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How to Find the Best Bridal Reception Dress

Bride and groom holding hand

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As a bride, you’ll do a lot on your wedding day. You’ll go from a grand walk down the aisle, to a photoshoot, to a festive reception faster than you can say ‘I do’. If you think about it, it’s a little unfair to expect one dress to take you through all that and more.

Your big day is also your one chance to really splurge on yourself. This is why so many brides are choosing to wear two dresses instead of one and treat themselves to a reception dress.

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Here’s how to find a bridal reception dress for your wedding day.

What is a Reception Dress?

Bride in her reception dress

‘Mila’ A-Line Tulle Wedding Dress by Piondress Bridal. Check price here.

We all picture ourselves wearing the most beautiful gown on our wedding day. We think about how grand the skirt might be, the silhouette, the fabric and the shade of white. What we don’t think about is how practical it will be to actually wear the dress for the entire day.

It is a dream to walk down the aisle feeling like a princess in a bountiful ball gown, but will you enjoy dancing at your reception in the same hoop skirt?

This is where a bridal reception dress comes into play. Reception dresses are generally a floaty A-line silhouette, simple sheath cuts with a slit for movability, or shorter dresses. They allow you to wear the dress of your dreams at your ceremony and a second beautiful dress that is less fussy at your reception.

Who Should Wear a Reception Dress?

Bride dancing at her wedding reception

If your wedding dress is ballgown, mermaid or has a long train and you would like to be able to move with ease at your reception, then a reception dress is definitely a good option for you.

However, any bride that wants a little more freedom, or simply wants to treat herself to a second dress, can wear a reception dress.

How To Choose the Right Reception Dress

A reception dress certainly doesn’t have to be as elaborate (or as expensive) as your main wedding gown. But it should still make you feel like the belle of your ball. To find a reception dress that balances ease and bridal elegance, consider the following things.

Find a Gown to Match Your Main Gown

Bride wearing minimalist wedding dress

‘Dalarna’ minimalist wedding dress by Mila Bridal. Check price here.

You likely put a lot of effort into matching your wedding dress with the style and decor of your wedding. To keep your look in tune you should do your best to find a reception dress that suits as well. This will ensure that you look the part in both outfits.

The dresses don’t need to be identical, but it is a nice touch to match specific design elements such as the fabric, the style of the buttons or the pattern or motif of the lace or beading.

A Dress for Dancing

Bride wearing short wedding gown

‘Stefani’ tea length wedding dress by Alex Veil Bridal. Check price here.

A wedding is a celebration so you want to be able to celebrate without holding back! A dress that allows you to dance should be high up on the list of criteria for a reception dress.

Shorter A-line gowns are a great silhouette as the full skirt will elevate your look but will still leave you with enough room to move. Avoid short, figure-hugging dresses as they will be restricting, and if dancing is a priority this is the last thing that you want.

If your preference is a longer hemline, look for a sleek gown with a slit above the knee for something fitted, or a loose flowing skirt in floaty fabric that will allow your legs space to move.

When to Change into Your Reception Dress

Couple at wedding reception

A change of gown should match a change of mood which generally happens when the reception begins.

You will generally want to change into your reception dress after your photoshoot and before your reception. Practically it is a good time as you won’t have to leave your event for the wardrobe change. It will also allow you to make a second grand entrance and wow your guests with another beautiful dress.

The only exception to this timing would be if you wanted to wear your original dress during your first dance. If you and your groom plan on a traditional waltz, then it would be doable and beautiful to keep your first wedding dress on for the dance and change after. If your first dance will be more of a performance, then think about whether you would prefer to change into your second dress to suit the fun vibe of your dance.

Reception Dress Alternatives

If you love your wedding dress and feel that you’ll have a great time at your reception in it, some alternatives will allow you to wear the same dress but achieve different looks.

Bride wearing detachable wedding train

Detachable Wedding Train by Wardrobe by Dulcinea. Check price here.

A completely different reception dress isn’t the only option for a change on your wedding day. A detachable train or cape can extend the trailing hemline of your gown for your walk down the aisle and can be removed at the reception for more freedom.

A delicate capelet or coverup can also turn a sexy gown into a demure gown for the ceremony. For something different, dress down a formal wedding dress for your reception with a leather or denim jacket that has been personalized for your wedding.

A Stylish Send-Off

Girl wearing stylish white jumpsuit with jacket

Corset, Trousers and Blazer by Dream and Dress. Check price here.

Another option for a second outfit would be to have a ‘going away’ outfit that you change into just before you and your new husband leave the reception. This is an older tradition that was borne of practicality. It was the norm for newlyweds to go on their honeymoon immediately after their celebration so a bride would often change into a simple white outfit that could be worn while traveling too.

This will obviously work a charm if you and your groom plan to start your honeymoon straight away. It’s also a fun second option if you want to treat you and your guests to a last-minute stunning outfit. A chic pantsuit paired with a simple silk white top is effortless, elegant and best of all – wearable.

This is perhaps the best thing about a reception dress or outfit. They are often simple enough to be worn at formal events thereafter so you can continue to enjoy one of the outfits that you wore on your big day.