How I Became The First South-Indian Christian Bride To Get Married In A Blood Red Wedding Gown

Why should the bride wear only white? I wanted to wear a blood red wedding gown at my wedding, and I did. Here is my story.

Why should the bride wear only white? I wanted to wear a blood red wedding gown at my wedding, and I did. Here is my story.

What began as an innocent tradition started by Queen Victoria slowly gained momentum as a tradition with significance. She had worn a pure white wedding gown on her wedding day.

White for purity.
White for virginity.
White for sexual morality.

Since then, wearing a white wedding dress became the fashion, sensational and blindly followed by a huge mass of people who either knew or didn’t know the real significance behind wearing a white dress for their weddings.

So much so, that the colonised lands of anglicised Africa and India too, wore beautiful white wedding gowns for their weddings, passing on the tradition to several generations to follow.

The white wedding style was given another significant boost in 1981, when three-quarter billion people, one out of six people around the globe—watched Charles, Prince of Wales marry Diana Spencer, in her elaborate white taffeta dress, with a 25-foot-long train.

But I woke up one day after watching Diana Spencer’s wedding on repeat for over twelve times, looking at her beautifully graceful long dress, and declared, “Mom I want to wear a bright red dress for my wedding!”

My mother who was making her Sunday soup in the kitchen, dropped her ladle in mid-air and turned to face me. “What?!” she asked, her lips forming a perfect “O”.

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“R-red…wedding…dress…” I stammered looking at her and looking down immediately to avoid her questioning gaze.

“But brides wear white! You saw Diana’s dress right? Everyone must wear white!”

“That’s why I want to wear red…” My voice trailed away and she looked at me with so much irritation and remarked, “You’re only six. There’s a lot of time for that.”

So what began as an early childhood dream without even knowing the ground-breaking significance behind it, formulated into a stronger aspiration when the real truth behind a white wedding dress, unfurled before my eyes.

And when the same question popped out of my mouth one day, to the man who stole my heart, he did not say “not now.” He said, “Why not?”

I knew more brides who wore white wedding dresses for their weddings than brides who knew why they wore white! On the other hand, there was a mass of traditional Hindu brides, wearing beautiful red Kancheevaram sarees for their weddings. That’d always make me wonder. What is impurity in one culture is auspiciousness in another culture!

Coming from a conservative family that did not let me read Sidney Sheldon because they thought I’d become morally corrupted, I was overwhelmed when my family stood with my fiancé and supported my decision to wear red for my wedding.

Ah, what a liberation it was!

It was a beautiful red lace dress, with minute detailing, specially hand stitched by Japanese self-employed old women. The dress flew back to India, a good two weeks before the wedding.

Amidst designing, fittings and re-fittings, my designer would ask me twice every day, “Won’t it be a problem, Fiona? Will the church accept your decision? Will they let you marry in a red dress?” But the bigger problem was explaining to each and every wedding guest, that it was okay to get married in a red wedding dress, and that I was not ‘sexually impure’ because I was choosing red over white.

And then, the real problem arose when the bridesmaids and flower girls swarmed into the house demanding to know what colour they ought to wear. One of the kids was so inclined on wearing red that she was heartbroken when she learnt that the flower girls cannot wear the same colour as the bride. “Can I at least wear white?”

So like that, another idea mushroomed. If the bride chose to wear red over white, the guests would all wear white! It was absurd and absolute madness but in a family that loved being mad together, it stood out as an exceptional idea. And so it was a white wedding after all!

When my fiancé squeezed my hand and held on tight as I anxiously walked towards him, hand in hand with dad, a little excited and a lot worried if I looked okay, I clung on, only tighter. “You look semma pretty”, he whispered and added, “So classy!” at the altar, minutes before we became man and wife.

I only smiled. My wedding dress did not matter as much as the handsomest man on earth, standing beside me that moment.

I know how much a wedding means to each and every girl in the world.

I know how much of a risk it is to experiment with red on the wedding day, but you see, I thought I’d rather wear a forbidden colour than adhere to the societal norms and proclaim myself to be a “virgin bride”.

Because that is definitely not what it is all about. What you wear should not matter as much as who you are. And that was the only message I decided to send to all young brides debating and distressing on what to wear for their weddings.

Go crazy, the entire colour palette cannot contain the colours the wind will paint across your face on your wedding day, so why limit your wedding dress alone to a boring colour, the society chooses for you to wear?

Paint the town a bold red, a bolder violet, baby pink, a feisty black! Why not? It’s your day after all.

And that my friends, is my story of how I decided to debunk several traditions and rule the ramp, on my wedding day, with a blood red wedding gown!

Wedding picture credit: Fiona Kezia Winston

Header image source: wedding cake with red roses by Shutterstock.


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