weddings. Most admitted that wedding colors are selected for mood and effect and not symbolic meaning.

● White          The color of innocence, purity, youth
● Ivory            The color of elegance and nostalgia
● Red             The color of love, romance, drama
● Black           The color of authority, rebellion, sophistication
● Pink            The color of happiness, youth, femininity, harmony, fidelity
● Hot pink      The color of passion, power, and glamor
● Gold            The color of wealth, wholesomeness, and tradition     
● Silver          The color of wealth and tradition
● Purple         The color of nobility, luxury, inspiration, and spirituality
● Blue            The color of tranquility, truthfulness, faithfulness
● Green         The color of nature, fertility, growth, rebirth

According to the Unique Wedding Dresses website, it was the pale blue wedding dress that denoted purity (not white) until Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert in 1840. That was when white became the symbol of a bride's purity, and it has been used in western tradition ever since.

African Cultures
But since my heroine was in Botswana, I started with African attire. While there are plenty of traditional white gowns to choose from, African wedding dresses, more often than not, boast deep rich colors in unique patterns alongside the white. Grooms often wear suits which match the color and design. Colors in African bridal attire include:

● Mustard Yellow           ● Red
● Gold                            ● Royal Blue
● Orange                       ● Royal Purple
● Emerald Green

African wedding dresses generally have straight, slightly A-line, or trumpet skirts, short or floor-length. The most traditional include a wrap skirt and separate top, sometimes showing off a section of midriff, sometimes not.  They are not always embellished but may have contrasting colors. While not everyone goes for yellow, Africans tend to like colorful garb for this event.

Indian weddings are grand and colorful events that last for several days, sometimes even a week or more. Like many countries where there is cultural and religious diversity, the wedding traditions also vary. Red has always been a favorite color in India, symbolizing an auspicious event (and according to another source, meaning purity). Today styles and colors are more varied than ever..     

A Muslin marriage weaves together two families, two souls, and two destinies. It is a big and auspicious occasion. Different Muslin cultures have different traditions, and their wedding customs and rituals vary as well. But they follow the traditions of how women
 must dress.

In Russia, the traditional color of wedding dresses is blue. Royalty married in silver, and 
    ladies wore their best attire to wed in. Today, the choices in blue are endless, from pastel
    to royal to turquoise. Compare the traditional and a modern wedding gown.

In Japan, a wedding may be Shinto, Christian, Buddhist, or non-religious styles. Couples choose the style of the ceremony, and it doesn't have to match with one's religion.
In Japan, the Shinto style wedding the bride's garment is the white kimono called a shiromuku. Grooms wear a black formal kimono called a montsuki, a kimono jacket (haori), and kimono pants (hakama).
It's not unusual that only family members and close relatives attend Shinto-style ceremonies. There are neither bridesmaids nor a best man.

Red means good luck and happiness in China, so it's not surprising that even among the modern wedding dresses red prevails. Particularly, since white means death in the Chinese culture.
The bride's headdress was of particular significance in the traditional wedding. Called a phoenix crown, it is decorated with red reathers and pearls. A red veil hid the bride's face from the groom until it was removed on the wedding night.

Wedding garb from other countries and cultures

The black wedding dress, traditional in Spain, symbolizes faithfulness until death.
I don't know if this is supposed to be traditional or contemporary. 

Bad Taste
Whether contemporary or traditional, nothing makes a bride immune to bad taste. Here are a couple of the runners up for the worst.
And the winner is:
I had to share this.


Marianne Stephens said...

Uh...I guess the last dress is hanging on her boobs by very strong glue?
Interesting post about wedding dresses...and I love all you photos (the strange ones are weird!).
I went to a cousin's wedding: the bride made the white wedding dress...short, low-cut on top and short on bottom (cut in an inverted "V" up to her private parts). She spent the entire time pulling up and pulling down the dress. Oh...and she wore a black belt and black boots.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Now there's something to show the kids when they ask about Mommy and Daddy's wedding.

Diana Layne said...

really enjoyed the informative post, until I got down to the last one. You just have to wonder...

Cynthia Arsuaga said...

Very informative. I knew a few of the colors, watching history channel, :)

The last picture I remember seeing about a year ago. The woman has no shame!

flchen1 said...


Thanks for sharing some of those gorgeous wedding outfits!

And that last one? Yowza.

Molly Daniels said...

Those last few definitely fall under the 'what were they THINKING?' category!

My SIL married for the 5th time this past summer and wore a beautiful strapless red and white dress, with a sheer red shawl. And looked gorgeous:)

Harlie Reader said...

Great post and that last dress? Yuck. I've seen that picture before I almost threw up then as I did now.

My favorite dress: Spain. That dress was just gorgeous.


Harlie Reader said...

Great post and that last dress? Yuck. I've seen that picture before I almost threw up then as I did now.

My favorite dress: Spain. That dress was just gorgeous.


RW Richard said...

Hi Ann,

Interesting dresses and a nice ride thru world culture.
p.s. slightly off your point...on the Jan 14, 2013 opening episode of the Bachelor, a bridal consultant came prepared. She got out of the limo to greet the bachelor in a wedding dress she designed. The dress was just okay IMO, the girl, funny and cute. She handled the situation memorably.

Katalina Leon said...

That last dress-OMG! Just awful and hilarious at the same time. Thank you Ann.

Nicole Morgan said...

Hahaha... seeing as how I'm planning my own wedding you've given me some ideas of what NOT to look for! I seriously don't think a couple of those could be called "dresses" :)


I agree, why show that!!!

And I just came from my future daughter in law's fitting for her gown. She was radiant.

Cara Marsi said...

Ann, how interesting. You did a lot of research for this. OMG-that worst wedding dress--there are no words.

Angela Kay Austin said...

Wow! I can't believe the winner of the bad taste award.

Lisa Kessler said...

ACK!!!! THat last one is hideous!!! LOL

Yikes!!! What if one of those things breaks free??? LOL

Great blog Ann!

Lisa :)

M. S. Spencer said...

too funny about the worst dress--I suppose she felt she had to show off her "best" feature. Either that or it was her little sister's dress & she had to make do. Favorites? blue ones--African, Russian, Muslim. Least favorite? The black Spanish one--a bit depressing I think. Thanks for the post Ann! Meredith

Janice Seagraves said...

The Indian and Spanish dresses were lovely, but that last dress.... looked unfinished.


vera mallard said...

wow, that last one was eye opener.

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