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Finding Your Perfect Wedding Gown

Whether you're having a formal, beach or garden wedding, select the best bridal gown according to your wedding style.

Finding Your Perfect Wedding Gown

Bridal Gowns
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Photo: Laurie Bailey Photography


One of the clearest memories that guests take away from every wedding is the image of the bride, resplendent in her gown and looking her most beautiful. Captured forever on film, the dress is also one of the few elements that last beyond the big day itself. While every bride should choose a style that is the most flattering to her figure, her selection should also reflect and complement the essence of the event. Read on for some guidelines to help determine which dresses are most appropriate for various styles of weddings.

FORMAL WEDDING
In my experience, when a bride indicates that she is having a “formal” wedding, she may be referring to a vow exchange at a conservative house of worship or an evening reception that connotes formality, rather than a traditional black-tie event. Whether your nuptials are a textbook version of a formal wedding, or the term simply indicates a level of propriety, there are several elements that lend themselves to a more refined appearance.

Silhouettes
A traditional ball gown with a long train is an appropriate choice for a formal occasion. I always encourage brides to consider a chapel- or cathedral-length veil to accentuate this look, as it is a simple way to add grandeur while ensuring there is no break in the elegant lines of the dress. A taller bride may want to extend the train even further in proportion with her height. 

Fabrics
Duchesse satin is the traditional go-to fabric for a formal gown, however silk satin organza is also a good option as it has an elegant finish similar to that of silk satin but without the additional weight. While lace certainly does not detract from formality, it tends to be used more often in dresses that feature sleeker, narrower lines, and are therefore less appropriate for a formal wedding.

Embellishments
I encourage brides to add stunning detail through accessories, such as adding a diamond brooch. Accessories can also be used to create different looks for the evening. A crystal-embedded belt can be worn as a hairpiece for the walk down the aisle, and then tied around a bride’s waist to transform her appearance for the reception. Boleros are another way of infusing a hint of beading or sparkle. It’s all about taking something very simple and using it to add just the right amount of allure. 

GARDEN WEDDING
For a garden or outdoor wedding, a bride should simply look for a dress that complements the organic loveliness of the nature that will surround her, rather than select a gown that overwhelms the occasion.

Silhouettes
A slimmer silhouette, such as a sheath, modified A-line, or trumpet, is more suitable for a garden wedding. These styles tend to be quite flattering to most figures and are very appropriate. Select a gown with a sweep train that can be easily bustled for the reception. Many brides believe they shouldn’t wear a long veil out of doors, but in reality the weight of a longer veil will ensure it doesn’t get picked up and tossed by the wind. I can’t imagine anything worse than a bride having a veil waving in her face as she recites her vows. Some brides are moving away from veils altogether, and there’s nothing more refreshing than a lovely hair ornament, such as a fresh flower or lace clip.

Fabrics
I would consider something very light and airy, such as a silk organza for a garden setting. Lace is also fitting, as well as any material that isn’t cumbersome or weighty.

Embellishments
I don’t recommend selecting a dress with heavy embroidery or excessive beading, as the added weight could be difficult to manage outdoors and the style contradicts the natural setting.

BEACH WEDDING
Many brides who are planning beach weddings still desire a formal dress and are often reluctant to select anything casual. Still, there is an appropriate way to achieve a balance between the natural beauty of a seaside ceremony and the more elegant tone of the reception that follows.

Silhouettes
A-lines, sheaths, mermaids, and empire cuts are all wonderful options for a beach wedding. Add detail via length, using great fabric to achieve a more formal look rather than selecting a ball gown that could be too overwhelming for the outdoors.

Fabrics
I try to lead brides away from heavy fabrics such as duchesse satin. The fabric needs to be light, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be gossamer.

Embellishments
I tend to advise brides away from dresses that are heavily embroidered with excessive beading, for just like at a garden wedding, the look conflicts with the surroundings. Again, accessories are a wonderful way to add a touch of glamour to the look. These days, brides are shying away from ivory or white shoes, and instead choosing colorful and even sparkly heels that they will wear again after the wedding. Making an investment in an evening shoe with little concern for the “rules” is fine by me, though I always try to talk brides into getting something comfortable with a lower heel, especially for an outdoor wedding. 

Opening photograph courtesy of Liancarlo, Oleg Cassini, and Modern Trousseau

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