In an attempt to get as much done before my students come back from Christmas break, I have spent the last week in all-out wedding planning mode. I’ve talked to photographers, looked at countless flower arrangements and been to too many bridal shops to count.
In particular, I’ve been using the last week to figure out the bridesmaid dresses, which has been tricky given that I don’t want my bridesmaids to hate me.
But as I’ve gone from store to store, looking at bridesmaid dresses and wedding gowns galore, it got me to thinking about this whole wedding ceremony thing. More specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of the white dress.
Symbolically, the white dress is meant to represent the bride’s purity–she has saved herself for just this special day and now she can present herself as untouched, for her husband’s embrace alone.
Realistically, this almost never happens. One of my friends who lives with her boyfriend recently joked about wearing a silver dress at her wedding. “I’m not going to wear white,” she proclaimed. “The jig is up!”
And she’s not alone in this. In all honesty, how many of us can really wear white on our wedding days? Even for those women who maintain their virginity, it is oftentimes only by a thread. That’s hardly the symbolism behind the dress, is it?
Why, then, do we go on with this charade?
For most women, the main reason behind a white dress is the tradition of it. Plain and simple. I, however, have realized a very different but very important reason for maintaining this practice. But before I get into that thought process, let me back up a bit by setting the stage of how weddings generally go these days…
Today, the world tells us that your wedding is all about YOU. The rehearsal dinner is full of toasts about what a great couple you make, the church lobby and reception are decked with pictures of the two of you, and everyone is at your beck and call. This is YOUR day, and the focus is on you alone.
Scripturally speaking, this mentality is way off. Contrary to what the world says, your wedding day is not about you. It’s merely a reflection of a much greater love story, the romance between Christ and the Church. It is no coincidence that marriage reflects God’s relationship with us so neatly–marriage was fundamentally designed to.
That said, the aim of any wedding ceremony should be to highlight this greater truth. Everything about the day and the process leading up to it should be about the glory of God and His love for the Church. That perspective has already held me accountable in many ways, not the least of which is my understanding of the white dress.
Ultimately, the white dress is not about the purity of the bride’s lifestyle. Yes, her lifestyle is relevant, but that’s not the most relevant. Ultimately, the white dress is significant of the fact that God has made the bride pure.
The Bride is able to present herself as blameless before the Groom because the Groom laid himself down for her and cleansed her of her sin. And that purity has nothing to do with how many men she slept with before, or how unclean she might have been. All of that is behind, because Christ intervened.
Christ died to make his bride, his Church, clean. We reflect this beautiful news to the world around us when we wear white on our wedding day.
And this should be liberating news for us ladies who carry the baggage of a sullied past. If you worry about whether or not a Christian guy will marry you because of your shameful history, remember that you are no longer defined by that past. Christ has made you into a new creation, so you can still wear that white dress and you can wear it with confidence! Not based upon your own purity, but on the one who made you pure.
That does not, however, mean that the dress has no meaning for our present lifestyles. Because a wedding is a picture of the eternal Groom and His Bride, we must strive to reflect that relationship daily. Only yoke yourself with a man who will lay himself down for you and your purity, desiring to present you as blameless before God. Yes, God can redeem your mistakes, but that does not grant us the freedom to live however we want. Reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church is more than a one-time wedding event. It is a way of life.
That is a good reminder for everyone, no matter what stage of life you find yourself in today.