Having grown up in a traditional, conservative Christian household and adopting many of the traditions for myself, planning a wedding seemed straightforward. It would be a church wedding with the lead pastor officiating, every member of my and my fiance’s families attending and me, walking down the aisle in a beautiful, white dress.
I still hold to these Christian values, beliefs and traditions. They are the core of who I am and who I want to become.
So then, how do you explain the emerald green wedding dress hanging in my closet?
I find it amazing and a bit quirky, that sometimes, I don’t even realize I need the answer to a question until someone else asks me. This was the case when my Auntie—who, by the way, is the officiant for my wedding and neither my fiancé or I attend her church—asked me plainly: “Rhianna, why do you want to wear a coloured wedding dress?”
I was silent, but when I did speak, it was a mess of half-sentences and I don’t knows. I knew somewhere deep down, but until that moment, I hadn’t needed to find it words. My Auntie had asked a genuine question out of curiosity and I wanted to give a genuine answer.
It’s taken me weeks to process my thoughts and feelings into an intelligible form. So here we go, my three reasons for choosing a coloured wedding dress.
Green Is My Colour
Let’s begin with the simple answers.
Green is my favourite colour. It’s warm, cozy, inviting and also adventurous. Whenever I paint my nails, I love doing dark green with gold accents. My guide dog wears turquoise boots in non paw-friendly conditions, and any chance I get to buy green items, even down to mugs and socks, I take it.
And might I mention too, that emerald is my birthstone.
White Equals Vulnerable
Vulnerability is a necessary part to any healthy relationship. But learning to be vulnerable is not an easy process, and it becomes harder when you’ve been hurt. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to trust people because my trust has been broken by others. It’s hard to let go of the fear that my perspective won’t be heard or appreciated because in the past, it’s been thoughtlessly dismissed. I often look for ways to protect myself from further hurt, and one mechanism I’ve come to realize that I rely on is my clothing.
For as far back as I can remember, my wardrobe has consisted of jeans and sweaters, most of them in dark greys or blacks. And I was only in my early twenties when a friend broached the idea that my need to wear dark clothes might be connected to my blindness.
My blindness makes me more noticeable to the world, and for a teen who wanted nothing more than to fit in and not be noticed, I resorted to clothes as a protection mechanism. I was at a disadvantage—everyone could see me, but I couldn’t see them. And the less of me they could see, maybe the less susceptible I’d be to judgment or criticism.
As I get older, while I still prefer to be clothed in layers from top to bottom, my colour scheme is expanding. Nothing too bright or outlandish, but I’m more comfortable being seen in oranges, yellows, greens and other shades.
There is a caveat though—it needs to be a solid colour. This way, even in coloured clothing, I’m protected because no one can see through it to the me underneath. Yes, I am aware that lighter colours, like white, aren’t necessarily see-through, and I’m not just referring to the physical implications. But the deeper one, the one where I’m afraid to be seen because if I’m seen, I might be known for who I really am.
And that’s scary.
But before anyone jumps to conclusions, my fears of being known and judged do not apply to my future husband; I’ve known only unconditional love, understanding and complete safety in our relationship. But that doesn’t stop my mind from asking, “What about everyone else?”
White does not equal vulnerable, and colour does not equal protected. But due to my past experiences and my deep desire to be protected, a coloured wedding dress makes me feel safer.
I Want to Express My Individuality
I became blind at the age of six, and since then, my blindness has been a defining aspect of my life. I learned to read braille and use assistive technology. I participated in sporting events for the blind and attended programs specifically for blind and visually impaired children and youth, like summer camp and competitions. I used a white cane and after university, received my first guide dog.
Blindness was all over me. And while I gained valuable skills, made long-lasting friendships and had unique experiences that have shaped my perspective, I can’t deny the impact that my disability had on my self-image. I was still a blind girl, and for years, I viewed this as a negative. No matter how intensely I fought it, my disability was the first thing that people noticed. Whether it was the white cane sweeping the path ahead of me, the four paws guiding me around obstacles, or the fact that I couldn’t make eye contact and was usually looking up, it was there. The blind girl.
And when it came to getting engaged and planning my wedding, I began to notice a deep-seeded need to prove my individuality.
For so long, I’ve been different, but not for the things I wanted. I was praised for being a fast braille reader, winning a braille competition and maintaining a positive attitude despite my disability. Now, I was afraid that this thread would be woven into my wedding.
I didn’t want to be a blind bride, or a blind wife. I was afraid that the emphasis would be placed on the fact that my fiance is marrying a blind woman, or that the dress or decorations don’t matter because I can’t see them. I needed to be different for something I wanted people to notice.
Being deeply rooted in Christianity, I know that some may be surprised and curious at my choice to not wear a white dress. I don’t blame them; a few years ago, I may have questioned the exact same decision. But when I think about what it truly means, and what I wanted in a wedding dress, there’s one thing I come back to.
Before I bought my dress, I showed my Uncle a picture of it and explained my apprehension at what others might think of the non-traditional colour. His response was unshakable, and made me smile:
“It’s your wedding, kid. Wear what makes you happy.”
And you know what? This emerald green dress, with its silky skirts that do the best twirls I’ve ever done, makes me happy.
But what makes me more happy is that while wearing this dress, I get to marry the love of my life. It isn’t indicative of any deviation from my Christian faith or tradition, but simply an embracing of my individuality and something that makes me feel confident and beautiful. And that’s how I want to feel on my wedding day.
What did your wedding dress look like? Let me know in the comments.
I love seeing your journey from invisibility to self-expression in this post. It’s clear you’re now making conscious choices about waht to keep private and waht to share with the world as opposed to reflexively concealing as much as possible, and that speaks to a lot of growth and lessons learned over the years.
Plus, white symbolized purity in the Christian wedding. As in “women need to prove they’re pure but men don’t.” I’d rather people assumed purity until proven otherwise, and then got off their high horses if I dared reveal imperfection to them than wrap up in a piece of conforming clothing to stave off criticism any day. Bring on the color!
My wedding dress was cheap ($150) non- descrpt, boring. I was bound to be invisible even on my wedding day. It looks like our wedding dresses say more about us than we realize at first. I never thought about it this way until I read your piece just now. Well said.