What to Wear-Level of Formality

Today we’re going to talk about what all the brides have been waiting for: the wedding day look. The gowns, the flowers, the makeup and hairstyles. We recently did an overview of this at our Bride and Groom Night Out in March at the Historic Southern Railway Station. Talented fellow professionals joined us and rocked creating three different looks to help demonstrate how the bridal day look can reflect the level of formality.


    The length of the dress, fabric, silhouette and various elements all contribute to determining the level of formality of a dress. Make-up styles can vary from the more natural look to dramatic.

     The first look we’ll discuss is the Informal Bride. Our model, Sierra, is wearing an informal style from the Belsoi Collection by Jasmine. The features that make it informal are the English net fabric, which is similar to tulle. The sheen to the fabric gives it a laid back, bohemian feel. It has beading on the halter straps and under the bust line. It is very light and delicate and the shape of the neckline helps elongate the neck making it very feminine and sexy. Other fabrics and features to look for in an informal gown include light fabrics such as chiffon and organza and simple beading or embelishments. Empire waist gowns are often informal as are tea or knee length. Makeup is an over-all natural look with subtle, smoky eyes and nearly nude lips. Sierra’s hair is done in a fairly simple updo with a pouf at the crown of the head and nape of the neck for volume and smooth. Lightly coiled buns provide a fitting contrast for the braid peeping through the middle of the hairstyle. The veil is attached close to the nape of the neck, giving it a more informal look. The bouquet she carries is loose spray that includes long leafy foliage such as eucalyptus sprigs, as well as roses and peonies, and cotton blossoms tucked in here and there.

Next is a semi-formal style demonstrated by model Hannah. Her attire is a sweet, tea length Justin Alexander gown that has a soft and fun, non-traditional look. The attention to detail and fabrics create a more semi-formal look, even though it is a shorter dress. The bodice and hem are overlaid with Venitian lace, the underlay is covered in sequins, and the lining is featured in gold. The dress is very light and romantic and makes a statement that is both timeless and fun. It’s great proto-type for the bride that wants a Jackie O look, but doesn’t want to take herself too seriously. A dress like this is ideal for a downtown wedding or something more intimate with family. Hannah’s eyes are defined by a thicker upper lash line and medium shading in the crease while her lips are treated with a deep red as a nod to the 50’s and 60’s. The barrel rolls in Hannah’s hair also come from that era, and combined with the curls, create a semi-formal hairstyle. The round bouquet of roses she carries is simple, but its structure is formal.


     Our third model is Grace. She demonstrates a formal/glamour look. This classic ball gown by Justin Alexander has amazing shape and texture. It’s a very traditional, timeless style. Yet, it is a little more modern for the newest generation of brides due to the deep sweetheart neckline and pockets on the side seam. The fabric is dupioni silk- which is a formal fabric along with satin, taffeta, and brocade- and features a cathedral train with buttons down the back. One of the indicators that determines whether a gown is semi-formal or formal is the length of the train. A chapel train extends about four feet extending from the waist. It can be worn in formal weddings, but is more popular for semi-formal. A cathedral train, however, is nearly always formal; it extends approximately 7 and a half feet from the waist. A monarch train is even longer (9 feet from the waist) and is decidedly formal, as it is seen in many royal weddings. Whether the ceremony is held in a church, updated warehouse, or on a rooftop, this gown is the perfect choice for an upscale to black tie wedding. Grace’s makeup is clean and natural, complementing her classic, formal attire. A flat, finely woven crown sits atop an intricate updo and a long train with beading at the edges is placed higher on the head contributing to the formal look. Her sheath bouquet contains long grasses, tulips, and calla lilies. Both the choice of flowers and the structure make it formal in style.


     There you have it: the basics of how to piece together a bridal day look in the level of formality you have planned. Creating your wedding day look becomes so much easier when you have a guide for each element. As always, we are here to help make your wedding day one that fits you as a couple and to take away stress so that you can enjoy time with family and friends. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us and set up a free initial appointment to see how we can help.

     Many thanks to everyone who worked together to create these bridal day looks and provided information on each area of styling. Vandygayle with Orange Blossom Artistry did the makeup. Hairstyles were created by Christina with Reflections by Christina. Melissa of Melissa Timm Designs crafted and provided the bouquets. Wedding Wonderland was a huge blessing, not only letting us borrow the gowns but also fitting the brides to the gowns and providing lovely accessories-all at the last minute. Finally, thanks to Ben Moser with Knox Wedding Creative for use of the photos you took the evening of the Bride and Groom Night Out.


      As a bonus, I want to share with you a few current trends passed to us from Wedding Wonderland for wedding gowns this year.

     This year is very different compared to past bridal seasons. Brides are generally looking for one of two styles: traditional or different.

The traditional look can be anything from a mermaid, to a-line, to ball gown, and usually has lace and/delicate beading. They’re looking for something timeless that in twenty years time, will still love to look at and show to family.  With the traditional bride, most of them are looking for a more conservative neckline, and some variant of sleeve treatment.  The lace is a finer (or smaller) pattern, and the beading is just enough to make the gown glisten in candlelight or at dusk.  Trains are very important to this bride, and they usually prefer something a little longer.

With the other group of brides, something less traditional and stereotypical is required.  These brides want something that they haven’t seen everywhere, on all their friends.  Plunging necklines, back detail, and a strap or sleeve is what they prefer.  The gowns typically are made in a different kind of fabric (i.e. jersey, charmeuse, or silk-organza), and they have texture.  Three dimentional flowers on top of lace, or canvasing around a peplum or hem make these gowns stand out.  Trends for these gowns indicate a love for color, mixing fabrics, lace, and shape, and adding touches of beading to give it a more personal touch.

Many brides are finding that they are liking the opposite of what they envisioned originally.  Our brides are discovering that it’s ok to step out of their comfort zone and make the gown something that represents them.  Adding sleeves, removing straps, dropping backs, and changing shapes is all part of making both a non-traditional bride and a traditional bride happy with the overall look in their gown.


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