While contemporary weddings are a symbol of love and commitment between the bride and the groom, for most of history, weddings were more like a business deal in which two families joined forces for a beneficial arrangement or alliance. Wedding dresses, then, were chosen to present the bride’s family in the best light, especially in terms of wealth and social status.

For most of history, brides rarely purchased a dress specifically for their wedding day. The bride would typically wear her finest dress to the ceremony, even if it was a dark color. In fact, many brides wore black during this time. Only a few colors were avoided, such as green, which was then considered unlucky. Blue was a popular choice as it represented purity and piety, plus the dark color easily hid imperfections and could be worn again.

Although examples of brides wearing white can be traced back as early as 1406, in the 1940s, Godey’s Lady’s Book, one of the first women’s magazines in America, declared that white was the most fitting hue for a bride. From then on, brides interested in showing off their wealth and social rank made sure to wear white dresses made from excessive amounts of fabric. Since white was a hard color to obtain and preserve, only wealthier women could afford such a dress.

The white-dress trend grew scarce during the Great Depression, when times were hard and it was difficult for most people to spend money on a gown they would never wear again. Instead, brides returned to the tradition of wearing their best outfit. Following an economic boom in the second half of the 20th century, white became a popular color once more.

The white bridal dress is so intrinsic to modern weddings—including Jewish weddings—that it is common to assume this attire to be universal, which it is not. In fact, Oriental and Sephardic brides have traditionally worn brightly colored dresses set off with veils made of streaming gold coins. In fact, many Jewish brides of Moroccan and Yemenite descent still marry in this type of garb, especially in Israel. In ancient Greece, both bride and groom wore white garments adorned with garlands.

Today, brides can choose from millions of styles and fabrics for their walk down the aisle.

While shape and style vary drastically from bride to bride, traditional white dresses are still most popular, as many today view white not so much as a symbol of wealth but rather one of purity and virtue.

Finding the wedding gown that takes your breath away isn’t easy, but when it happens, it’s very exciting. Following are photos of beautiful wedding gowns that are in style right now. Maybe one of them is the wedding dress of your dreams.

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