If you’re planning on getting married in the next year or so, there’s a good chance you’re planning on an outdoor wedding. From enchanted redwood nuptials to bliss on the beach, getting married outside is the hottest trend among brides in the bay. Once you’ve secured your venue, your move is on to the next step in your journey towards the alter; the dress. And this presents a new issue. The instant you step in a bridal boutique and see the real life girth of a ballgown, the yards of delicate lace in a cathedral length train, or let a delicate wisp of pure silk tulle pass through your fingers, you realize that an outdoor wedding requires a special kind of dress.
The best place to start is at your venue. Make sure you keep an eye out for exactly what kind of aisle you’ll have. Are you walking on grass, sand, bare earth or gravel? If so, you’ll want to avoid a train longer than a sweep (up to a foot and a half). Anything more than a foot is going to snag on branches and rocks and ruin your perfect look. Uneven ground and heels you might night be used to will make you much more prone to tripping, and you don’t want that on your special day! Avoid hems trimmed in lace, embroidery, or delicate beading for the same reason, and keep in mind that whatever you do choose is going to get dirty on the bottom. If possible, find a location that lays out an “aisle” for you to walk to down; lots of venues are taking the dress into consideration and are providing paved walkways and red carpets for savy brides.
The second thing to consider is your wedding “look”. Every bride wants her wedding design to look polished, intentional, and cohesive. You want your dress to look natural in the setting you choose, and that rules out most of the big, princess style dresses. Ballgowns are just too big and bulky to be gracefully handled outdoors. Nothing looks more ridiculous than a beautiful bride holding ten layers of petticoats up around her ears as she waddles through the grass trying to avoid staining her dress. Taffeta is a bad fabric choice for outdoor wedding; the sheen makes you intensely reflective in bright sun and your wedding photos will look like you’re ready to get beamed up to the mothership. Skirts or dresses with tulle overlays are a no-no. Silk wedding “net” or tulle is extremely delicate and will snag on everything you pass, destroying your dress. Avoid dresses with more than a few strategically placed jewels; your surroundings will be beautiful enough. No need to overwhelm your look with too much bling.
So what should you look for in a dress for your outdoor ceremony? There are several dress shapes that flatter a natural setting. Empire waisted dresses are quite popular right now and look dreamy and romantic in outdoor settings. Usually made with layers of delicate chiffon, they are tight at the chest and loose and flowing below. The Empire silhouette gives your ceremony a Grecian meets the 60’s flower child sort of look that can be very stunning.
Sheath dresses are also popular right now, especially for destination or beach weddings. Usually made from just a few layers of satin, sheath dresses cling to the body and give you a simple yet vintage movie star feel to your special day. Sheath, or “slip” dresses are uncomplicated by ruffles and layers and brides often comment that they feel extremely comfortable to wear.
Fabrics that flatter an outdoor venue are charmeuse satin, chiffon, silk gazar, and silk-linen blends. All look very natural in outdoor settings, are lightweight, and luxurious. For trims and overlays; lace, lace lace. Pick the less ridgid laces; chatilly lace would be a great choice. Any type of eyelett looks great, and a few designers are actually doing some crochet trims that look really fabulous this season.
A last choice to consider, and a trend that is gaining in popularity is the short wedding dresses. Lots of designers are offering gorgeous short dresses this season, with options ranging from organza flower skirts, flapper style beading, and taffeta bubble hems. A short dress will often save you up to half on price, too.
Certain dress designers tend to design with the outdoor wedding in mind. Claire Pettibone makes delicate, dreamy chiffon creations that are lightweight, and loaded with small details that somehow fail to overwhelm. Monique Lhuillier is the go-to designer for romantic, lingerie inspired elegance. Her penchant for gathered chiffon and exposed boning make for the perfect summer gown. Lela Rose is known for her delicate floral details that perfectly capture a vintage look, giving her gowns an etheral, old world feel. Jenny Packham is a good choice if you want a modern, fresh approach, and The Cotton Bride is a place to look if you want a down to earth, country approach to your dress.
Whatever you choose, don’t forget that in the end its your day, and your dress. Find something that you feel comfortable in- that represents who you are. If you know what you want to represent on your wedding day- the aspects of your personality and style you want to feature, then the dress will be no problem at all. Confidence in yourself and your style will help the dress come to you.