In what was one of the most heavily documented weddings of the 19th century, Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert in February of 1840, while wearing a white satin and lace gown. While she was by no means the first bride ever to don white for her big day, Queen Victoria's wedding was one of the most anticipated affairs of its time and we still follow many of the trends she started today.
The Birth of the White Wedding Dress
Prior to 1840, most brides were married in the finest dress they owned. The color didn't matter much, as that dress would go on to be used for many formal occasions and wasn't exclusively a wedding dress. In Queen Victoria's case, she declared that no guest attending her wedding should wear white, making it an exclusively a bridal look. Her wedding dress had a white silk bodice with a floral design, a flounce overlay of lace, elaborate lace sleeves, orange blossom detailing, and a huge train. The design of the gown was so elaborate and highly coveted that the designer tore up the drawings once the dress was completed so it could never be replicated.
The Matching Bridesmaids and Their Gifts
Queen Victoria's bridesmaids also wore white dresses, which were custom designs commissioned and designed by the bride. The Queen gifted each of her 'maids with a matching piece of jewelry, kicking off what remains a trend today.
The Flower Crowns
In addition to wearing a veil for the ceremony, Queen Victoria wore a wreath of fresh white orange blossom flowers on top of her hair. Her bridesmaids (all 12 of them!) carried the Queen's large velvet-lined train down the aisle while wearing crowns of white roses in their hair.
The Multi-Tiered Wedding Cake
It was Queen Victoria's wedding cake that started the modern tradition of tiered white cakes. Hers featured fruitcake covered in almond paste and a thick layer of what we now call royal icing. The cake was ten-feet in diameter and weighed nearly 300 pounds!
It took less than a decade for white to catch on as the most fitting color for wedding celebrations and that hasn't changed since. Though many brides now opt to wear colorful dresses, white is still the most common wedding color. And with the recent trend of couples asking their guests to wear all white, we don't see this tradition going away any time soon. For more on Queen Victoria's trendsetting wedding, check out Stuff You Missed in History Class.