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Neckline, Necklines 101

Your Gown: Choosing a Look

Can't quite find your inner bride? We're here to help!

Photo: Keith Lathrop

You've been dreaming about buying a wedding dress since the very first time you draped a white pillowcase over the back of your head. But now that you're finally ready to walk down the aisle, you're not quite sure what type of bride you'd like to be. Should you go with a traditional look? A modern one? Or are you more of a bohemian? And what about your groom? Is he a tuxedo and bow tie kind of guy? Or is he more comfortable in linen pants and a blazer? Whether you choose a formal candlelit ceremony, a spiritual setting, or a laid-back island style, here are a few tips for dressing for the occasion.

Find Your Inner Bride

Before you start shopping for your dream dress, take a minute to close your eyes and envision yourself as a bride. What do you see? Are you wearing a full ball gown with your hair in romantic ringlets? Or are you outfitted in an ethereal, flowing dress, with loose hair sprinkled with flowers? Write down six adjectives that best describe how you want to look and feel on your wedding day, such as summery, traditional, princess, sexy, sophisticated, over-the-top. Then have your groom do the same and compare notes. If you're thinking full royal regalia and he's thinking beach wedding and bermudas, you may have your work cut out for you. Try using a religious custom, an aspect of the way you met, or something near and dear to your hearts -- swing dancing, horseback riding, the '20s -- to set the mood instead.

tip

Whether your motivation comes from the "something old, something new..." tradition, or the "I'm-going-to-do-this-MY-way" credo, accessories are the easiest way to add a few unexpected touches of personal style to your look.

Celebrate Your Setting

Another thing to consider: the formality of your ceremony and the features of the site. While every bride and groom should feel free to choose the wedding style of their dreams, their attire should also reflect the time and place of their nuptials. A formal candlelit ceremony is not the time for a bride to be sporting a short sundress, the groom a morning coat and ascot. Nor is an afternoon garden party the place to break out the cathedral-length veil, top hat, and tails. If your wedding is outdoors in a breathtaking locale, choose an equally romantic look for your ceremony -- say, a flirty ankle-length dress with embroidered leaves and vines. Likewise, if your party is planned in a proper reception hall, consider more classic to-be-wed ensembles that mimic the mood, or celebrate your inner cool catness with a sleek asymmetric gown and a monochromatic look for the groom. Go for drama in a theater environ with a vintage tux and over-the-top gown. And embrace the setting at a beach wedding with a two-piece dress, a pair of sheer flowing pants or a daring white bikini; have your groom don a Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks.

Pay Attention to Details

That said, there are ways to incorporate your personal sense of style into any ceremony -- no matter what the location. It's all in the details. Whether your motivation comes from the "something old, something new..." tradition, or the "I'm-going-to-do-this-MY-way" credo, accessories are the easiest way to add a few unexpected touches of personal style to your setting. If you're a classic country bride, why not have your groom slip into a pair of cowboy boots and a lariat? If you're Scottish, don a kilt. Are you athletes? Change into running shoes for the ceremony. If you're the starving artist types, make it Birkenstocks. Even if you decide to go the straight up, by-the-book traditional route, you’re still communicating your own personal sense of style. How? The ageless Grace Kelly gown, a string of pearls, a classic tux, the perfect pair of gold cufflinks... all timelessly elegant. Just like you.

-- Hollee Actman Becker

See More: Wedding Dress Shopping