What to Know About Wearing Two Dresses At Your Wedding

A rack of wedding dresses against a white brick wall.

The only thing better than one gorgeous wedding dress is two—one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Multiple wedding dresses have been an option for a long time (think “going away” dresses that were made popular in the mid-century), but they’ve made a resurgence in the past few years thanks to brides who want to move freely on the dance floor and not be restricted by heavy lace or long sleeves. But is it worth it to buy two dresses, or should you focus all your energy and attention on buying one dress that’s both stylish and comfortable enough for all the moving around during the reception? Here’s everything you need to know about wearing two dresses at your wedding.

Establish Your Budget for Both Dresses

For budget reasons, it’s a good idea to decide from the very beginning that you want two dresses for your wedding. Before you even step foot into a bridal store, have your budget ready and keep in mind a number that you’d like to allocate toward the ceremony dress and what will be left over for the reception dress (or vice versa, depending on what your priority is!).

Know When You’ll Want to Change

A couple women unbuttoning a bride from her dress to change into a different one for the reception.

Having two dresses means that at some point in the evening you’ll be changing into your second gown. But when exactly should you make the switch happen? That answer depends on what exactly your second dress will be used for. Are you planning on going traditional and not changing out of your first gown until you are about to leave (AKA the “going away” dress, or do you want to immediately change out of your ceremony gown after the last of your posed photographs have been taken? Have an idea of when you want to change and mark it on your day-of timeline.

You Don’t Have to Match the Dress Styles

Many brides think that if you have two dresses, they both need to be similar in style or shape, but there’s absolutely no need to be consistent. In fact, having two dresses is a good way to not have to compromise between two styles that you love and can’t decide between—whether that’s one traditional and one glamorous or one white and one with multiple colors. Although there’s no need to stick to any particular set of rules, many brides choose a more formal ceremony dress and a reception dress that’s more breathable, fun, and easy to move around in.

Think About the Shoes

A bride's heeled shoes peeking out from underneath a lace wedding dress outside.

Your long gown may cover up the comfortable flats you plan on wearing during the marriage ceremony, but if your reception dress is short, don’t forget about getting a second pair of shoes for that outfit, or making one pair of shoes work for both dresses. Although there’s no rule that says you have to wear stilettos with a shorter dress, don’t leave those details until the last minute and be disappointed with your shoe choice for the night. No matter what style of shoe you wear, always break them in before the big day—because no one wants bridal blisters at the end of the night!

Be Prepared with Undergarments for Both

Bridal underwear is unfortunately not universal, and it’s important that you be prepared with different sets for both dresses as needed. While your ceremony gown may have a sewn-in bodice or bra, your reception gown is likely going to be more casual and require that you wear an extra strapless bra or backless sticky bra.

Have a Plan for Photographs

A bride wearing a formal gown and getting her picutre taken by a photographer.

When you’re planning on wearing two dresses during your wedding, you’ll have to be more strategic with when your photographs will be taken (and in what dress). Assuming your more formal gown will be worn for the ceremony, you might want to get all of the “official” photos taken in this first dress, such as the photos with family, the wedding party, and your new spouse. Avoid having the regret of “I wish I had worn my first dress in ____ photograph” by having an exact plan with your photographer and a list of the photographs you’d like to take.

Look into a Convertible Dress

If the idea of paying for two dresses is unappealing but you’d still like the flexibility and movement of a reception dress, many dress designers make what’s called a “convertible” dress. Many of these dresses have detachable skirts, which can be removed after you take your photographs and before you hit the dance floor. Just have someone at the ready to help you remove the detachable part of the dress so you’re not having to mess with buttons, zips, or hooks on your own.

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