Why does it have to be white for the bride and black for the groom? Why is color bestowed only on the attendants and wedding decorations? Now, before you go up in arms in defense of wedding traditions, let us remember that, while men have always worn their best suit to get married, women only started wearing white less than 200 years ago after Queen Victoria set a new European trend by wearing a white dress for her wedding. Until that point women wore their best dress that was just as likely to be white as any other color. Pale-colored ball gowns were fashionable among young society women, and it was not at all uncommon to either marry in one's best party dress or buy a new gown that was later altered to be worn to a ball. Outside of Europe and America, women wore (and continue to wear) every color imaginable. In India, it is not uncommon for a bride to change her sari several times through the course of her wedding.
I don't have anything against the big white dress, mind you. I do, however, question its practicality. Unlike wedding gowns of 19th - early 20th century, modern white confections are not easily adaptable to be worn as evening gowns after the wedding. Also, anything with the word "wedding" in front of it triples and quadruples in price. Here, for instance, is an evening dress from Chadwick's of Boston that cost $190 before it went on clearance for $100, and a gown of very similar design from Group USA for $350.
Besides, a lot of people are marrying later in life, frequently after having lived together for a while, and are opting for smaller sofisticated affairs instead of the traditional big white shebang. So, if your wedding is not run-of-the-mill, why should your colors be? A wedding dress need not be an actual wedding dress. And the groom need not wear a tuxedo, unless it is a very formal affair. Below are a few wedding color combinations I pulled together from a variety of sources. The exact garments may no longer be available, but you'll get the general idea: giving the bride and the groom the benefit of color and using garments that can be worn again for other formal occasions.
Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I thought the fall color scheme would be lovely for a wedding celebration. A pale gold gown for the bride has a high-low hem, which allows to move around and dance. The pleats in the back look just as lovely as a traditional bustle would, but without the fuss of having to pin it in place. The bridesmaids' dress is cocktail length, but is still formal enough for the occasion due to luxurious bronze taffeta and lace.
The groom's look is actually not a suit but suit separates with a sharp shirt and a gold tie - continuing with the fall colors. The groomsmen coordinate the bridesmaids in darker suits with a tie picking up shades of gold and bronze.
Roses and chocolates semi-formal
You could say that this color scheme is a nod to tradition in the sense that roses and chocolates are considered to be a traditional attribute of a romantic event. Except in this case we are using the color combination for the wedding party attire: a pink satin gown for the bride and luscious chocolate cocktail dresses for the bridesmaids, pink shirts and ties in shades of brownish-gray worn with a dark suit for the groom and the boys.
White and blue informal
If you would like to incorporate a white dress into a laid-back wedding, consider something like this charming little number. The bride's dress is perfectly feminine, yet cocktail length makes it perfect for an informal wedding, while blue bridesmaids' dresses pick up the theme with a similar style including vintage-like embroidery. The gentlemen of the party need not match exactly, but rather coordinate with the ladies in shades of pale blue and cool gray.
Summer fun informal
I never understood brides who opted to have a summer wedding - especially a summer beach wedding - and would then insist on encasing themselves and their bridesmaids into oodles of lace and taffeta enough to cause a heat stroke. Summer is a season of vacations and beach trips and fun! So, why not carry that spirit into your wedding as well?
The white is still reserved for the bride in these two combinations with bridesmaids celebrating the season in sunny yellow. The dresses are cotton and linen - the two coolest fabrics after raw silk. The shoes are cute, but can be easily kicked off for dancing in the sand.
The gentlemen can join the ladies in keeping the look attractive, yet comfortable and laid back in light suits and brightly-colored shirts.
When attending a wedding, consider the formality of the event, the season, the venue and your own body type to ensure that what you wear is both appropriate for the event and flattering for you without being uncomfortable.
Gentlemen, if you only own one or two suits, you can still vary your look from one event to the next by picking a different shirt and tie combination for each. In the example below, the same suit would look equally well with any of the four shirt-and-tie sets. To make your suit go an extra mile, consider buying one that is not black, but rather a medium shade of gray - this would make it wearable during both cold and warm seasons.
Ladies, instead of dumping $300 on one evening frock in black, consider getting two or three less expensive dresses in more versatile colors and cooler fabrics. Remember, you can always throw a shawl over a lighter dress to adapt it to cooler weather, but you can't exactly toss off your black taffeta or velvet while stewing in it during summer.
If you are not fond of skirts and dresses, please don't ruin your look by pairing a dressy top with black slacks and loafers you normally wear to the office. Rather, opt for gorgeous floating palazzo pants that are comfortable but still feminine and formal enough for the occasion. Pick your accessories carefully to enhance your look.
Images courtesy Spiegel, Newport News, Men's Wearhouse, Paul Fredrick, Coldwater Creek, Travel Smith