Kim Kardashian’s divorce – after she donned three $25,000 white Vera Wang wedding gowns (at the wedding and on the covers of People and Us Weekly) –might explain why the famous designer announced a new line of ebony wedding dresses. I beat Wang’s hot trend years ago when this bride wore noir. It was the perfect shade for my late night Soho reception where my husband’s dad – a judge – officiated. I also picked the morbid marriage palette before “Sex in the City” actress Sarah Jessica Parker wore black to wed her real groom Matthew Broderick a year after me. Parker later told Harper’s Bazaar she felt like a bad bridal role model, and if she had it to do over, “I would white it up. I’d wear a beautiful, proper wedding dress, like I should have worn that day.”
I didn’t have to choose since a week after my black wedding, I had a second wedding — a white one. After I wed my way, hip and ironically, my nice Jewish mother begged us to fly to Michigan for a replay her way, with me wrapped in pale pearl gown in front of her rabbi, cantor and Midwest crowd. Faced with this feminist conundrum, I ran to my therapist, who guilted me with, “Your mother was an orphan whose own mom never saw her marry. You’re her only daughter,” adding “You’ll get more presents.”
Indeed, mom’s guests rocked our Bloomingdale’s bridal registry and ultimately, honoring both families was a good gateway to launch a life together. As someone in the unique position of being wowed and vowed twice in the same season, on both sides of the fabric spectrum, here is why black is better for a bride’s big day:
1. Vanity Thy Name Is Bride. As all fashionistas know, dim colors are slenderizing. Comparing both of my wedding photos, I look ten pounds slimmer shadowed in darkness.
2. Practicality. My pouffy white dress never again touched my skin after that Saturday night at Wabeek Country Club, but I’ve donned my sleek, black frock frequently. I had it shortened and it’s still a favorite in my summer rotation, special memory sewn in.
3. Pick Pockets. When retailers hear “wedding,” prices rise tenfold. Since only Wang is crafting expensive black gowns to tie the knot, other stores still sell dark dresses for normal fees. (My black frock cost $200 at a Greenwich Village boutique. The white dress Mom sprung for was way more.)
4. Fashion Accessory. Most women already have black high heels, black hose, black purse, black coat, black scarf, black gloves. Not many have a white ensemble ready. Considering what to wear on your wedding, black conveniently matches everything already in your closet.
5. Be Memorable. Everybody weds in white. But who wants to be average on your biggest day? I received amazing attention saying “I do” in black. I’m still remembered as the rebel bride years later.
6. Less Stress And Mess. White attracts dust, dirt and wine spills, so many brides get stressed and paranoid protecting their outfit. Black hides everything and doesn’t stain. My black wedding dress remains spotless, only needing regular dry cleaning. My white gown, however, required a whole cleaning megillah, as well as special storage.
7. Marvelous Monikers. Brides in expensive ivory, like Kardashian, just get called “Bridezilla” (and now “divorcee”) while I’m still called “Morticia,” and “Elvira” – who are much sexier.
8. Counter-Cultural Chic. In Truffaut’s film “Le Mariee Etait En Noir,” Jeanne Morreau plays a black-clad suicidal bride. Two more recent books are called The Bride Wore Black Leather, one an etiquette guide on the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and leather communities, the other a “nightside mystery” about fearsome bounty-hunter Suzie Shooter. “Nothing comes easy to her. Not life. Not death. Not happily ever after.”
9. Get Real. Being costumed in the color of purity is false advertising when your typical U.S. bride now takes vows at age 26.5, after an average of five previous lovers. I was 35 and proud to have been around the block before walking down the aisle.
10. Dimmer Expectations. At my black Soho wedding, our caterer mistook our location’s elevator capacity (which broke, scaring some older relatives back to New Jersey.) Food stations were served late. Air conditioning faltered in the middle of a steamy July night, so in half the pictures we look ugly and sweating. But I didn’t freak out. In my usual shade of black, my attitude was more fun, flippant, and lower rent. At my recent blissful 15th year anniversary, I realized it was much better to have a messy wedding and a great marriage than a great wedding and a messy marriage. Kim’s on her second set of divorce lawyers while Sarah J and I are still going strong. Clearly there’s something to saying “I do” in black.
Susan Shapiro is the author of the nonfiction books Unhooked (out January 1, 2012), Only as Good as Your Word, Lighting Up, Secrets of a Fix-Up Fanatic and Five Men Who Broke My Heart, which was optioned for a feature film. She recently published two novels, Overexposed and Speed Shrinking.