Should You Get a Second Wedding Dress for Your Reception? (+ 10 Dress Ideas)

We’re sharing the very best of second wedding dress ideas and how to decide if you want one in the first place.

By The Zola Team

wedding reception
Photo by Run Away With Me

As weddings evolved from one-in-the-same to one-of-a-kind, so did the bride’s style choices. Today, while trends of the time still play a role in the design of the dress, a wedding dress speaks more to a bride’s unique style than to the overarching era.

She can choose everything from the dress’s fabric and pattern and to its neckline and hemline. Big ball gowns and tulle skirts speak to more feminine brides, while chic sheath silhouettes and lace panels speak to the more bohemian bride. But a bride isn’t limited to just one style. In recent years, the “reception dress” has gained popularity as another way to show off her favorite fashions.

When budget and time allow, a second dress for your wedding reception can be both a fun style choice and a logical one. It can let you leave the train behind and move and groove around the reception with ease. However, it’s not for everyone. Below, we discuss what to consider before committing to a second wedding dress, plus share plenty of fun wedding reception dresses to inspire your look.

Timothy Anderson Jr Photography Photo Credit // Aaron Jay Photography

What to Consider

While it’s a trendy choice to have a second look on your wedding day, the amount of brides who actually purchase two gowns is still the minority. Here’s what to think about before you decide what’s right for you:

Budget

If you’re already struggling to rationalize spending a ton of money on a dress for one day, you will have a tough time spending even more on two dresses for one day. Although second dresses are usually more affordable than ceremony dresses that feature long trains and a lot of fabric, plus are more wearable after the wedding day, they still come at an additional cost. Even if you can wear it again, your second dress simply may not be worth blowing your budget.

If money is tight (say, you also went all out for the food), but you really want to make it work, you can do your best to cut back on the cost of the second dress by selecting a style that has less fabric and less embellishment. For example, a simple slip dress or lace mini may be more budget-friendly than a sequin evening gown or a fringed frock.

Timing

When considering a second wedding dress, the timing of both your cocktail hour and reception is important. Changing into a second wedding dress isn’t like throwing on a sundress for dinner after a day at the beach. Finding the time to unlace or unbutton an intricate first bridal gown and lace up or button a second one is no easy task. Plus, you’ll likely want to touch up your hair and makeup and swap your shoes while you’re at it. If it doesn’t ruffle your feathers to step away from your guests (and your new spouse) and take the necessary time to change, you’ll be better suited for a second dress.

But will you have enough time? Consider whether there’s a long break between the ceremony and the reception. Will you have enough time to change into a second dress during the cocktail hour? How long will your reception last? These are all important questions to ask yourself before purchasing a second dress. If the answers are “not very long” and “no,” slipping into a completely different style might not be worth it.

The Style of Your First Dress

Don’t underestimate the power of layers of satin or body-hugging silhouettes to make you sweat at your reception. Whether the seams are snug around your hips or the corset makes your stomach hurt, there are plenty of reasons the style of your first dress will make you want to opt for a second one. Mermaid silhouettes can force you to take tiny steps while off-the-shoulder styles will keep you from raising the roof.

Once the ceremony is over and the party begins, you’ll want to be able to sit and enjoy the dinner you carefully selected and dance around the glossy floor to the playlist you perfectly crafted. If your first dress will inhibit your ability to enjoy the reception, you should strongly consider a wardrobe change.

The Reveal

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest splash. Showing up to your reception in a dress different from the one you walked down the aisle in is like doing a quick change on stage. It will wow your guests and leave them talking for years to come. If you’re not one to shy away from the spotlight, a second dress will capture the crowd’s attention, no doubt, and leave a lasting impression.

On the other hand, you may not feel like your first dress gets the attention it deserves if you change into a second one before greeting the majority of your guests. Sure, your partner, bridesmaids, and wedding party will have seen it, but it may deserve some more significant time in the limelight. If you love your first wedding gown so much that changing out of it at any point during the day will feel too soon, then don’t. You can still channel your inner showgirl by showing it off on the dancefloor with a few good spins

The Location

The venue plays an important role in dress shopping, whether it’s for one dress or two. If your wedding ceremony and reception take place at two different locations, you may want a dress that matches each setting. For instance, a conservative long-sleeve gown may be perfect for a chapel ceremony, but too warm or constricting for the party afterward. Or, a gown with an opulent train may be just what you want for your walk down the aisle, but too cumbersome for a dance floor under the stars.

The style of the location influences the choice of dress(es), but so does the weather. An indoor ceremony and outdoor reception could mean changing into a short wedding dress that’s breathable for the latter half of the night during the summer months, or reaching for a long sleeve mini and faux fur coat during the winter season. When planning any part of the wedding outdoors, the temperature is crucial to consider and should influence the style dress you choose and whether or not you change into a second one.

What to Look For in a Reception Dress

Searching around for wedding reception dresses, while exciting, can be just as intimidating as your initial round of dress shopping. Not only are you beginning a search all over again, but are likely looking into a much larger pool of possibilities. To avoid feeling overwhelmed and help narrow your search, we're highlighting the two key things to look for in your reception dress.

Your reception dress should be a dress that:

  • Fits your wedding. Aesthetically and in terms of formality, your reception look should fit your wedding. While it can differ significantly from your wedding gown, it shouldn't feel entirely out of place. While shopping around, keep your colors, theme, or general look in mind. It may even be helpful to have a mood board or photos of your wedding dress on hand.
  • Makes you feel amazing. If you're going to change out of your wedding dress, make sure it's into something that makes you feel just as wonderful. A second dress isn't only for comfort or a big reveal moment, but is a chance to further express and enjoy yourself on your big day.
Timothy Anderson Jr Photography Photo Credit // Kelsey Haley Media

Second Wedding Dress Styles

Once you’ve thought about everything there is to consider and decided a second wedding dress is right for you, you can start browsing a variety of wedding. Here are a few second wedding dress ideas to inspire your reception look:

1. The Party Dress

If you hired a killer deejay or a live band for your reception and can’t wait to strut your stuff on the dance floor, a party dress (aka mini dress) is the way to go. Sequins, frills, and fringe grace some of the best reception dresses. With skirts that spin and embellishments that shine, these mini dresses are made for dancing late into the night. Plus, they can seamlessly go from reception to after-party.

2. The Midi Dress

A midi dress with a hemline that reaches or passes the knees exudes relaxed elegance. This relaxed-yet-formal silhouette can be found in tons of different styles, from casual to black tie. To achieve a more formal look, keep an eye out for midi dresses made in high quality fabrics like crepe and satin with luxurious details—a feather embellished hemline, embroidered florals, and the like.

3. The Evening Gown

Perhaps your wedding is black tie and you'd like a gown that's just as astonishing as your wedding dress. Evening gowns are a classic, jaw-dropping choice that s sure to bring all of the (good) drama. Opt for white, off white, or even one of your wedding colors if you're looking to switch it up a bit.

4. The Slip Dress

If you opted for a big ball gown for your ceremony, a figure-hugging reception dress á la Meghan Markle is a stylish way to switch things up. Sleek silhouettes and silky wedding dress fabrics will feel like butter on your skin after a day spent in sequins or frills.

5. The Jumpsuit

A jumpsuit is a fashionable choice for the modern bride. These days, they also come in a variety of fabrics and designs—from strapless and one-shoulder necklines to sleek and beaded styles. Toss the skirt aside and slip into one of these chic, trendy numbers.

6. The Set

Like jumpsuits, two-piece sets are modern and very chic. Moreover, due to mix-and-match ability, there's something out their for just about every style and level of formality. Casual, semi-formal, and formal brides can peruse through a variety of options that include tops, shorts, skirts, and pants in varying fabrics and lengths.

7. The Sundress

Brides who've planned warm weather weddings, such as those on the beach or set in a garden, may enjoy the option of changing in a beautiful sundress for their reception. A breezy frock will help you escape the heat, move around, and dance all night. For a look that's very bridal, keep an eye out for those made with white and off-white linens.

8. The Statement Dress

Statement dresses for brides have become increasingly popular over the last year. These are dresses that possess some kind of 'wow' element, be it an oversized bow, all-sequin fabric, interesting silhouette, or similar. They feel artistic and high fashion, making one perfect for a reception in the city, or one with a more formal dress code.

9. The Actual Second Wedding Dress

Hear us out: If it's feasible with your budget, you can actually change into a second wedding dress. This option is ideal for those who've struggled to choose between wedding dresses—especially those with differing styles. If you like the idea, but are looking to spend less money, check out wedding dress resale websites and lower-priced bridal lines.

10. The Getaway Dress

The getaway dress is a classic nod to the times when couples headed to their honeymoon straight from the reception. This style is fit for travel by plane, train, or automobile and usually comfortable, elegant, and timeless. Consider adding a hat to complete the look.

Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons and seen the very best second wedding dress ideas, it’s time to make up your mind: Will you get a second wedding dress for your reception?

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