How to Choose an LDS Wedding Dress
If you’ve set foot inside of a formalwear department store or a nationwide bridal retailer lately, you know how difficult it is to find wedding and bridesmaids gowns that come anywhere close to satisfying Latter-day Saint standards of modesty. LDS brides need to eliminate a lot of dresses from the running at first glance. So how do they select the best one from the remaining acceptable choices?
Contrary to what a lot of fashion designers seem to think, there are thousands of flattering styles and designs of modest gowns for brides and bridesmaids. It all depends on your budget, your wedding colors and theme, and of course your body type. Learn which LDS wedding dresses fit you best and how to find a gown that is both modest and stylish. Then pair them with just the right veil, shoes, and accessories to wrap it all together.
Where to Find Modest Wedding Dresses
Even in the dead of winter, it’s truly difficult to find even one modest dress in the formalwear or bridal section of most retailers. Most women’s formalwear is strapless or backless with a plunging neckline. The irony is that dresses with a little more coverage are actually more flattering for the majority of body types out there! Regardless of whether or not it makes sense, the fact is that any bride is going to have a difficult time finding a modest bridal gown – so she might as well know what to do about the situation.
Mormon Wedding Specialty Stores
LDS brides who live in areas with a large concentration of other Latter-day Saints usually have an easier time finding dresses that suit them for their Mormon wedding. Specialty LDS weddings retailers cater solely to Mormon brides who don’t want to bend their standards of modesty for their wedding day. Even brides who don’t live in Utah often make a special dress-shopping trip to Provo or Salt Lake City, including the travel cost in their wedding dress budget.
Online Formalwear Retailers
Even if you live in an area with little modest selection and don’t want to travel, you’re not completely out of luck. The Internet can be your best friend in shopping for modest wedding gowns and bridesmaid’s dresses. LDS specialty stores may physically reside in Utah and Idaho, but they have an online presence everywhere in the world. Regular formalwear stores also have a larger selection online than you see in the showroom, so you may want to check those out, too.
Chain Formal and Bridal Stores
Don’t discount the possibility of finding a dress at a non-LDS formalwear or bridal store. You may luck out and fall in love with a modest wedding gown that they carry, or you may find a gown that can be altered for modesty by adding sleeves or a chemise underneath. Talk to the salespeople about your needs and see if they can help you. It may be that they carry “less popular” dresses with sleeves in the warehouse and just need to order them in your size.
Temple Ready Dresses
Even if the wedding gown you ultimately select is modest, it still might not be “temple ready.” A dress that can be appropriately worn inside the temple for the sealing ceremony is:
- High necked (no collarbone showing)
- No train
If you don’t want to wear a long-sleeved wedding dress, don’t panic. You can always wear a dickie or faux sleeve inserts provided by the temple underneath your dress for the sealing, or you might opt to change into a plain white temple dress for the sealing. Brides without a temple ready dress can still get married in the temple, and have lots of options for what to wear during the sealing ceremony.
Temple ready rules only apply to the bride’s dress. The wedding party is not a part of the temple sealing ceremony. If the bridesmaids will be attending the sealing, they will be attending only as guests, wearing either their bridesmaid’s dress or changing into their “Sunday best” for the ceremony.
Setting a Bridal Gown Budget
On average, brides who shop retail stores and buy an off-the-rack dress can expect to spend between $500 and $1,000. Wedding gowns of all different styles and cuts have an enormous variation in pricing, though: brides could get lucky and find a dress for less than $100, but you can easily spend as much as $4,700 or more!
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by sticker shock the first time you browse a selection of wedding dresses and check the price tags. It can be hard to part with so much hard-earned money for a dress that you’ll probably only wear for 8 hours of your life! But remember that you will only have one wedding dress, and you will be seeing it in your wedding pictures for the rest of your life. If finances allow, you shouldn’t feel guilty about splurging on this special once-of-a-lifetime expense.
If you’ve gone over your finances and still feel nervous about taking on the cost of a wedding dress, seriously consider money-saving wedding dress tips like renting a gown or buying a pre-owned dress. Traditionally, the bridesmaids pay for their own dress, shoes, and hair.
Timeline for Buying LDS Wedding Dresses
As is the case with a lot of things related to wedding planning, the bridal gown is something you need to procure way in advance. Traditional sources say that you should start shopping for a dress 4 –6 months before the wedding, and that you should have the dress in your possession and ready for the final fitting 6 weeks before the wedding day.
That being said, Mormon engagements are often shorter than non-Mormon engagements, and LDS specialty stores are usually pretty good at accommodating shorter engagements.
Mormon Wedding Dress Shapes and Styles
Flip through any bridal magazine or browse through any bridalwear store, and you’ll see that there is an amazing amount of variation on the classic white bridal dress. In general, wedding dresses come in five basic cuts:
- A-line or princess
- Ball gown
- Empire waist
- Mermaid shape
- Sheath or column
Before even going to browse wedding dresses, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the five basic dress shapes and which ones are the most flattering for your body type. Doing so will save you a lot of time and frustration.
For example, if you have a large bustline that you don’t want to draw attention to, don’t waste time trying on empire waist dresses that will do nothing but emphasize your bust. If your problem is that you are very short-waisted, don’t bother trying on ball gown-style wedding dresses that will make your figure appear short and choppy.
Modest Wedding Dress Necklines, Sleeves, and Skirts
Apart from the basic cut of your wedding dress, there is a lot more to consider. Lots of factors influence the appearance and fit of the dress, including color, neckline, sleeve type, and skirt length.
Of course, the most traditional color for brides is one of the hundreds of shades of white. In recent years, however, many brides have been experimenting with color in their weddings.
Some may choose a two-toned ivory and white dress, or even ivory and beige. Others might go with a classic white wedding gown with a splash of bold color to tie into the rest of their wedding, like a brightly-colored band tied around the waist.
Feel free to experiment with color, but remember that temple dresses must be white, so if you plan to wear your wedding dress for the temple sealing let that guide your decision.
If you thought you saw lots of variation in the basic cut and shape of a wedding dress, then think again: there is even more variety in the style of neckline.
The shape and configuration of the dress’s neckline will be very prominent, as every eye will of course be trained on the face of the lovely bride – and consequently, the neckline. There are seven basic necklines for LDS weddings:
- Square neck
- Boat neck or slot neck
- Scoop neck
The neckline of your wedding dress should flatter your facial features, just as the cut of your dress should complement your body type. Round faces can be balanced with angular necklines, and more angular faces with rounded necklines, for instance. There are flattering necklines for every face shape as far as wedding dresses are concerned.
Even though LDS standards of modesty precludes some very popular types of wedding gowns – like tube top, halter, and spaghetti strap dresses – it doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice style on your wedding day.
There are so many stylish sleeve options for Mormon brides, including:
- Cap sleeve
- Short sleeve
- 3/4 Length sleeve
- Long sleeve
As is the case with necklines, some styles of sleeves flatter certain builds and bone structures better than others. So make sure you know what sleeve type and length to choose for your body type before deciding on your wedding dress.
Though the traditional Mormon wedding dress is full-length – that is, touching the tops of your shoes – there is a great deal of choice in skirt length for modern wedding dresses.
Depending on the cut and style of the dress, wedding dress skirts can be almost any length. Some of the most popular choices are:
- Knee length – comes just to the knees
- Intermission – falls just below the knees
- Tea length – falls a few inches below the knee
- Ballerina – comes to just above the ankle
- Ankle length – hem is right at the ankles
- Hi-Lo – dress is hemmed higher in the front than in the back
- Full-length – traditional look that drapes almost to the floor
Other considerations for wedding dress skirts is whether you want to add extras like tails or a bustle on the back for a little something special. It really depends on the style of dress you prefer and of course, your budget – extra adornments on your dress will obviously cost more.
LDS Wedding Dresses and Veil Length
Most Mormon brides focus on the dress in their planning, and then shop for a matching veil almost as an afterthought, but there is actually a lot more to wedding veil selection than meets the eye.
Though a veil can technically be any length, retailers usually divide wedding veils into three general categories:
- Elbow length
- Fingertip length
- Cathedral length
Veils also come in one-tier or two-tier varieties, and can be attached with a comb inserted in the hair or to a tiara or headband. Certain types and lengths of wedding veils look better with some gowns (and hairstyles) than others, so make sure to know which veil fits your wedding dress best before ordering anything.
Types and Styles of Wedding Shoes
Choosing wedding shoes is an integral part of wedding planning, and the importance of bridal shoes really shouldn’t be underestimated. They need to be stylish, but even more than that, they need to be comfortable. You’ll be on your feet for most of the day, taking pictures and dancing at the reception, and who wants to start out their honeymoon with blisters and sore feet?
The average wedding shoe has about a 2” heel, but it really depends on personal preference. If you feel comfortable getting around in stilettos and you like the way they look, then nothing says you shouldn’t wear them on your wedding day. Just remember that if the height of the groom is an issue, you need to be careful so that you aren’t towering over him in all of your wedding pictures.
Brides choose all sorts of shoes for their wedding day, from comfy ballet flats to decadent stilettos, open-toe to closed-toe. If you have a long dress and your shoes won’t show much, it may be a good idea to opt for comfort over style (remember Annie’s white wedding sneakers in Father of the Bride.)
When Choosing an LDS Wedding Dress
Brides shouldn’t go into a bridalwear retailer unprepared. Have you heard stories of someone who went to a car dealership “just to browse” and ended up walking away having bought a car? Scoff if you want, but unless you know what you want and you’re prepared, the same thing might end up happening to you.
When going to a wedding formalwear store, there are several essential items you should bring wedding dress shopping. But the most important item is one or two trusted friends. They can give their honest opinions and help you to keep from making an impulsive decision you might regret. Ideally, your mother and your maid of honor should accompany you – they will probably be flattered that you’re including them in such a monumental decision.
If you don’t already have garments but plan to receive your endowment before your wedding day, try to bring an endowed person with you who can advise you about whether or not particular dresses will offer enough coverage for your garments on your wedding day.
Wedding Checklist for the Bride’s Ensemble
All of the things you need to put together your bridal outfit for your wedding day can be pretty confusing, so it may be helpful to jot them down with a wedding checklist for the bride.
Make sure that your checklist includes obvious items like dress, veil, and shoes, but also other aspects you may forget in all the commotion of wedding planning such as jewelry, hair accessories, stockings, and undergarments.
Bridal Jewelry for LDS Weddings
The finishing touch for a bridal ensemble is her jewelry, so make sure that yours says who you are without overpowering the rest of your outfit.
The wedding day jewelry that you choose should be timeless and classic, so that you don’t look back at it in 15 years and ask, “What was I thinking?” It should also coordinate with your dress and hairstyle, as well as with the jewelry and dresses of the bridesmaids.
You’ll wear your wedding ensemble for only one day of your life, but it will last forever in pictures. Your appearance should be a visual representation of the beauty of your marriage, so it’s only natural that putting together your wedding dress, veil, shoes, and jewelry will take several months of careful planning.
Wedding dress shopping can be expensive, and finding a modest wedding dress is sometimes difficult, but know that in the end all your hard work and searching will pay off.
For tips on sewing your own wedding and wearing a homemade wedding gown, see DIY Wedding Dresses.
♥ Jenny Evans
Exclusively for WeddingLDS.com
Copyright © 2010-2013 WeddingLDS.com. All rights reserved.