When it comes to weddings, everyone will expect the arrival of the bride all dressed in white. Whether in a straight, a lesbian, or a gay marriage, the image of a bride's white dress is so prevalent, and media will also often incorporate it with such.
But she's wearing something else other than white, not even off-white, and not even a hint of pastel. She's even wearing the same color as her bridesmaids. Everyone stares at her for her choice for the occasion. Both the bride and groom don't care; it's their mutual love, commitment, and trust that matters, not the outward appearances and judging eyes.
Factors can include time and financial restraints, as it may take several months and thousands of dollars to make depending on the embellishment for a dress that can be worn only once. The situation could take place on a Wartime Wedding. It can also be where a Themed Wedding may take part where a dress may be impractical for the theme. It may also be the bride's choice to break tradition and to wear any style and color they want, even black. And it may be where the bride is on a second or third marriage or so.
Of course, the tradition of the white wedding dress is a relatively new tradition, with brides during the early 19th century starting to wear white dresses, with white being a symbol of Conspicuous Consumption as white dresses were expensive and difficult to clean, and Queen Victoria popularized and solidified it after marrying Prince Albert in 1840 as a symbol of purity and elegance in simplicity.
Prior to 1840, brides would have worn their best dress in whatever of color, save for black, and they would have worn them again for several occasions. The most popular and ideal color was blue due to being a feminine color, and this is where the "something blue" part came from Old, New, Borrowed and Blue.
In India and China, red is an ideal bridal color as it symbolizes love. The unconventional part for an Indian bride or a Chinese bride would be to wear the Western white, as white for those cultures are reserved for mourning. Brides with a Patriotic Fervor would wear a dress based on their national clothing. And the more modern thinking bride would wear either very short skirts or even pants, or anything that would be inappropriate even for outdoor weddings.
And there will be some brides who will combine the wedding dress AND the wedding cake.
- X-Men: When Cyclops and Jean Grey got married, Jean's dress was white, but it was mermaid-style◊ rather than a poofy ballgown, with a white scarf instead of a veil. Even though it invoked the traditional look◊, Jean did it on her own terms, which tied into her character arc at that time.
- In Superman: The Wedding Album, when Lois is choosing a dress, she tries three on. Apart from an ultra-traditional one that she hates but her mother likes, the other two are a sleeveless dress cinched at the waist, which Ellen Lane thought was a bit ... modern for a wedding dress, and what is basically a white minidress with an open skirt fastened over it, although by that point she was basically trolling Ellen. Her actual dress was more traditional, although not as absurdly so as the "bad fairy tale" one.
- In On the Fastrack, Dethany, in keeping with her Perky Goth style, wore a black wedding gown.
- Safe Havens:
- Ming wore a black wedding dress, and, swear to God, that was the most normal part of her very unconventional wedding. (Consider the following, when she 'walked' down the aisle, she was also wearing a helmet...because she actually got shot out of a cannon.)
- The wedding guests at Remora's wedding think Remora is doing this by wearing a mermaid costume instead of a wedding dress. Only the main characters know she's actually a mermaid.
- Samantha tried to do this by considering a wedding gown that looked more like a lab coat, saying it was just like her to do so. Her talking cat, her mother, and even the 'design your own wedding gown' website rebelled against the idea though, and Samantha went with something more traditional (designed by a reader who won a contest to do so).
- Where Is My Love?: When Rarity is meeting Derpy to arrange the latter's wedding dress, she freaks out at first when Derpy says she doesn't want to wear white until Derpy explains that it wouldn't be proper, since she has had a foal already (and is expecting a second) and thus doesn't qualify for Virgin in a White Dress. While the fic itself doesn't say the final color, a piece of associated fanart shows her in blue.
- The Princess and the Frog: When Tiana and Naveen get married they're frogs, so they're not wearing clothes at all, though when they kiss they become human again and Tiana magically gains a green and yellow dress based upon a waterlily; it's not a typical wedding dress though it's definitely still a Pimped-Out Dress. Subverted when she marries Naveen a second time as a human; this time she's wearing a white 1920's-style dress with a veil.
- About Time: Mary wears red on her wedding day. While nobody comments on it in the film, Word of God is that he had a feeling she would go for something unusual.
- Beetlejuice: When Beetlejuice and Lydia are planning to get married, Lydia's dress is red because of the association with Hell.
- When Elle Woods gets married at the end of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde her wedding dress is pale pink instead of white. She's seen trying on a more traditional Fairytale Wedding Dress earlier in the movie but ultimately decides to go with her signature color.
- Mary, Queen of Scots (2018): For her third wedding Mary wears a black gown (which is Truth in Television), both because she's a recent widow (twice-widowed in fact) and to show her disdain at being forced to marry Bothwell.
- In Mission: Impossible III, Julia marries Ethan in blue medical scrubs because they impulsively decide on an impromptu wedding at the hospital where Julia works, performed by the hospital chaplain, before Ethan leaves on his latest mission.
- When Ophelia marries Hamlet, she's wearing a plain, unremarkable light gray gown. This is intentional, as she and Hamlet had to disguise themselves as peasants to get married. Neither of them seems to care in the slightest.
- The Vow: In the film, Paige's wedding dress is short and pink (providing the page image).
- Empire of Ivory: While not the least conventional aspect of the shipboard wedding between CPT Tom Riley, Royal Navy and CPT Catherine Harcourt, Aerial Corps; the fact that the bride did not trouble herself to find a dress at all but showed up to the ceremony in trousers left unfastened to accommodate her baby-well-past-a-bump, a bottle green military greatcoat, and (it is heavily implied) combat boots would not go unremarked now, let alone on the way back to Regency England.
- In Jackdaws, Flick and Paul both wear military uniforms when they get married due to it being a Wartime Wedding.
- In the Lord Peter Wimsey book Busman's Honeymoon, Harriet wears gold lamé rather than white when she marries Lord Peter. Possibly because she wasn't a virgin.
- In the first book of The Malloreon, Garion quickly resolves the crisis in Arendia between Mandorallen and a rival knight who is the heir to the land of a recently deceased noble, and was about to offer the nobleman's widow to his friends, which pissed Mandorallen off. Mandorallen had been pining for the said widow, Nerina, for so long, but they mutually kept their romance platonic even long after her husband died. Garion ordered his friend Mandorallen to quit pining and just marry Nerina anyway. After a quick negotiation about the dowry and other wedding formalities, Mandorallen married Nerina while he was still on his armor and she was wearing widow's black and a tablecloth for a veil.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: Joked about in "Family Portrait". Jean and Rose are discussing Jean's wedding suit when Rose notices that Lucien isn't listening and remarks that "vivid purple was a bold choice". Jean replies "It will match the shade of violet I'm planning to dye my hair". This gets Lucien's attention with a "Did you say you're dying your hair v...?" before realising he is being pranked. However, as a widow entering her second marriage in 1950s Australia, Jean would not have been wearing white anyway, hence why she was buying a wedding suit rather than a wedding dress.
- Friends: When Phoebe gets married in the final season her dress is lavender rather than the traditional white. Phoebe was never one for tradition anyway and had already been married once, to a gay ice dancer who needed a green card.
- In The Golden Girls, Blanche's wedding dress when she married her late husband George was a bright red number that only went to her knees.
Blanche: Me in white? Even I couldn't keep a straight face.
- In an episode of The Munsters, in an attempt to marry off Marilyn, Lily dresses her up in an all-black wedding dress.
- In Peaky Blinders Grace wears a lilac dress with a purple veil for her wedding to Thomas Shelby as a sign she's in mourning, as her first husband died. It's more for the sake of propriety, as she always loved Thomas more than her first husband and planned to leave him anyway after she found out she was pregnant with Thomas' child.
- On Psych, Marlowe was introduced as The Vamp but quickly became a lovingly unconventional Love Interest to the normally uptight Carlton. On their wedding day, she wears a vibrant red dress with her special infinity necklace, and Carlton wears a white suit and tie with a matching red boutonniere.
- Say Yes to the Dress will occasionally feature brides who want unconventional wedding dresses, which will invariably put them at odds with their more traditional family members or entourage. Usually they'll get the style they want or compromise with the dissenters to find something in the middle.
- In one episode, bride-to-be Christalyne fought against her Indian family's wishes, as she wanted an ivory or champagne gown when in India white is reserved for widows.
- Former Prince bassist Nik West, who wanted something futuristic, ended up with a beaded white catsuit with a detachable skirt.
- The German show Zwischen Tüll und Tränen features multiple bridal stores, among others a store for the goth scene with mainly black dresses and suits and one for Dirndls (a South German folk dress) in all colors.
- In the 2002 living history series Frontier House, the participants had to dress and live according to 1800s US western pioneering families in rural Montana. The Brooks, who were getting married partway through the project, had planned a period-appropriate gingham dress for Kristen because a white gown would be prohibitively expensive for the setting. Nate's family "bought" her a white gown anyway.
- In Wildflower (2017), Ivy wears a black gown instead of a traditional white gown on her wedding day with Arnaldo, much to Emilia's chagrin. Arnaldo, who's not aware of Lily/Ivy's motivation, doesn't mind what she wears.
- Referenced in Trains magazine; an article about the disastrous Penn-Central merger (which in 1970 became the biggest bankruptcy until Enron) was titled "The Bride Wore Black".
- In 2004, Lita is forced to marry Kane. To show her spite for him for the occasion, she wore black.
- The then WWF wedding of Stephanie McMahon to Test, where she is wearing a white dress, is interrupted by her "drunken wedding" video of her marrying Triple H in red top and jeans in a car. When Life Imitates Art 4 years later, she was wearing white.
- Magic: The Gathering: In Innistrad: Crimson Vow Olivia Voldaren arranges a political marriage to Edgar Markov in order to unify the two most powerful vampire bloodlines on Innistrad. Her wedding dress is, er, this◊ - a massively pimped-out red and gray thing with an enormous, spiky collar held up by the souls of her victims.
- In Jenufa, Jenufa wears a simple dark-colored dress for her wedding, because she is mourning her illegitimate son who died a couple of months earlier. His very existence is kept a carefully-guarded secret, so when one of the guests expresses surprise at Jenufa's choice of clothes, her stepmother claims that in high society, every lady marries in a plain dress.
- Final Fantasy XIV allows players to dress for their wedding however they like. While the game offers a wedding dress to female players (which, if paying for the wedding, can be dyed in any color), it is possible to marry naked, in full armor, or in a Goofy Suit.
- The New Order Last Days Of Europe has a wonderful event◊ describing a same-sex marriage ceremony in the Free Territory. Both brides have black dresses emblazoned with the symbol of the Black Army, and the dresses have been explicitly modified to allow the brides to sling their rifles over their shoulders comfortably (it's a Wartime Wedding in an anarchist commune, so Everyone Is Armed - even the priest has an SMG stuffed into his robes from doing entrenchment training earlier that morning).
- Ansem Retort: Due to the limitations of the medium, this being a sprite comic based on Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Aerith's wedding dress was just Belle's ballroom gown. Which was still better than Axel, who just wore the same cloak he always does.
- Variant in Kevin & Kell: Leona's wedding dress was pretty normal, having had hers selected by a poll on social media. It's the bridesmaids' dresses that are the unconventional ones: they're wearing the wedding dresses that didn't win. And Greta just wore a white poncho because she's a snake.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Futurama: In " A Bicyclops Made For Two", Leela wears a purple wedding dress, to match her purple hair for her wedding to Alcazar.
- In The Loud House episode "A Tattler's Tale", Lucy plays at getting married to her vampire bust Edwin and dyes the dress black because she's a Goth.
- In the episode "Niagarra Brawl" from Total Drama World Tour, the girls have to wear wedding dresses as part of a challenge. Most of them wear conventional wedding dresses, but Sierra's gown consists of a midriff-exposing top and a knee-length skirt.
- Doubling with Themed Weddings, in Europe it is actually quite popular to marry in a middle-age themed dress at a castle. Those dresses are often red, blue, green, or brown.
- Likewise, in cosplay weddings, the bride might or might not be wearing white: it's that she's dressed up as a character from some form of entertainment that's the unusual part.
- In Las Vegas, or any other city with easy to receive same-day marriage licenses, wearing white is the exception rather than the rule at most wedding chapels.
- In Mary of Scotland's second and third weddings, she wore black for the ceremony itself, symbolizing that she came to the marriage as a widow and not a virgin, and only changed into something cheerier once she was officially married to someone new. (There is some debate on whether she really had lost her virginity during her first marriage, given how her husband might possibly hadn't been able to...ahem, consummate the marriage, but she definitely had lost it by her third, as the second had resulted in her son James.) Oddly enough, this is inverted for her first marriage: eyebrows were raised when she wore white to her first marriage to the future Francis II of France, as white was France's traditional color of mourning.