Nothing against runway models or mannequins, but seeing wedding gowns in all their splendour on brides of all shapes and sizes is a beautiful thing. Here, 50 real brides show us what they wore and why.
Cupcakes and Cashmere blogger Emily Schuman captivates millions of readers with her daily style snapshots and musings. When she announced she was engaged, fans wondered which gown would make the cut. This vintage-inspired Claire Pettibone stunner with intricate beading was worth the wait. "I didn't have to make any compromises—it fit the vibe of our venue perfectly, was flattering, but also extremely comfortable," said Emily.
Larissa reminds us of a movie starlet from a bygone era in her lace-edged Jasmine Couture gown (style T442) with its elegant illusion neckline. She accessorized it with a ballerina bun, silver heels and a creamy fur (not pictured) for her winter wedding at the Carrick House in Lexington, Kentucky.
Klia still gets messages from strangers asking who designed the intricately-detailed dress she wore to her December 2011 wedding, and with good reason: It's an original, there exists none like it. Philippines designer Veluz Reyes sketched the custom design based on the bride's personality, and the execution turned out beautifully. "I just could not stop smiling the day of the wedding!" the bride said.
Denise Panetta helped her daughter, Angela Fortescue, find her regal wedding gown by Ines di Santo. So it was only fitting that this amazing mom submitted her daughter's wedding photos to us on behalf of the bride, who wed this past August. "She knew when she tried this dress on that it was The One: It showed off her beautiful figure," said Panetta. The Detroit duo scored this couture style at half price during a sample sale at Roma Sposa Bridal Evening Atelier.
Carrie "simply couldn't resist" the exquisite hand-crafted lace of her Monique Lhullier dress. Her favorite part? She couldn't pick just one, raving about its sexy open back, elegant sleeves, and how comfortable it was to wear, despite the warm May weather.
Lace can be youthful and fresh: Just take a gander at this Martina Liana fit-and-flare that Megan wore at her July nuptials. The California bride added her grandmother's brooch to the back, and a rhinestone sash to the front. "It gave it that extra special touch and completed the dress — it was exactly what I had envisioned," she said.
Danielle's Alfred Angelo ballgown (part of the "Sapphire Collection") was the highlight of her Old Hollywood-themed fête in Florida. It had a chapel-length train and a cream color "that was beautiful at night." It also came with optional beaded straps.
When this bride slipped on Ian Stuart's "Sydney" at Mariee, a tiny shop in Gainey Village, she felt it was fate. Here, she's pictured with her new step-daughter by the same name at her April wedding on a golf course overlooking Eagle Mountain in Arizona. Her dress' vintage-inspired flair was enhanced with the addition of off-the-shoulder sleeves.
Brianna resembled a modern-day Veronica Lake at her wedding at the Richard Nixon Library and Museum in California. Her sophisticated Enzoani gown is versatile and the champagne sash adds a hint of color without being over-the-top.
Meghan married Kevin at Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana on October 11, sharing the same wedding date as her parents. The gathered illusion neckline of her Vera Wang gown is an optimal choice for autumnal brides seeking coverage while still showing some skin.
Everything fell into place when Lindsay went for an impromptu dress shopping visit with her bridesmaids at a tiny boutique in Atlanta. She scored this Jim Hjelm gown for 80% off, so she had room to splurge for an aquamarine pair of Jimmy Choos at her November wedding in North Carolina.
Larissa's vintage theme for her August wedding didn't begin to materialize until after she found her Justin Alexander gown, the fourth one she tried on. Not only did it vibe perfectly with her incredibly chic wedding venue, the US Grant Hotel in San Diego, but it also resembled her grandmother's wedding gown, which made it even more meaningful.
No simple, straight train would do for this fashion-forward May bride. Annie was immediately drawn to the asymmetrical ruching on this Allure dress; edgy yet somehow timeless, just like her venue, Gaillardia Country Club in Oklahoma City. She felt "amazing" in its crystal bodice with buttons going down the back (not pictured).
Alexandra's Augusta Jones gown is a lace lover's dream. "Obsessed" with the fabric, she knew that this fit-and-flare beaded style was the right fit for her August wedding at the Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C. She will never forget her husband's reaction when she walked down the aisle and he saw her in it for the first time.
An in-house designer at Jon's Bridal in Tampa, Florida created this princess-worthy ball gown for Mandy Drew's country-style wedding. "I tried it on and it fit like a glove — I didn't have to alter anything except the length. I guess it was meant to be!" said Drew.
Kirstie wears the gown, it doesn't wear her. She pulls off the fitted bodice-full skirt combo effortlessly, with playfulness to spare. The May bride purchased this Forever Yours International style at Country Bumpkin in Cookeville, Tennessee for her balmy beach house wedding at Miramar Beach, Florida.
Unconventional bride Michelle wore an electric-blue gown that made waves in a sea of white-dressed guests. Refusing to spend thousands of dollars on a dress she'd only use once, she finally found this Jovani style after clipping coupons and scouring sale racks. She even bought 7,000 Swarovski crystals (on sale, naturally), to create her own version of Cinderella's glass slippers. "When you have a wedding in Disney, anything goes!" said Martin Sanchez.
Natalie was convinced that this La Femme gown was perfect for her destination wedding in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Sure enough, when she tried it on, it fit beautifully — "the back of the dress was unique with just enough sexiness."
Marta's now-husband, Leo, requested that her wedding gown show off her figure, and in turn, she desired a puffy dress that "flows in the wind." They loved the resulting winner from Mori Lee so much that they've done one "trash the dress" session and are already planning another photo shoot someday in "a winter wonderland, surrounded by blue pine Christmas trees and fresh white snow."
This sweet couple wed in June on a lake in Upstate New York, in the heart of wine country. Jenna's simple, strapless Casablanca gown perfectly complemented the vineyard setting and didn't overpower her slender frame.
Arizona bride Brittany floored her husband in this dropped-waist ballgown by White by Vera Wang, available exclusively at David's Bridal. A chic contrast to the full tulle skirt, her black belt added a seasonal element to her wedding-day ensemble (she was married in November).
Would you ever guess that this Henry Roth stunner was actually used for a destination wedding on the beach in Marco Island, Florida? November bride Katherine proves that you don't have to sacrifice high-end style for sandy toes.
Dominique married her husband Travis in a baseball-themed wedding this past August in Virginia. The avid sports fans' friendship blossomed into a love affair. We're loving the subtle embellishment and flattering shape of this James Clifford gown — she looked radiant.
Eve Michelle, a self-confessed shoe addict, wasn't about to let her Betsey Johnson pumps get lost underneath a sea of fabric at her Sin City nuptials. Happily, the high-low hemline in this Morilee by Madeline Gardner gown (style 6701) put them front-and-center, and she added a purple bow in the back to match.
Alexa put her best shoulder forward in this romantic, era-defying gown by Lazaro. Elaborate pleating and a crystal belt upped the drama factor for the April bride's grand hotel reception in Kissimme, Florida.
This New York bride created a Facebook frenzy when she shared a photo of "Starla," her Sottero & Midgley gown, with her fellow readers. Her husband, Patrick, was blown away by it, which only made Ashley "feel even more beautiful." From the one-shoulder strap to the crystal detailing and airy skirt, it was a standout.
Elizabeth threw a Gatsby-inspired wedding at the stately Bourne Mansion nestled near the beach in Oakdale, Long Island. Her Jenny Packham sheath was "the perfect complement to our 1920’s theme—modern yet classic, with flapper-esque beaded trim on the drop waist."
Nicole, a stylist, based her one-of-a-kind creation on an existing Liancarlo gown (style 4831). Silk organza petals in champagne fluttered down from a drop-waist halter in silk taffeta, a supportive option for bustier brides. The vintage-inspired feel made its way into every aspect of her offbeat, outdoor November wedding in St. Louis, Missouri.
California bride Jody didn't truly feel like a bride until she stepped into her dress. She avoided any styles that looked like they belonged at "an award show or a pageant," finding her match in this Rina di Montella ballgown. The form-fitting, beaded bodice and organza, ruffled skirt created an incredible sense of movement — her photographer told us it's one of his favorite dresses he's shot.
Cari spotted this delicate beauty at a Liancarlo trunk show. Although the designer didn't end up including it in his line that season, it found its ideal place at this bride's spectacular May Day celebration, hosted in Palm Springs, California at a Moroccan- and Mediterranean-inspired hotel tucked into the San Jacinto Mountains. "It was so simple but complex at the same time; not at all overpowering, it made me feel like a modern (but still romantic) bride," said Valenstein.
Susan married her now-husband, Kyle, in a mermaid Allure gown (style 8700) in Tallahassee, Florida. The satin-taffeta detachable train, with its band of flowers cascading into ruffled tiers, stood out to us in a sea of submissions. Understandably, the August bride tells us, "I didn't want to take it off!"
Yasmeen tied the knot in September wearing this architectural gown by Oscar de la Renta. Its fashion-forward ruffled tiers mirrored the city landscape surrounding her luxe venue, the Secor Building in Toleo, Ohio.
Traveling all the way from Vernon, British Columbia, Daniel and Donalyn tied the knot in Maui, Hawaii back in December. The bride wore an ethereal Pronovias mermaid that flaunted her hourglass shape (it's tough to say which we noticed first: the crashing azure waves or her enviable figure).
Christina was married in a traditional, lovely Greek ceremony, then danced the night away at a hopping reception in a night club. The North Carolina bride chose an amazing Amsale gown, hot pink Kate Spade heels, and jewelry passed down by her grandmother.
Inspiration, times two: We were struck by how cohesive Sarah's dress (made by Saja) and Liz's dress (designed by August Jones) are. Both gowns reflect their rustic-chic celebration at the Barn in Evergreen Memorial Park. One has a Grecian goddess feel while the other is a fresh take on a classic storybook princess.
Brooke felt like every bride should on their wedding day while wearing this dress: "Special, beautiful and blessed!" The New Mexico bride fell for "Malina" by Maggie Sottero for its huge lace train, delicate beading and illusion sleeves.
Back in 2009, Calley had a dream of herself wearing a dress so similar to her wedding gown, "it's frightening." She woke up, immediately sketching her V-neck vision on a notepad. Three years later, her sister presented her with the drawing of The Dream Dress (which turned out to be designed by Nicole Miller). The Oklahoma bride still thinks about how she twirled when she saw her husband for the first time, and his smile as he took it all in — "it was priceless!"
At Jennifer's "happily ever after" Disneyland wedding, she wore this simple off-the-shoulder style by Romona Keveza. "This dress was the perfect balance of bridal and my own personal style," said Jennifer.
Coley may have considered say, about 15 different factors when designing her dream wedding gown (it needed to be flowy with hints of lace, a vintage feel, ruching, comfortable, with a low back), but her journey was mainly motivated by the desire to be "different." The end result was worth all of her contemplation. She shined in this two-layer dress. She even showed off her basketball moves in it: Instead of a traditional "dollar dance," she and her husband did the "dollar dunk" at their wedding, much to the amazement of their wedding guests.
Jessica couldn't have found her reasonably-priced Wtoo dress without the help of the "lovely" girls at Lovely, a darling bridal boutique in New York City. She paired the all-over lace gown with a sash by Ivy and Aster and cowboy boots for her snowy February wedding in the Colorado mountains. Most importantly, it "swished and swirled" while she danced and held up to fun photos taken outside, like this one.
The Lusan Mandongus gown in this hauntingly beautiful portrait belongs to a very lucky bride named Susan, who wed at Alvie Estates in the Scottish highlands. The grosgrain bow and scalloped neckline served as soft and feminine accents.
Stine's "La belle mariée talia" gown designed by Eddy K. features gorgeous sleeves that were lightweight enough for her August wedding in the hills of Tuscany. She chose to change into a shorter gown for the reception. Fun fact: The bride got dressed at Vignamaggio, a historical villa where Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" was born!
In a nostalgic touch, Carrie Ann incorporated lace flowers and small buttons from her mother's 1970's wedding gown into her own design, crafted by a Belgian seamstress. She added strands of Swarovski crystals across the open back, so she would sparkle walking down the aisle at her May nuptials in the Virginia countryside.
Photo Credit: Carrie Ann Hendrix
Sarah Nicole in Allure Couture
Back in August, Kentucky bride Sarah tied the knot in Allure Couture, style C189 (her dashing husband wore an Allure tux to match). With its soft chiffon rose bottom and beaded bodice, it epitomizes country garden-chic.
Guests from around the world (as far as New Zealand) attended Sam's wedding to her husband Geoff in Whistler, Canada. The bride's off-white Paloma Blanca gown with pick-ups stood out against the snowy backdrop off her ski resort venue. She accessorized it with a statement necklace and an ivory jacket to ward off the blustery winds.
Amanda "felt like a princess" walking down the aisle in this tulle dress by Galina Signature, available exclusively at David's Bridal. The June bride kept it simple with a classic strand of pearls and fingertip-length veil, befitting her traditional church ceremony in Battle Lake, Minnesota.
Allison was married in July at a turn-of-the-century mansion with over two hundred acres, 10,000 trees, and stunning views of bays, lakes and canals on Long Island. But the most radiant sight was the bride in her "Primrose" gown by Christos, featuring intricate details on the skirt.
Heidi felt "extra glamorous" in this sweetheart trumpet gown by Stephen Yearick (style 13291). It featured all of the elements (and more) that she was searching for — she still gets compliments on it. Opulent and modern, it matched her wedding venue: Stone House at Stirling Ridge in New Jersey.
Priscilla of Boston may be defunct, but we will always treasure their ethereal, timeless designs, like this one, worn by bride Rebecca, who wed at a vineyard in Calistoga, California. The combination of skinny halter straps and light embellishment at the waist is incredibly graceful, and complement her husband Anil's Hugo boss suit.