Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Honestly, we may never know. And, in the list of great mysteries that will plague us for generations to come, we must also ask…
Which came first, the dress or the venue? The truth is, it’s different for every single bride. I’ve been dreaming of my perfect wedding dress since I was five years old (probably even before that). I used to sit on the floor by my bed as a teenage girl and clip dresses out of magazines and paste them into a notebook with my purple glue stick (don’t act like you didn’t do the same thing). So, for me, the dress has always been the most important aspect of planning a wedding. However, some experts like Best for Bride, Brides.com, and Carrie Bradshaw say that you should always pick the venue before the wedding dress. And who I am to say that Carrie Bradshaw doesn’t know what she’s talking about? (Okay, maybe she made some questionable decisions, and let’s not even talk about And Just Like That… but that’s beside the point.)
So, join me as I try to go back in time and clip pictures of venues out of wedding magazines rather than dresses. I’ll tell you what you need to know to be able to coordinate your wedding dress with your venue.
The formality of the venue should play a role in the dress that you select. Carrie’s Vivienne Westwood gown wouldn’t have been as appropriate at the Justice of the Peace as it was for the New York Public Library. Amative bride, Cassie matched her dress perfectly to her more formal venue. Her reception took place at the Virginian Hotel in Lynchburg, VA, and her dress was the perfect addition to the classically elegant yet modernly fashionable ballroom.
Similar to the formality of a venue, the vibe of the venue will play a role in how you choose your wedding dress. A wedding set in a barn is going to have a different vibe than a wedding held at a historic building.
Amative bride, Carrie did a great job coordinating her dress with the rustic vibe of her wedding venue. Carrie & her husband Colton were married on their property in the country surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Autumn also perfectly coordinated her wedding dress with her garden venue. The dress even featured tiny little flower petals all over it. And can we just say, we LOVE how she accessorized the dress for her bridal shoot? So cute!
Experts at Normans Bridal Shoppe in Missouri suggest that you should pick a theme or a word to guide the decision of both the venue and the wedding dress. Then, you’re destined for the two to fit together.
Amative bride, Sarah was married in the backyard of a home that had been in her family for generations, surrounded by her family’s legacy. It’s clear that her dress fit in this place where she spent so many of her growing-up years. The vintage quality of the lace in her gown complimented the deep history of her venue.
The terrain might not be something you think about when trying to coordinate your dress with your venue. However, it can be an important factor (though arguably more for practical reasons than fashion ones). It should go without saying that a ball gown and a beach may not be the best combination in the world. One expert suggests that gowns with long, sweeping trains may be more suitable for cathedral weddings than grassy meadows.
Amative bride, Jade kept this in mind when selecting her bridal gown. Her dress does have a small train, but the fabric has a bit more weight to it that allows it to not get caught up in the terrain. And the shape at the bottom of the gown allows her to still have ease of movement. Not to mention that the gown is stunning and it highlights Jade’s beauty perfectly.
One side note here, as you think about the terrain, it may also be a good time to consider the typical weather at your venue. Remember that beaches tend to be a bit windier and so fabrics that will flow in that breeze may be perfect options. The light layers on Amative bride, Sarah’s gown are a great example of a perfect fabric for a beach wedding.
Don’t be afraid to take a risk. After all, your wedding is your day to shine. It should be all about you, your love for your spouse, and celebrating the coming together of these two lives/families. There can be a reward in taking a risk in both the venue and gown choice. We love the unexpected venue Amative couple Cassie & Derek chose for their big day. Their wedding took place in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA. Between the stunning architecture and the gorgeous flowers in the gardens, their venue made for some stunning wedding photos. And similar to bride Autumn, Cassie’s dress had tiny flower petals on the skirt that perfectly complimented the venue.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from spending countless hours watching Chip & Joanna, it’s that every layer of a design should complement each other. Think of your wedding dress as just another layer in the overall design of your wedding. One suggestion to help with this strategy is to consider the scale of the space. For instance, you wouldn’t put a huge bold patterned wallpaper in a tiny room, similarly, the scale of the dress should fit into the overall design and scale of the wedding. As one expert puts it, an intimate wedding will likely require a more relaxed or form-fitting shape than a wedding at the Ritz Carlton with over 500 guests.
Amative bride, Yang is a perfect example of the dress fitting into the overall design of the wedding. And in this case, the dress was the star. Yang selected an embroidered flowy dress with an attached cape. And don’t you just think she looks like a little sprite in the forest? So beautiful!
One tip to keep in mind is that classic shapes and silhouettes (like Carrie Bradshaw’s vintage wedding suit) will usually work in most settings and venues. Amative bride, Marcey is a perfect example of this in her classicly cut gown. Both the lines of the dress as well as the fabric are timeless and will work in almost any setting.
So maybe it isn’t a mystery which should come first, the venue or the dress. The truth is, Carrie Bradshaw probably knew the right thing to do all along. Teenage me will just have to hold on to those wedding dress clippings until the perfect venue comes along.
Now you know [almost] everything there is to know about coordinating your wedding dress with your venue. But, before you go shopping for the dress, be sure you read our Say Yes to the Dress blog with tips from Leecy Fink at Celebration Bridal to help you prepare for your bridal gown appointment. When you pick your perfect venue and the perfect dress, you too can be Carrie Bradshaw. And whether you’re planning to get married in the New York Public Library in a Vivienne Westwood gown or in front of the Justice of the Peace in a chic vintage suit, we know your wedding will be everything you want it to be.
And be sure to check out our feature in Virginia Living written by the amazing Jennifer Prince. A huge shout out to all the vendors present in these images as well!