The coronavirus has forced many couples to abandon their 200-plus guest lists and opt instead for a virtual wedding ceremony or micro wedding. And with these changes also comes a shift in attire — somehow that elaborate ball gown you envisioned wearing before the pandemic seems out of context.
So what would be more appropriate for an intimate setting? Here are some of our favorite options, plus tips from bridal designers on how to choose a wedding-day look that’s perfect for a smaller celebration.
With so many micro weddings taking place outdoors, airy, romantic gowns are a popular choice. “Dresses made of fabric with movement and flow create a stunning juxtaposition against nature’s setting,” said the designer Claire Pettibone. “Surface textures like delicate lace, subtle beading and dainty embroidery stand out in natural light and photograph beautifully.”
Look for easy silhouettes that play up the detailed, ethereal fabric and allow you to move around your al fresco celebration gracefully.
One of the biggest bridal trends this year has been a resurgence of the minimalist wedding dress. But this bridal look redux is more fashion forward than past understated styles, with designs like sleek long-sleeved gowns with plunging necklines, intricate knot-detail at the waist and structured columns with detachable Watteau trains. “The minimalist look is about emphasizing your natural beauty and creating that wow factor without overdoing it,” said Sharon Sever, the head designer for Galia Lahav. “It’s just the right balance between clean fabrication and a flattering cut.”
Whether a simple slip dress or a sultry Old Hollywood starlet-inspired gown, the key to this look is effortless elegance.
Modern Ball Gown
Just because you’re having an intimate wedding doesn’t mean you have to give up your ball gown moment. “Your style choices and memories of your big day will live on forever, so choose a gown that allows you to stay true to your idea of what your dream dress is regardless of what type of wedding you’re having,” said the designer Ines Di Santo. “We’re seeing more and more brides opting for streamlined and structured designs with architectural details, which is an update on the classic ball gown.”
Contemporary touches, such as peek-a-boo cutouts, pockets, and a flirty side slit also make the look a little less traditional and fussy. Consider a shorter-length train to keep your gown manageable for all-day festivities.
Evening Wear Inspired
Dress the part of the ultimate hostess with a glamorous sheath, beaded dress, or flowing gown. “Look for timeless designs that exude more evening wear allure than red carpet drama,” said Stephanie White, the founder and creative director of Odylyne the Ceremony. Dresses with embroidered details or embellished necklines are a plus because they pick up well on camera.
A shift to more fluid and less-restrictive dress silhouettes means they can be worn for other special occasions after the wedding. You can find beautiful options from ready-to-wear, non-bridal brands like Needle & Thread.
Make It Short
Short and sassy may work for some brides. Try a dreamy couture mini if you’re a fashion maven, a 3-D embroidered above-the-knee dress to delight your romantic side, or a contemporary one-shoulder mini with a floor-length veil for a mod look. “Short wedding dresses are perfect for many brides right now as they’ve had to adjust their wedding plans to smaller celebrations,” said the designer Sareh Nouri. “It can be a flirty and fun, yet sophisticated look. It also shows off beautiful bridal shoes that make a statement.”
Wear the Pants
Channel Bianca Jagger’s sense of style or Solange Knowles on her wedding day and don a sharp white pantsuit or jumpsuit for your nuptials. This look is especially fitting for a city hall or courthouse ceremony followed by cocktails and bites at home. “I also love the drama of an outfit change from your dream dress into a jumpsuit or pants halfway through the day,” said Kate Halfpenny, the designer and founder of Halfpenny London. “Separates like a cool jacket and chic pants are made for these moments and are pieces that you can wear again afterward.”
Among the options: a fun jumpsuit; a bold top and pant set; or a feminine suit, complete with a tailored jacket, cropped pants and bow-tie blouse.
Play With Color
White will forever be a bridal classic, but there is also something special about a colorful wedding dress. “We loving seeing brides think outside of the box with a more spirited attitude,” said Sydney Watters Dunbar, style director at Watters. “A wedding dress with a pop of color or subtle hue is a fresh take on bridal wear and a nice way to tie in the florals of your outdoor celebration.” If you want just a hint of color, choose a gown with a lining in a soft tone. Or go all out in a dress embroidered with a bevy of blossoms.
If you’re going for a more relaxed bridal look, consider replacing the traditional veil with a flirty birdcage veil, a statement-making headband, or even a chic brimmed hat embellished with some of your wedding flowers. “As brides transition from dramatic cathedral or chapel-length veils to something less formal, they’re being more creative with interesting accessories for their micro wedding,” said the designer Gigi Burris O’Hara, owner of Gigi Burris Millinery. “We’re seeing birdcage veils becoming more popular because they highlight your face with an air of romance and allow you to move about uninhibited whether you’re having a courthouse ceremony, backyard celebration, or virtual vows with family and friends.”
Pretty headbands, which have also been featured on the fashion runways, are a fun option for making white jumpsuits and pantsuits feel more bridal. Charming bows, bejeweled hair clips, and elegant hair vines are also great accessories that draw attention to your face and complete a look.