Shopping for your wedding dress is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning. Who doesn’t love trying on beautiful gowns adorned with lace and embellishment, and layered with tulle and ruffles? Even if you think you already know the exact style and silhouette you want to wear on your wedding day, you never know how it will look and feel when it’s on. Minor details such as the fabric, weight, and train of the dress can have a major impact. And the wedding dress length, in particular, affects more than you think, from the dramatic effect of your walk down the aisle to your ability to dance in it.
Before you book appointments at every bridal shop in town and get your heart set on a certain bridal gown, ask yourself what aspects of the dress are the most important to you and what you will be most comfortable in. To expand your knowledge of what’s out there and the bridal lingo used to describe it, we assembled a complete guide to wedding dress lengths. From shortest to longest, each wedding dress length is listed below with stunning examples of each.
A mini dress for a wedding. Why not? This fun wedding dress length will show off both your legs and your style. If it’s not what you want for the ceremony, you can always change into the fun-length frock for your reception and put on your party shoes to dance the night away.
Photo by Savannah Miller Bouncy sleeves define this pretty mini and add coverage up top where it’s lacking below.
Photo via Floravere This fun tank mini-dress is perfect for a garden party wedding or serves as the perfect getaway dress.
If a mini dress hits a little too high on the thigh for your liking, but you love the idea of a short number, opt for a knee-length wedding dress. This gown length reads as lively and fun, yet classy and elegant. It’s the perfect wedding dress for a spring or summer wedding when showing a little leg will keep you cool, or for a destination elopement when you don’t want to travel with a big ball gown.
Is a courthouse ceremony a la The Wedding Planner in order? Whether it’s just you two and the judge or a slew of friends and family are waiting outside, the midi-length wedding dress is the perfect choice for the courthouse. This wedding dress style can be form-fitting or shifty and is ideal for a chic and sophisticated bride who doesn’t want a big party dress.
A tea length wedding dress falls somewhere between the calf and ankle. These dresses used to exude a retro or vintage style, but have recently become more popular and taken on a whimsical and modern feel, so you’ll be able to find a dress in this length whatever your style. Typically wedding dress styles of this length feature fuller skirts that swing when you walk.
If you want a dress that goes almost to the floor, but also shows off your shoes when you walk, a full-length wedding dress is the length for you. This wedding dress style falls an inch or two above the floor, which gives it a slightly retro, yet totally classic vibe. A cute pair of kitten heels or “something blue” shoes will pair effortlessly with this gown length.
Not to be confused with full-length, floor-length hits the floor, but stops there. However, that doesn’t mean they lack any drama. Whether you opt for a sleek body-hugging silhouette or a full-skirted ball gown, floor-length gowns provide as much wow-factor as any other wedding dress without any of the fuss. If you don’t want to deal with a wedding dress train or a bustle, floor-length gowns will be your bee’s knees.
For better or for worse, popular fast fashion trends often translate into wedding dress trends. High-low hemlines fall on the better side of the line and have graced brides such as Whitney Port and Olivia Palermo—two of the most fashionable socialites. This wedding dress length allows you to have a big sweeping train and show off your shoes and legs. What’s not to love?
Moving on from floor-length gowns, we get into gowns with trains. The chapel length wedding dress is the shortest of wedding dress lengths with trains. This style falls four feet from the waist, or approximately two feet from the heel. It’s the most popular wedding dress length, because it provides the sweeping look that has become a signature to brides, but is also easy to manage and holds up in a variety of fabrics.
Just beyond chapel length wedding dresses and before the dramatic cathedral length gowns, lies semi-cathedral dresses. If you didn’t know there was an in-between style, now you do, and now you’ll notice the length when you go to try it on.
The cathedral length is defined by a train that extends six or seven feet behind the bride. Given its name, this style is best suited for indoor settings such as a cathedral where the train will trail the bride in a beautiful way down the long aisle. While you can choose this dramatic style for an outdoor affair, be wary of any settings where it could get caught on sticks, stones, or steps. With a train of this length, your dress will collect anything in its path and drag it along with you. If you can avoid this scenario, nothing will give your walk down the aisle quite the effect that a cathedral-length dress can.
Also called royal, this is the queen of wedding dress lengths. It’s long—really long. The train on a royal wedding dress can be anywhere from eight to 28 feet, or longer. The longest wedding dress train is miles long, so there’s really no cap to a monarch-length train, but of course, trains around 10 feet are far more common. If your venue is magnificent and has room for a wedding dress of this volume, and you have the strength to carry it behind you, by all means, embrace the longest of wedding dresses, and brace for astounding impact.
Now, you’re ready to go shopping. With this handy guide at your fingertips, you’ll know just what your consultant is talking about when she asks, “Would you like to try a tea-length dress?” Every wedding dress length is beautiful in its own right and comes in a variety of styles, so pick the one that suits you, your venue, and your budget best.