Buying Two Wedding Dresses 101

If you’re thinking about getting more than one dress for your wedding, we’re here to guide you through everything you need to know.

By Shira Telushkin

Buying Two Wedding Dresses 101
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Don't consider buying two wedding dresses just because you can’t decide on a final choice.
  • The decision to buy two wedding dresses should be about the different functions of the dress at different points of your big day.
  • Choose contrasting but complementing styles. You want a consistent theme.
  • Think carefully about your budget for dresses, and don’t be afraid to find a second dress in unexpected places.

Anybody who has been wedding dress shopping knows there are nearly endless options for your wedding day. Brides today can choose from satin ball gowns, lace sheaths, strapless gowns, dresses with high necks, open backs, long sleeves, illusion necklines, beadwork, and feathered overlays—in every color under the sun. At the end of the day, choosing just one can be really difficult.

Not every bride, however, chooses just one. Some people decide to wear more than one wedding dress on their big day. This practice has many advantages. The bride gets to choose two beautiful styles, each suited for a different part of the celebration.

But wearing more than one dress comes with its own set of considerations. The first, of course, is price. But there are also logistical elements to think about, like scheduling time to change. Brides also have to consider the overall aesthetic to make sure both dresses reflect the wedding atmosphere. It’s important to make sure the styles complement one another and work seamlessly into your wedding schedule.

Don’t Buy Two Dresses to Avoid Making a Choice

If you find yourself caught between two designs, don’t buy both to avoid choosing. You are only punting on the decision, and this means you won’t ever really let yourself fully love either. The decision to commit to one vision can be very difficult, but it’s an important one to make. You don’t want to be stuck with a second option that you don’t really need.

As such, the first rule of considering multiple dresses is to be ruthless. Choose the right dress, or dresses, for your wedding, but don’t let an impulse guide you into buying multiple options.

Consider the Purpose of Each Dress

Many brides who choose to wear two dresses on their wedding day will choose a ceremony dress and a reception dress. The ceremony dress is often the more formal and traditional of the two options, and the one in which the bride takes her formal wedding photographs. The reception dress is often a more fun, or unique, style that’s suited for dancing and moving around.

Think about your own wedding plans. If you are planning a beautiful, traditional ceremony and a raucous afterparty, you might want a stunning ball gown to walk down the aisle in and a fitted dress to wear on the dance floor. Or, maybe your reception will have a 1920s theme, but you want your ceremony to be more traditional.

Whatever the plan, the important thing to keep in mind when choosing two dresses is that each should fit the atmosphere of the occasion.

Plan Your Accessories, Hair, Makeup, Jewelry, and Schedule Around Both Dresses

When you have two wedding dresses, you must plan to change once the wedding is already underway. Don’t underestimate the logistics of this decision. Brides who change into a second dress will need to make sure the dress travels with them, there is somewhere to store the first dress once it’s off, and that there is space to finish any adjustments to hair, makeup, or jewelry that must be made. And don’t forget: The earrings, lipstick, or updo that matched a dramatic ceremonial gown might not work for a beaded, high-neck reception dress.

Be Creative With Budgets

If you want a second dress for your wedding but have budget concerns, don’t be afraid to search far outside traditional venues for that dress. The ideal second dress might come from a thrift store, a speciality shop, or a small boutique in your area. Maybe it’s a dress you’ve been admiring for ages, but never thought you could buy. The beauty of a second dress is that it leaves room for the bride to be more creative. The first dress is often the dress that screams wedding, and which fulfills a certain vision for the day. The second dress can be more suited to the bride’s everyday style, or more similar to a party dress. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Be Creative With Styles

Every bride is unique, and the style of your second wedding dress is something only you can decide. However, if you’re debating whether or not two dresses is right for you, consider the variety of options that often make an ideal second wedding dress.

One trendy option is to play with lengths. If a short wedding dress feels insufficiently traditional, then consider a tea-length dress for a glamorous wedding look that nonetheless lets you move and dance with ease.

You can also consider dresses that incorporate more trendy elements. Sleeveless high-neck gowns, oversized lace, blush undertones, or detailed bling are all great options for a second dress. The second dress gives you the opportunity to be a little more daring, so don’t shy away from a more dramatic look.

The Tradition of Two Dresses

Where does the idea of two dresses even come from? The tradition of having two dresses ready for your wedding is not entirely new. In some cultures, it’s actually common for weddings to be multi-day affairs, where brides change in and out of a vast array of different outfits. In the United States, however, most weddings are a single event over the course of one day, where a bride often chooses one distinct dress.

That wasn’t always the case though. For a brief period of time it was common for brides in the U.S. to buy a special “going away” dress they could change into at the end of the reception. This dress was worn when she and her partner would leave for their honeymoon, and guests would see the happy couple off (it used to be traditional that brides would leave for their honeymoon directly from their wedding).

This outfit was typically white or white-adjacent, but otherwise a standard traveling outfit, and often consisted of a blazer and dress that hit just below the knee. The reasoning was that it was pretty impractical to head off in a wedding gown. Nonetheless, this was an outfit that the entire wedding party saw, which meant it still needed to be special.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola