HOW A BRIDE’S CULTURE OR RELIGION MAY INFLUENCE HER WEDDING GOWN
For some, a white wedding gown is traditional. But Western wedding customs are not global and many brides choose a dress style and color white, red, sleeveless or more modest according to their cultural, or religious, traditions.
The Jewish Bride
An Orthodox Jewish bride usually wears white and her collarbone, elbows and knees must be covered, said Rabbi Ari Raskin, the rabbi of congregation B’nai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights. “And she must wear a veil.” But, Rabbi Raskin added, it is important for every bride to ask her rabbi for his guidance before buying a dress. “For some rabbis it is O.K. for a woman to wear a jacket over a less modest dress when they are under the huppah,” he added.
“Modesty is part of my life and it was extra important on my wedding day to be mindful of my modesty,” said Arielle Wernick, who was married in May to Yaakov Teles in New Jersey.
Rabbi Daniel Nevins, a Conservative rabbi and the dean of the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, said, “although there are no formal guidelines for the Conservative Jewish bride we encourage all people to appreciate the day as a day of holiness.”
A modern, reform Jewish bride may wear whatever she wants, said Rabbi Amy Ehrlich of Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. She added, “more often than not a bride-to-be asks me if she should cover her shoulders under the huppah. I always say if you ask that question you have the answer. I encourage brides to be mindful of the sanctity of the moment.” A bolero jacket or shawl may be worn over a revealing dress for modesty during the ceremony.
The Mormon Bride
A Mormon bride must also be modest in her gown; any slits in the skirt have to be sewn up and there are special garments to be worn under the dress for the ceremony inside a Latter-day Saints temple. “L.D.S. brides may wear their wedding dresses through the temple where the sacred ceremony of marriage takes place if these dresses meet the accepted standards: white, high-neck, long sleeved, modest in design and fabric and free of elaborate ornamentation,” said Irene Caso, a Mormon Church spokeswoman.
Nicole Thomas, the founder and chief executive of latterdaybride.com, said the undergarments that must be worn by a woman in the L.D.S. temple, consist of an undershirt type top with short sleeves and a scoop neckline and undershorts that are made of a spandex like fabric making them tight fitting; they end just above the knee.
The Roman Catholic Bride
Mercedes Lopez Blanco, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said: “There is no official pronouncement regarding attire for brides at Catholic weddings. Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church. It is assumed by Catholics that they would dress appropriately to respect the sacredness of the vows that they are taking. Catholics are aware that they are making a sacred commitment in a sacred place and dress appropriately.”
In St. Patrick’s Cathedral, for example, she said that brides are asked to dress “tastefully” and they always do.
It is important to discuss the wedding dress with the parish priest or pastor at a specific church before buying the dress, as some do have rules. The Church of SS Peter and Paul in Mankato, Minn., require wedding gowns to be “discreet.” Its website says no low-cut dresses, (front or back), no miniskirts, no open midsections and no tightfitting gowns.
The Asian Bride
Although most Western brides wear white, a traditional Asian wedding dress is red. Often a Chinese bride will wear a Western wedding gown for the ceremony and change into a traditional red wedding dress for the reception. Decorations are usually red, too, as noted on the website modernqipao.com.
“Considering that I’m a first-generation, there was definitely pressure to do things the traditional way,” said Tina Pham, who married Joel Lingat in August at the Emeryville Marina in Emeryville, Calif. Ms. Pham, whose parents are from Vietnam, wore a white wedding dress for the Western ceremony. For the tea ceremony, she said, the bride usually wears a traditional Vietnamese dress, in red, called an áo dài. “The color is significant since it symbolizes luck for the new journey ahead,” she said.
The Hindu Bride
A Hindu bride wears a brightly colored sari, often red with gold threads. “The sari should be eye catching to the groom and his family,” said Ganapathy Padmanabhar, the public relations officer for the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens. “A silk sari in a bright color is worn and there should be lots of fresh flowers around,” he added.
“I was raised in Washington D.C., but having a traditional wedding in India was an ode to our South Indian roots,” said Shruti Narasimhan, who married Kalyan Gandikota on July 30 in Bangalore, India. “We wanted a traditional Indian wedding, an ode to pre-independant India, but my traditional sari in electric blue was a new-age pop of color,” she said.
The Muslim Bride
Muslim brides wear long dresses in bright colors or muted ones; usually they are highly decorated or embellished and a hijab or head scarf is traditional. Often a wedding dress comes with a coordinating hijab.
“Thankfully, I did not feel any pressure to adhere to any religious customs, as there aren’t any in Islam,” said Rehana Khatri, who married Saleem Khatri in June 2013. “An Islamic marriage is approached as a contract witnessed by the bride, groom, and their families,” she said. “The customs I did adhere to were cultural, but not foreign as I grew up attending dazzling Pakistani weddings in Florida. I did have to rebel a little bit and go with a blush pink dress instead of the traditional red dress because I always think it’s fun to change what people are expecting the most.”
By Marianne Rohrlich