Weddings performed during and immediately following the Middle Ages were often more than just a union between two people. They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries. Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes. Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony. Brides from wealthy families often wore rich colors and exclusive fabrics. It was common to see them wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk.
Over the centuries, brides continued to dress in a manner befitting their social status - always in the height of fashion, with the richest, boldest materials money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount of material a wedding dress contained also was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests. Today, there are wedding dresses available in all price ranges, and Western traditions have loosened up to include a rainbow of colors and variety of lengths, which are now considered acceptable. Women may purchase ready-made gowns, wear a family heirloom, or they may choose to have a dressmaker create one for her. In addition, today many bridal salons have samples of wedding gowns in their stores where the bride selects a certain style and orders one to be made to fit.