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 second bridal gown ideas to inspire your look.
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:
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, 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.
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.
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.
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. 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 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.
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 dress styles. Here are a few second wedding dress ideas to inspire your reception look:
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 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 minis are made for dancing late into the night.
A jumpsuit is a fashionable choice for the modern bride. Toss the skirt aside and slip into one of these chic, trendy numbers.
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.
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?