Following the lead of A-listers opting for smaller nuptials? Try one of these looks, from mini dresses to separates
The appeals of small ceremonies have really come to light over the past year, with affianced couples forced to postpone big weddings and rethink plans.
And it seems A-list stars have similarly gotten on board with the idea of circumventing the expectations of blowout big days – notably Ariana Grande, who wed her fiancé Dalton Gomez in a “tiny and intimate” ceremony.
For the brides-to-be who are similarly opting to enjoy a more low-key celebration this year, the idea of wearing a traditional gown is likely to be pushed aside in favour of a more relaxed and casual take on bridalwear.
If this is something you’ve considered when choosing a dress for a civil ceremony, then look for breezy silhouettes with eye-catching details, such as plunging backs or sweetheart necklines, to elevate the look for the occasion. We suggest avoiding overly long trains or puffy and corset details. Linen, tulle or silk are splendour enough.
Due to the less traditional nature of these ceremonies, the types of outfit brides-to-be can choose from doesn’t stop at gowns. From the midi and maxi dresses to androgynous suit tailoring, our guide will assist you on the outfits you should wear that are perfect for low-key and intimate ceremonies.
- Everything you need for a low-key wedding
- What to shop from Rixo’s debut bridal collection
- High street wedding dress brands for an affordable outfit
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Opting for an understated maxi to a civil ceremony needn’t encroach on traditional wedding dress territory. If you have another wedding celebration planned at a later date, we’d advise going for something different altogether for your civil wedding dress to set it apart – perhaps more lace detailing or a tiered design.
(Whistles, Rat & Boa, Asos)
For something boho-inspired, opt for this Y.A.S. lace maxi dress (£170, Asos.com). The minimalist cut is balanced out with lace detailing and pleated panels, yet still gives way to a paired-back design at a very affordable price point.
The modern and minimal silhouette of the Isla tiered wedding dress (£325, Whistles.com), coupled with it being made from 100 per cent silk, means it is an elegant choice. The playful lace tiered design gives it a hint of fun, while the spaghetti straps make it a little less formal; ideal for a summer civil ceremony.
This ruffled metallic fil coupé maxi dress by Rat & Boa (was £250, now £75, Matchesfashion.com), meanwhile, is just as gorgeous. The plunge V-neckline and elongated bodice are likely to accentuate the waistline, yet it’s not over the top and the cap sleeves and ruffles add an element of femininity. The best thing of all? It’s been reduced by 70 per cent.
There are endless midi options to choose from, and you needn’t stick to the standard colours either. A classic choice that will make you feel event-ready in no time. We advise avoiding linen and cotton so as to make it feel a little more formal.
(Reformation, Self Portrait, Cecilie Bahnsen)
This Kaye dress (£285, Thereformation.com) is a timeless classic. The silhouette nips in at the waist, thanks to the tie at the back, while the ruffles on the bodice add a pretty detail. For a slightly more formal affair, try this white guipure lace midi dress (£360, Self-portrait-studio.com). Thanks to the square neckline it has a real vintage feel, and the tonal grosgrain works to define the waist.
If you were inspired by Megan Markle’s wedding reception dress, you’re going to love the Pandora silk-satin halter neck midi dress by Galvan (£895, Net-a-porter.com). While not quite Stella McCartney, this 100 per cent silk dress will drape elegantly over your body, and the halter neck detailing is a flattering cut across the décolletage and shoulders. It is the perfect length to show off your favourite pair of heels, too.
While a typical wedding dress is floor-length, if these gowns aren’t quite your style or right for your civil ceremony, channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and consider a shorter hemline. If you’re concerned about the length and are after something more modest, go for bare legs with long sleeves.
(Reformation, Retrofête, Saint Laurent)
Reformation surprised us yet again with its bridal wear this season, and we love this silk mini (£425, Thereformation.com). The long sleeves and high neckline counter the short length, while the relaxed-fitting skirt makes it an ideal choice for any low-key celebrations. It’s a yes from us. Alternatively, for more of a partywear look, this velvet trimmed sequin mini dress (£595, Net-a-porter.com) is everything you’d want and more.
If you are after something decadent, this feather-trimmed crêpe dress by Saint Laurent (£3,515, Mytheresa.com) is equal parts elegance and drama. The voluminous feather trim frames the bust, and with the body-skimming silhouette is bound to turn heads.
For something a little kinder to your pocket, yet in keeping with the style, opt for this structured creped mini dress (£141.57, Karenmillen.com), which boasts a similar feature trimmed neckline – a fun outfit to get hitched in. Both dresses could also be worn at a later date, perhaps to the evening do of your wedding party if you’re having one in the future.
Sleek, sophisticated and timeless – slip dresses are perfect for a minimalist and flawless bridal look.
(Michael Lo Sordo, Alice + Olivia, Ghost)
Often a favourite brand among wedding guests and bridesmaids alike, but Ghost’s bridal offering is strong too. This satin Bella dress (£245, Ghost.co.uk) features a V-neck and plunging back and the adjustable spaghetti straps mean you can find a comfortable fit for you. Simple yet stunning.
If you’re after something a little more luxurious, it’s got to be Michael Lo Sordo’s silk-satin grown (£645.60, Net-a-porter.com); for small intimate celebrations, this minimalist dress is ideal. Made from 100 per cent silk, the flattering, bias cut falls to a split skirt, meaning you can show off your wedding pumps.
For something equally as gorgeous with a nod to Nineties minimalism, the champagne satin dress by Alice + Olivia (£324, Farfetch.com) is a safe bet. The thin spaghetti straps and cowl neckline mean just the right amount of decolletagé is on show.
A sleek all in one is the perfect way to bridge the gap between androgynous suiting and traditional dresses. If you’re looking for something cool but classic, this is the style to go for.
(The Own Studio, Galvan, Vanessa Cocchiario)
For a slightly tailored, yet not too much of a tuxedo style, this spaghetti strap jumpsuit (£990, Theownstudio.com) is as chic as can be. The wide-leg, floor-length trousers of this figure-flattering all-in-one are dramatic yet elegant. Lined with silk, the relaxed silhouette is perfect for any civil wedding ceremony and we’d suggest accessorising with a beaded headband (£150, Shrimps.com).
For something less understated and more striking it’s got to be this signature corset jumpsuit (£995, Galvanlondon.com). With an accentuated waist and a slightly loose cut, its leg-lengthening powers are not to be ignored, while the notched neckline will flatter all chest sizes and the corset provides support.
If you’re after something a little more slinky for your intimate, low-key event, why not go for this metallic version of Vanessa Cocchiario’s jumpsuit (£363, Yoox.com); at a relatively affordable price, this will see you through your wedding, as well as many party seasons to come. It’s slightly fitted at the bust, and we love the backless detailing.
Tailoring is increasingly popular for civil ceremonies and is a safe choice if you’ve never considered yourself wearing a dress on your wedding day. With great choices from high street to designer, there’s something here to suit every budget.
(The Own Studio, Whistles, Asos)
Yet again, Whistles is coming out tops with its wedding sartorial choices. Nothing speaks to the modern bride quite like this Annie wedding blazer (£229, Johnlewis.com) and coordinating trousers (£229, Whistles.com). Wear buttoned up or with a slinky, lace-trimmed camisole underneath – you can’t go wrong with this one from Samsoe Samsoe (£50, Selfridges.com).
If you’re happy spending a little extra, safe in the knowledge you’ll get a lot of wear out of it, turn to The Own Studio. This tux jacket (£850, Theownstudio.com) paired with the wide leg trousers (£450, Theownstudio.com) makes for a polished bridal look. Finish it all off with a classic pair of navy Manolo Blahnik suede maysale mules (£545, Manoloblahnik.com) or for something a little kinder on the pocket try these buckle-embellished mules (£58, Theoutnet.com).
For something less formal, head to Asos – we love this washed linen suit, with its flowy wide leg trousers (£30, Asos.com) and co-ordinating linen suit blazer (£40, Asos.com). With money left over from £100, you may want to splash out on accessories – if so, we’d recommend adding a pop of colour with this satin bag (£75, Selfridges.com) from sustainable brand Roop.
There’s no better time to play around with the bridal traditions than at a civil ceremony. Separates are fast becoming a popular choice for brides-to-be; from skirts and top separates to shorts and crop tops, we’ve seen it all.
(Solace London, Rixo, Retrofête)
If it’s a skirt and a nice top combo you’re after, head to Rixo – its new bridal range as a whole is phenomenal. This silk biased crepe skirt (£350, Rixo.co.uk) coupled with the co-ordinating jacket (£350, Rixo.co.uk) is both traditional and elegant – perfect for a registry office.
Similarly, we love Solace London for its beautiful collection of separates and dresses alike, with this trouser (£320, Solacelondon.com) and top (£290, Solacelondon.com) combination really stealing the show. The off-the-shoulder corseted top features statement ruffle detailing, which is offset by the free-flowing trousers. Plus, we’d certainly wear both pieces on their own.
If you’re after something less formal altogether, make Retrofête your go-to. Its crystal-embellished shirred blouse (£545, Net-a-porter.com) paired with the matching mini skirt (£420, Net-a-porter.com) is a must-have. Adorned with crystals, it’s the perfect outfit for any bride-to-be who’s looking to break traditions. Unsure how to style? Accessorise with this silver embellished clutch (£125, Reiss.com) and prepare to party.
For discounts on bridalwear, try the links below:
- Very discount code
- Asos discount code
Looking to hire your bridal outfit? Read our guide to the best wedding rental services
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