The 'Two Wedding Dress' Trend

Tips for Buying and Wearing Two Wedding Dresses

A convertible wedding dress
A convertible dress gives the bride the option of creating two different bridal looks in one, removing the need to purchase two wedding dresses. (Angelica Glass Photography)

Anyone who has seen "Say Yes to the Dress" knows that the hottest trend for bridal fashion isn’t strapless or sleeves—it’s both! More and more brides are buying two wedding dresses for the big day to change up their look from ceremony to reception.

But is this trend about fashion versatility, or is it just a case of indecision? Isn't this trend a bit expensive for the average bride? Explore the “two wedding dress” trend to help you decide if a dual bridal look is right for you.

The History of the Trend

Changing wedding ensembles may seem like a recent trend, but it actually has a long history in the modern American wedding. As early as the 1930s, brides would change at the close of their reception into a “going away dress” for their grand exit, where guests would wish them well as they headed off to their honeymoon. Typically their going away dress would be some sort of chic bridal-inspired skirt and jacket suit set.

For a modern take on this concept, many bridal designers today are creating ​​“cake-cutting Dresses” for brides who want to switch things up. Cake-cutting dresses tend to be fun, shorter frocks that are meant to be worn toward the close of the reception when you cut the cake and dance until the end of the night. The typical cake-cutting dress is often much less expensive than a second wedding gown and could even be something you consider actually wearing again.

When to Switch

The bonus of the cake-cutting dress or the going away dress is that the names themselves clue you into when you should change from your formal wedding dress to the other. Otherwise, it could be less obvious, leaving brides uncertain of the best time to switch looks.

A good rule of thumb for when to change from your wedding dress to your second dress is during the cocktail hour, assuming you’ve had some time for portraits in your ceremony gown. While your guests are mixing and mingling, you can take time to change, touch up your makeup, and possibly even get your hair restyled before reappearing at the reception. Taking this time to refresh and change into your second dress gives you a second opportunity to wow your guests when you reemerge to have your first dance at the reception.

Bride changing into skirt
JovanaT/Getty Images

Why Choose Two Wedding Dresses?

Beth Chapman, founder of the legendary White Dress by the Shore, shared her thoughts on the trend: “Often brides can’t decide on the specific look that they want for the wedding day, so they select two dresses so that they can have the best of both worlds! A bride may love the idea of a romantic ball skirt for her ceremony so that she can feel like a princess. Then, she may opt to change into either a sophisticated sheath or a flirty short dress for the reception.”

Of course, there can be practical reasons as well. For some brides, the dress they imagine walking down the aisle in may have a grand train, heavy beading, or some other element that might make it too awkward or uncomfortable to wear all night. If you can't imagine wearing your full ball gown that you wore in your cathedral ceremony to bust a move on the dance floor at your reception, a second dress seems like a sensible idea. 

Choosing to wear two dresses means you're paying for two dresses, so if budget is a factor for you, you'll need to plan accordingly. It would be best to know from the beginning of your search that you want two wedding dresses. When shopping for your wedding dress, let your consultant know that you have two totally different looks in mind that will require two totally different gowns. Shopping for both looks at the same time will not only help you stick to your overall wedding dress budget, but it will also ensure that you have two fabulous but unique and different looks.

A Modern Alternative

The two-dress trend has become so popular, many modern designers are also creating two-for-one bridal looks. “There is a trend toward convertible dresses," says Chapman. "One of my favorite looks in our boutique is from Modern Trousseau. They offer a lace sheath silhouette with a separate tulle ball skirt over it. This allows the bride to have a fairy tale look for her ceremony and then remove the tulle skirt and have a sophisticated lace sheath for the reception.” Convertible wedding dresses are perfect for the bride who only wants to buy one gown, but enjoys the drama of two distinct looks.

Other ideas to create a convertible two-in-one look for your wedding day include adding on accessories. Perhaps you want to remain a little more conservative for the ceremony but be able to let loose for the reception. You could wear a sweetheart strapless gown and layer it with a lace topper, fur bolero or beaded capelet to add a little more cover to your arms and décolletage. These add-ons can easily be removed (or added) between the ceremony and reception to switch up your look, and are generally less expensive than purchasing two separate gowns.

Whether you want two completely different bridal looks that include two separate wedding dresses, or if you just want to add on or remove layers between your wedding and reception, there are options to switch up your wedding day look that suit any size budget.