What Does a Black Wedding Dress Mean?

Today, we’ve got a dark wedding subject to discuss! Here are some hints:

What can Sarah Jessica Parker (actress/producer and style icon) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House books) possibly have in common?

And how are Spanish traditions similar to British post-punk music?

Well, it involves the color black, specifically the black wedding dress! Keep reading for fun facts, stats, and style tips on black wedding dresses and their different meanings, whether you’re trendy, rebellious, or gothic!

Brides Wearing Black Thousands of Years Ago

Chinese wedding dress fashions have symbolically been a brilliant red color for centuries.

Yet, thousands of years before that, brides and grooms throughout China wore black robes trimmed with a hint of red and white garments underneath. So what did black wedding clothes mean 3,000 years ago?

According to historians, the documented reason bridal couples wore black was that emperors in the Zhou Dynasty were extra—extra nitpicky, that is.

Rulers were considered gods and created strict laws on who wore what according to their gender, profession, and place in society.

So, while it wasn’t particularly traditional or symbolic, the bride and groom wore black to the occasion to avoid getting thrown in jail, and that’s a pretty reasonable excuse!

Symbolism and the Spanish Bride

Around the 17th century, Catholic brides in Spain started wearing black silk wedding dresses.

But why and what did it mean? Well, it symbolized the bride’s lifelong commitment to her husband and devotion until death—they made “’til death do us part” a literal fashion obligation!

A Little Black Wedding Dress on the Prairie

In the American West of the 19th and 20th centuries, black was considered a “bad luck” color. But Laura Ingalls Wilder offered a surprising twist on the superstition in her Little House series of books set in pioneer country (find out more about Little House here).

Laura wrote about planning her wedding to her beloved, Almanzo. They decided to get married fast because Almanzo’s sister was coming, and they knew she’d want a more elaborate event than they did.

Laura only had one nice dress to wear, which was that bad luck color. She didn’t care about superstition; she just wanted to marry her love, so the bride wore black!

SJP Famously Grabbed a Black Wedding Dress Too

When Sarah Jessica Parker (aka SJP) married actor Matthew Broderick in 1997, she wagged fashion tongues with her dramatic, full-skirted black gown by designer Morgane Le Fay.

SJP may have influenced women to wear black wedding gowns ever since, but the truth came out in 2016 that SJP only grabbed that gorgeous black dress off the rack because she didn’t want to say “yes” to stressful wedding dress shopping!

So, for SJP and Laura Ingalls Wilder a century earlier, a black wedding dress meant quickness and convenience.

While it might not have been her dream dress, SJP’s style choice brought glamorous and unique black wedding dresses to the forefront.

Shop SJP’s wedding dress style:

Present-Day Brides Want to Make a Fashion Statement

If there’s a silver lining to global shutdowns and social distancing, post-pandemic brides are making their own rules, and a black wedding dress is one of them! Some fashion retailers have reported a 75% increase in online searches for black wedding dresses and sales of black bridal gowns by close to 35%.

So why is the color black such a popular choice today? And what does a black wedding dress mean to a bride in these modern times? 

Well, besides bucking tradition and breaking yesterday’s traditional white dress rules, a black wedding gown is also elegant but fun. It’s also a wedding day statement and a definite wear-again staple in your fancy dress wardrobe.

Here are some easy style tips to follow with a black wedding dress, and to be clear, these rules are more about being you than anything!

Be Fiercely Independent

We love this lacy look with a sheer overlay and a stunning open back.

This black wedding dress is bridal fashion independence, and we love the groom in manly white!

Make It Memorable

A modern bride can rock vintage details to create a memorable wedding day look, just like this black dress with a fabulously feathered applique bodice, unlike anything we’ve seen in recent bridal fashion.

Rock a Rebel Attitude

It’s your big day, and you deserve to rock bridal fashion that gives you not just one but three possible style choices!

And in the true spirit of bridal rebellion, we’re dedicating the following section to what black wedding dresses mean to goth brides. Here’s how that iconic goth style began with a subculture of British musical artists redefining punk rock in the early 1980s.

The Black Wedding Dress World According to Goth

The Goth style has become timeless worldwide with its singular fashion, lifestyle, and music.

The movement began with British bands like Bauhaus, the Cure, and Siouxsie & the Banshees making post-punk music in the 1980s called Gothic rock.

The Gothic rock style was inspired by Gothic fiction (the Penny Dreadfuls) of the Victorian era and B-movie horror films of the 20th century. Goth fashion blends a sinister atmosphere with Victorian and Edwardian romance, emphasizing black hair, clothes, and dark makeup.

World-renowned fashion designers have also celebrated the goth style, notably Vera Wang, who has created black wedding dresses combining fantasy with simplicity and the dark drama and mysterious beauty of goth.

So, what does a black wedding gown mean to the goth bride? Well, goth brides share a lot in common with post-pandemic brides who want to follow their own rules and be free to rock their distinctive styles. I think the Spanish bridal idea of “’til death do us part” is in there too!

Here are some of our favorite examples of black wedding dresses full of goth freedom and flair.

Goth Wedding Dress Combines Moody Black With Passionate Purple

Yes, black is a mainstay of goth fashion. But there are sensual and passionate overtones within the moodiness and drama, and this gorgeous goth bridal gown is a perfect example!

Beautiful Black Florals on Goth Wedding Dress

These goth details are dramatic and historical, from the lacy-boned corset to the black floral lace appliques decorating the bodice.

The multi-layered skirt is soft black tulle with a long, lovely train, and you get detachable puffy sleeves to up the vintage romance if you desire.

Black Tulle and Lace Wedding Dress With a Satin Lining

We love the tone-on-tone of this lacy tulle wedding dress with a satin lining in your choice of white, ivory, or a custom color (burgundy red would be beautiful).

The satin lining is also available in straight black, but whatever style you choose here, this black wedding dress is gothic romance at its finest!

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