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Wedding Gowns For Two Brides

Steven PetrowMust two brides dress like twins?

Question for Steven: My fiancée and I are planning our wedding, which is going to be very “traditional” in many ways. We agree on almost all the details, except the all-important one of what we should wear. She really wants the full princess treatment—a classic silk or organza gown—and even something in her hair that might actually resemble a tiara. Egads! The problem is, that’s just not who I am! I’m comfortable in a dress (okay, sometimes), but I tend toward a much more tailored look. I can’t imagine myself in an all-out Cinderella getup. I know there are rules, or at least traditions, for heterosexual couples when it comes to wedding attire; but we don’t have a lot to go on here. Can you help us?

Steven Answers: First of all, congratulations on your upcoming nuptials—it always makes me happy to say that—and on the extent of your agreement (so far) on the zillions of details. A couple who can agree on a budget and a seating chart for their friends and family can surely solve any challenge life will send their way. Even the question of wedding attire!

It’s true that there’s not a long history of same-sex weddings to guide you, but there certainly have been some high-profile couples (Ellen and Portia; Sir Elton and David Furnish) who’ve done this with style, so you can look to them as role models. And there are some basic principles that should help you come to a solution that will make you both happy.

First, know that there is a wide range of options for what two brides can wear to their wedding, from traditional gowns or tuxedoes to military uniforms or even western wear, should those hold significance or appeal for either of you. So talk to your fiancée to make sure her “princess” wedding dress is truly what she wants, and not a reflection of any sense of limitation or unwarranted obligation.

Next, it’s important to consider your wedding’s level of formality. What’s most important is that you both dress as though you’re going to be in the same wedding. If your wedding will be formal, you should both dress to the nines; but that doesn’t mean your attire must be a copy of your beloved’s. The outfits Ellen and Portia wore to their wedding are great examples. Portia’s pink and white halter-top dress was different from Ellen’s white vest and trousers, but the brides complemented each other perfectly. What you don’t want is for one of you to be formal and the other noticeably more casual. (The same thing would go for two grooms, of course; you wouldn’t want to wear a top hat and tails if your husband-to-be is planning to show up in Bermuda shorts and moccasins.)

Also, don’t forget to think about the wedding photos you’ll be displaying on the mantel and looking back on for decades. Again, it’s not important that you be dressed as twins in matching princess gowns (or matching Steelers jerseys, for that matter), but you do want to look as though you were a couple at the same event, with the same level of formality, rather than two strangers who happened to stop in front of the camera at the same time.

Then, once you get your own attire worked out, it’s time to start thinking about what your respective mothers will wear. Two mothers-in-law can really double the fun!

Steven Petrow is the go-to source on contemporary etiquette, as cited by The New York Times, People, Time, and NPR. His sometimes gentle, sometimes snarky, always insightful advice has made him a nationally recognized expert on modern manners. In addition to his three prize-winning etiquette books, Steven writes the “Civil Behavior” column for The New York Times and is a sought-after speaker on all matters of civilized living in the 21st century.