How to Choose a Fun Wedding Dress for the Reception

Looking for the perfect reception wedding dress to change up your wedding day? Read our guide for our expert advice.

By Jane Chertoff

The First Look ✨

  • A reception dress should be comfortable, lightweight, and breezy, so you can dance, eat, and toast throughout the night.
  • Adding a bustle or removable element, like sleeves or a skirt that comes off, makes your wedding dress more wearable throughout both the ceremony and the reception.
  • You can choose a short, sheer, or sparkly cocktail dress—or even go with a romper or jumpsuit.

Whether you choose a wedding dress that can double as a reception dress, a wedding dress that transforms in some way (more on that below), or have a second dress that you’ll change into after the ceremony, you’ll want to choose an option you’re comfortable dancing, eating, and toasting in late into the night.

Need help getting started with your search? Read on for some tips for choosing a fun reception dress that’ll have you party-ready.

What Does a Reception Dress Look Like?

A wedding reception dress is typically less formal and breezier than your ceremony gown. If you’re up for it, it can even be a little daring and sexy. And note that a “dress” isn’t even mandatory for the modern bride anymore—a reception romper, jumper, or pantsuit will turn heads all night long.

As for which style to go with, short dresses can be fun, flirty, and easy to move in. But go with a floor-length or tea-length second dress if you aren’t comfortable showing a little leg. (Think Meghan Markle’s halter reception dress.)

The style of the second dress could match your theme and venue, too. Choose a shift dress for a theater or outdoor venue, for example, or go for a sequin or sheer cocktail dress if you’re having a glamorous hotel or restaurant wedding.

Over-the-top sparkles, feathers, pearls, and other embellishments are all on the table for a second dress. You don’t have to choose white, either. Bright colors, silver, or gold dresses are another fun way to mix it up on your wedding day.

inline redsphere studios Photo Credit // Redsphere Studios

Wedding Dresses That Double as Reception Dresses

Can’t dream of changing out of your wedding dress immediately after the ceremony? That’s completely acceptable, too. After all, you spent a lot of time picking out the perfect wedding dress—and you only get to wear it once.

You may want to consider a less formal wedding dress that’s easy to dance in. Lighter styles with few embellishments usually work well, because they typically allow for more movement than heavier multi-tiered ball gowns. Look for materials like lace or chiffon. You could also choose a tea-length gown instead.

Whatever wedding dress you select, you can also get a seamstress to sew a bustle into the train of the bridal dress, so you can keep it off the floor and move freely while you dance the night away.

Wedding Dresses That Transform Into Reception Dresses

Some wedding dresses change or transform into reception dresses. Convertible wedding dresses may have a removable piece, like a wrap or sleeves that come off post-ceremony. You can also get a short or sheath convertible dress that comes with an overskirt that transforms it into a ball gown or A-line dress for the ceremony.

If you’re interested in a two-in-one dress, you may end up saving some money, because you won’t have to buy a second dress. You can also ask a seamstress or tailor who specializes in wedding gowns if they can alter your beautiful dress to make it convertible.

inline shutterstockPhoto Credit // Shutterstock

If you have your heart set on a sleeveless dress, but need to wear long sleeves to the ceremony per cultural or religious requirements, you can wear a wrap, sweater, or overlay and take it off before the reception, too.

When Should You Change Into Your Reception Dress?

When you change into your reception dress is up to you—you may want to keep your ceremony dress on during cocktail hour and then change before your grand entrance into the reception.

You can also wear your ceremony dress for your entrance, first dance, and dinner, and then change into the reception dress before you cut the cake. Just make sure you leave a few extra minutes in the schedule to change out of your wedding dress—especially if it has a lot of buttons or delicate embellishments. You may even want to designate a bridesmaid of your maid or honor ahead of time to help you get reception-ready.

Ready to find the perfect second look for your reception? Visit Zola’s Bridal Boutique