Marriage is one of the oldest traditions known to man. However, most of the conventional practices that are widely embraced in marriage ceremonies today were not always the norm. The only thing that has stayed the same is the fact that marriage entails two and their families people coming together to begin a life long relationship.
In this day and age, one of the central attractions of a marriage ceremony or wedding is the bride’s dress. In most parts of the world, we are accustomed to seeing white lace or silk flowing gowns with or without veils and trains. This has not always been the traditional attire worn by brides on their wedding day. So significant and focal has the white bridal garment become that our marriage ceremonies have even become known as “white weddings.”
The popularity of the white wedding dress began in the Victorian Era, and is widely attributed to Queen Victoria of Great Britain. After the queen famously wore a white ivory lace dress with an orange blossom wreath at her wedding to Prince Albert on the 10th of February, 1840, the elites of the time began to follow suit, and it became the fashion.  In Western Europe before this time, red was actually the most popular color for bridal dresses, while white was normally worn in times of mourning. The royal brides before Queen Victoria were not normally dressed in white gowns for their weddings. Rather, they favored heavily brocaded dresses with white and silver threading, red being a favorite.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was also known to have worn a white dress at her wedding to her first husband, Francis Dauphin of France, in 1559.  However, it is said to have had a scandalous connotation to it at the time, and many considered it quite inappropriate.
Brides in Europe and America had been wearing a variety of colors of wedding dresses before the royal wedding of 1840, ranging from blue, to yellow to more subdued colors such as gray, brown and black. But as the news of Victoria’s white wedding gown circulated across the Atlantic and all around Europe, ladies of the elite class began adopting it as a standard wedding look, and not long after the 1840 wedding, white colored wedding gowns began to be associated with affluence and class.  A popular poem even began to circulate, ridiculing the once loved red wedding dress, among other commonly used colors:
Married in white, you have chosen right!
Married in grey, you will go far away
Married in red, you will wish yourself dead
Married in green, ashamed to be seen
Married in blue, you will always be true
Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl
Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow
Married in brown, you will live in the town
Married in pink, your spirit will sink
It is interesting to note that even though the popularity of white wedding dresses grew in the Western world and spread all over the globe after Queen Victoria’s famed wedding, the color white had been associated with wedding and other spiritually-themed events in different cultures for thousands of years. White signified bridal joy in the ancient Greek tradition. In fact, not only were the brides adorned in white dresses and white flowers, their bodies were also painted white. In ancient China, white was known to connote purity and perfection, and as such, it was the color associated with death, which, in Chinese tradition, was thought to be the time of supreme perfection for the deceased. The ancient Japanese people also considered the color white to stand for innocence and purity. Many African traditions incorporate the color white in the worship of their respective deities. Even in Christianity, white clothes were/are worn at baptism as a symbolism of spiritual purity and cleansing from the blemishes of sin. 
The limited methods of laundry before the latter part of the 20th century really fostered the idea of proving to the world that the bride’s family was rich enough to afford to choose a dress that could so easily be ruined by stains and spills.  In the 19th century, a lot of churches required women to be veiled, and the renaissance of wedding veils as a bridal symbol also agreed with the idea of female modesty that was the social norm.
Following this evolution, a lot of books on etiquette made quite a tradition of bridal whites, and the connotation of innocence, purity and virginity began to be associated with the white dress of a bride. Even as the tradition spread among the elites throughout both sides of the Atlantic, it was not fully adopted by the middle-classes of Great Britain and America until after the Second World War.  The growth of affluence in the 20th century led to the practice of wearing the white wedding gown only once – on the wedding day. It was quite acceptable and known for brides (Queen Victoria included) to reuse their wedding gowns back in the 19th century. 
Hollywood movies after World War II standardized and normalized the tradition of white bridal dresses by their portrayal of white weddings.  Another major royal boost to the white wedding tradition was the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana Spencer in 1981. This wedding was broadcast to about three-quarters of a billion people all over the world, and all saw the intricate white taffeta gown, with a train 25 feet long, that adorned Diana. This, indeed, is believed by many to be the most influential white wedding of the 20th century. 
In summary, while it can be said that the choice of white bridal dresses is simply a part of the modern wedding culture, the fact remains that the royals and elites of the 19th and 20th centuries played a great role in popularizing the use of white wedding gowns. In addition, many today hold on to the connotation of innocence and purity attached to the color white. All in all, white wedding gowns are as beautiful and elegant as wedding gowns can get, and brides-to-be all over the world fantasize about the day that they too will waltz down the aisle clothed in immaculate white.