I'm a storyteller who believes life is made up of the little moments and that the best photographs look for the in-between
For many brides, going to a bridal boutique and choosing a dress is one of the most exciting parts of the planning process. And if that’s your thing, check out these local bridal boutiques:
Studio I Do in Roanoke, Virginia
Annalise Bridal in Richmond, Virginia
Ashley Grace Bridal in Lynchburg, Virginia
But for my couples who are eloping, often the process of picking out your outfit looks a little different (i.e. it may be ordered online). So here are a few tips for you:
If you are eloping on top of a mountaintop, there is almost always going to be wind. The wind will catch any fluttering fabric and throw it around — it’s gorgeous and is one of my favorite things to photograph. Dresses with flowing skirts are also easier to move in — if you are hiking or running around on the top of a mountain you’ll want to stay away from anything that constricts your legs!
Just embrace this as a fact of life now. The bottom of your dress is going to get filthy. Sometimes, you can clean it, often you can’t, and your dress is just a testament to the amazing adventure you had.
White is certainly traditional in the United States, but you can wear whatever you want in whatever color you want. Many of the companies and designers I’m including here also have dresses or jumpsuits in a variety of colors — but particularly look at Etsy, and Rue de Seine for alternative-style dresses.
For some couples, the couture wedding dress is really important, and I’m going to talk about some of my favorite designers below that you should 100 percent check out.
But ordering your dress online can be a little scary — especially when a lot of the designer dresses are non-returnable.
So here are a couple places to consider that will allow you to order, try on and return if they don’t work for you. Often if you purchase from these places you will end up with a gorgeous dress for less than $200. But keep in mind no matter where you buy your dress from, in order for it to fit optimally, you will likely need to get it altered.
Pro-tip: when buying online, get someone else to measure you. Ideally, go to the tailor you’ll be using for alterations and get a professional to measure you. Then, before you order make sure you double check the retailers specific size guide with your measurements. Dress sizes and street sizes are often two different things and can be different company to company.
And as always, please keep in mind these are just suggestions and not endorsements for quality. Do your own research, buy at your own risk =).
I have had multiple brides pick dresses from Lulus and honestly they are beautiful. You would never be able to tell they ordered online.
They offer free shipping on orders over $50 and free returns within 10 days of delivery. And the dresses are often under $100, so order a few, try them on and return all but “the one.” Here are two of my favorites from their current collection.
Forever and Always White Lace Maxi Dress from Lulus for $92
Asos offers a variety of silhouettes for their wedding dresses but most are in a little bit more of the boho or simple style. They range in price from about $150-500 with the average looking like it’s about $250. Shipping is free for orders over $50 and they accept returns within 45 days of delivery. However, their plus-sized offerings are sorely lacking. Boo Asos.
Mr. Pretty Skirts are affordable separates (and more recently dresses) handmade in China. There is a TON of selection on their website and the pieces are truly beautiful. They are not returnable unless there is a manufacturer problem and some reviewers say that shipping can take awhile so be forewarned if you are in a rush! I’ve seen a lot of people use the skirts for styled shoots or maternity sessions and been really pleased with them — I don’t have any feedback on the dresses so buy at your own risk, but some of those look gorgeous as well =).
I bought MY wedding dress on Etsy. It was handmade in Barcelona to my measurements and cost about $500 USD. There are so, so many options of different kinds and styles of dresses on Etsy. Most are not returnable, but they can be quite a bit more affordable than buying in a boutique and are often made to measure. So if you are looking for something custom or to support a small artisan, consider checking some of these out.
Bridesmaid’s Dresses in White
This is one my personal favorite wedding hacks. Did you know you can order just about any bridesmaid’s dress in white? Bridesmaid dresses are often simpler than wedding dresses but they also don’t take as long to make so if you are in a rush and still want the bridal boutique experience, consider buying a bridesmaid’s dress in white (or ordering one online). Like wedding dresses, traditional bridesmaids dresses are often not returnable so just be careful to read the fine print before you purchase.
But maybe you’re looking for something a little more fancy or boho or couture. If so, I highly recommend checking out these designers for your elopement. Some of these designers (like Hayley Paige) are only retailed in bridal boutiques while others (like BHLDN) you can purchase online.
I’ve had several brides get married in Hayley Paige dresses and they are truly extraordinary works of art. If you are looking for a ballgown that is a little bit nontraditional this is 100 percent where I would point you. Honestly, by the time we paid for our wedding we were broke as a joke, but if I were to do things again and had the money for a designer wedding dress, this is who I would buy from.
Unless of course I bought my dress from BHLDN ;). BHLDN is the wedding line for Anthropologie. Some Anthropologie stores (including the one in Charlottesville), have a BHLDN section of their store if you want to try on dresses or buy off the rack. BHLDN dresses, like any designer dresses, can be pricy so if you love the vibe but not the price, consider looking at their bridesmaid section and buying one of those for your wedding dress. They are going to be a lot more simple than their wedding line (which is gorg) but there are some beautiful dresses there as well.
If lace is your thing, look no further. Reclamation has hit the boho/elopement stage with a storm in recent years. Most of their dresses feature intricate lace patterns and are incredibly well made. They will flow and stand up to whatever you throw at them for your adventurous elopement. These dresses can be purchased off of Etsy.
Grace Loves Lace is an Australian wedding dress company. If Haley Paige and Reclamation had a baby, her name would be Grace. They are boho, often include flowy elements and photograph beautifully.
The awesome thing about Willowby is that they have both couture wedding dresses that are made to order AND a ready to ship line so if you are in a hurry and want a beautiful dress these can be a great option for an online “off the rack” deal. The ready to ship sizes can be limited (and small) though.
Who said your dress had to be white? Although if you want a white dress, Rue de Seine has them too. These are western-inspired dresses that are incredibly unique. Of everything we’ve talked about today, Rue de Seine is going to probably have the most innovative designs. They pair really well with cowboy boots and hats and will probably make you want to ride off into the sunset on a white horse =).
Ok, to finish let’s talk really quick about dress silhouettes. A silhouettes is essentially the basic shape the dress takes. There’s about 6-8 of them, but the ones I typically recommend for elopements are:
Jumpsuit (not a dress, but wearing a dress is not a requirement for your elopement).
And the ones I recommend staying away from are mermaid and trumpet (which make your figure look vavavoom, but are harder to move in).
So let’s talk a little bit about these.
A ballgown is like a princess dress and may not seem like a first choice for an adventurous elopement, but the big skirts don’t restrict your legs and are often really, really pretty. So if you’ve always imagined looking like Cinderella, but are eloping, we can still make that dream come true.
A-line dresses are fitted at the shoulders (and often down to the hips) and then get slightly wider to the hem. They are considered one of the most flattering silhouettes for any body type.
Two-piece dresses are…what they sound like. Often they can include a slight crop if you have been working on your abs and want to show them off, but they don’t have to. In some, the top fits over the skirt while on others the top is more like a bodysuit and fits underneath (you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell it’s two pieces.)
Sheath dresses skim the contoures of your body — they tend to be a little form fitting, but not as tight as a mermaid or trumpet. So if you are looking for a classic silhouette you can still move in, this is a great option.
Jumpsuits. Honestly there are some AMAZING wedding jumpsuits out there. They can include capes, flow or be form fitting, are easy to move in, comfortable and…I’m a big fan. Asos carries them, as does BHLDN or you can find beautiful jumpsuits at stores like Nordstrom and the classic David’s Bridal.