In a year filled with such turmoil, changed plans, postponed and virtual weddings, it could feel odd to be focusing on fashion. But with every story, we found that looking at the positives and focusing on the beautiful elements that make up a wedding day was always present. And that includes the wedding dress.
Choosing a wedding outfit is such a milestone in the wedding planning process, that even the couples who chose to scale down their celebrations didn't skimp on fashion. Whether it was opting for a sublimely chic lace shift dress instead of a traditional ballgown, showing some whimsy in a pouf-sleeve mini dress, or just saying "to hell with it, I'm wearing the dress anyway!"—2020 brides were up against a lot of challenges and showed tremendous creativity and resilience as they plotted a new course.
Whether it was for a pre-COVID blowout, an ocean-side micro-wedding, or an at-home elopement, this crop of brides were just as fashionably epic as the last year's—and they had a lot more to deal with!
Ready to see our favorite wedding dresses from the craziest year of weddings yet? We rounded up 30 of this year's most fashionable looks.
A Custom Made Gown
"I bought my first dress prematurely," Upile Chisala admits. "It took a few months for me to regret the purchase and that is when I emailed my dear friend Syreeta and asked her to make me the real dress of my dreams." Together, Upile and Syreeta spent weeks going back-and-forth, going from an ivory mermaid style to the final masterpiece: a stunning satin ballgown made of a nude-pink material that the bride found on Etsy.
"She [Syreeta] singlehandedly made this heavy dress in Maryland while I was in South Africa! I only tried it on once and my sister, Ngawina, brought it with her to South Africa. It had its own suitcase on the plane!" she admits with a laugh. "This dress was very mine not only because it was custom and Syreeta let me participate as much as I could, but because it was the result of love and came together because of so many people and cultures."
Her advice? "Please do not buy a dress on your very first trip to the dress shop! If you love a dress, go home, and have a think about it before swiping your card. Sit down and be honest about how exactly you envision yourself on the day. "
A Custom Lehenga Choli Created by a Friend
On the second day of their wedding celebration, this couple threw a mehndi party, where guests were adorned with henna. The room was decorated with South Asian lanterns and antique lamps to evoke the Lake Palace, then accented with cascading orange and pink flowers. For this party, Monis Alam opted for an untraditional look: She wore a magenta lehenga choli, customized by Pakistani designer Ali Xeeshan.
The designer has been a friend for years, so Monis knew that she would wear one of his conceptions. After narrowing it down to three outfits, Monis sought her father’s advice, someone who has long shared her love of fashion. “When he suggested I go for the third look, I knew he was right,” Monis says of her final look, which included a custom dupatta.
A Meaningful Lace Sari
After the couple's Western ceremony, Kelsey Maher exchanged her Vera Wang gown for the French Chantilly lace sari that Pra's mother wore on her wedding day.
Vintage-inspired in Galia Lahav
Jessica deRoquancourt flew to New York to search for her wedding dress—although she already knew she wanted a Galia Lahav creation. "When I put it on I fell in love," she says of the bridal designer's vintage-inspired, off-the-shoulder "Thelma" gown. "I just knew it was it. I didn’t try on any more dresses after that."
Opting Out of a White Dress
Emily Sullivan Canova skipped the white dress, opting instead for a hand-beaded, peach-colored gown, and John donned a cravat instead of a bow tie. Their dear friend, Tinker Hatfield, head of footwear design at Nike, officiated the ceremony but also hand-painted sneakers for the couple and their children to wear during the reception.
A Custom Two-piece Creation
Josiane de Fatima Gomes Monteiro knew exactly what she wanted in a wedding dress so she e-mailed designer Luis Carvalho to make it happen. "Luis was amazing! I emailed him some pics of what I wanted, he made some drawings, we had a couple of fittings, and it was perfect," she says. Ultimately, the gown was made with two pieces: a detailed underlay—that Josiane rocked on the dance floor later—and a long-sleeve draped wrap dress as a topper.
Pretty and Springy in BHLDN
Jenneh Bockari knew this dreamy BHLDN number was "the one" before she tried it on. In fact, she'd been eyeing it long before she even went dress shopping. "[I] tried on three dresses," recalls the bride. "This dress was one of the three. I tried it on last, just to give the others a fair shot." Between the plunging neckline and back, floral appliqués, and tulle skirt, Jenneh says it "was just the perfect amount of interesting—and was so comfortable."
A Lehenga Fit for a Princess
When Harneet Sidhu first tried on her seafoam green lehenga she couldn't stop twirling around in the garment—a clear sign to both her mother, grandmother and her that it was the one! "It made me feel like a princess and I didn’t want to take it off," she admits. The bride paired the elaborate pastel and floral-patterned gown with a pink chunni (veil).
Show-stopping in Spina Bride
Michaela Almqvist admired the feminine and flattering details of her Liz Martinez gown that she found at Spina Bride. “It is a truly unique gown with a show-stopping appeal,” she says of its peplum top, 3-D appliqués, and tulle skirt.
A Stone Cold Fox Dress Made for an Elopement
When the couple opted for an elopement, Jill Lavoie knew just what to wear: a lace Stone Cold Fox mini-dress that she had originally planned to don for the wedding’s afterparty. She added a cathedral veil from Made With Love Bridal, a pair of Stuart Weitzman heels, and pearl earrings from Wwake. As an added perk, she adds that she got her first manicure-pedicure since February, when nail salons shut down in D.C., for the big day.
Whimsical in Odylyne The Ceremony
"My theme was ‘Queen of Hearts’ meets pregnant bride," wardrobe stylist Macy Orlowski admits. While specific, she found the perfect attire to accomplish her vision in the "Caspian" gown by Odylyne The Ceremony. "It’s playful puffy sleeves always resonated with me especially being a 90s kid that grew up watching 'Alice and Wonderland,'" she says. The dress was originally intended to be her after-party dress. "But once I found out I was pregnant and our wedding was postponed due to COVID-19, I knew immediately this should be the dress I elope in and announce our pregnancy with," she adds.
Laid Back in Azeeza
"My style is very laid-back and a little bit traditional, so when I saw this beautiful white Azeeza dress on Instagram, I knew I had to have it," says Daniela Garcia of her midi dress, which is made of raw silk midi dress and features an empire bodice, gathered skirt, and puff sleeves. "At the time, I didn't know if we’d have our micro wedding or not, but I figured I’d be able to use the dress for one of the pre-wedding events whenever the big one took place."
A Dress Fit for the Ceremony, Reception and After-party
Alice Usanase-Lalui knew she wanted a wedding dress that could work for the ceremony, the reception, and the after-party. "I knew it was the one because I just felt at home in it," she says. "The detail of the leafy ruffles reminded me of the outdoors and it was just perfect for an outdoor wedding. I can't describe the feeling but when you know, you know."
A Modern Take on Tradition
"I wanted a Xhosa wedding dress with a more modern design and silhouette," says Sandiswa Sotashe, revealing she took her time dress shopping. The ultimate winner was an off-white Duchesse satin creation by Asanda Madyibi with Xhosa beading and black stripes.
A Timeless Berta Gown
Candice Wilson-Olensky, who is a film and TV producer and head of development and production at Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network, found her Berta gown before visiting a bridal salon! She originally saw the dress in an image promoting an upcoming trunk show, and, of course, made an appointment. (Her mom even flew across the country to join her!)
"I tried it on and fell in love immediately. I knew instantly. I felt beautiful and timeless in it," she says of the dress, adding that shopping was "100 percent better" with the company of her mom, who made the experience feel like playing dress up.
A Sparkling Sari
Isha Sathya and Suraj Philips flew to India together to pick out their bridal looks, including Isha’s Sabyasachi sari. She wanted to honor her South Indian roots and wear a sari, and she was elated to happen upon this tulle number from an archival collection.
"When I stepped out of the fitting room with the sari draped perfectly, I knew it was the one,” Isha says. “The sparkles gave it the perfect amount of glamour without being over the top. It was edgy, modern, with a hint of sensuality.”
Minimalist in Alexandra Grecco
"I love it because it’s an upscale and more glamorous version of the types of things I typically wear," says Clare Stone of her minimalist Alexandra Grecco crepe silk gown. To create the illusion of a slip dress, she added thin, delicate straps—a task that was completed mere minutes before the ceremony began. She adds, "There’s something so powerful about feeling like yourself on your wedding day."
Simply Elegant in Reem Acra
"I couldn't stop thinking about it and was comparing all the other dresses I tried on to that one," says Megan Roup of her silk chiffon gown by Reem Acra. However, while Megan knew the dress she wanted, she says saying "yes" wasn't entirely seamless—she had to go dress shopping by herself thanks to COVID-19 restrictions!
Goddess Vibes in Sophie et Voila
Dulce Martin’s dress shopping experience was an international one. “I tried on dresses in Mexico, Los Angeles, Nashville, London, Paris, the Netherlands, and Spain," she admits. "I also did it all by myself, as I wanted to hear myself think and decide according to what felt perfect for me, and I also wanted to surprise everyone, including my mom. Nobody saw the dress until I walked down the aisle.”
She ultimately chose two dresses: A custom-made gown for the ceremony and dinner by Sophie et Voila, and a second for the reception by Cortana Brides. "Both of them felt unique, they were both very comfortable to wear, and most importantly, they felt like me—or a very elevated version of me," she says with a laugh. "They reflected two very different sides of who I am. One is classic, elegant, with a goddess vibe, while the other one is a little rebellious, and slightly sexy but simple and classic too."
THAT Amazing Oscar Dress
“I had no intention of wearing a strapless dress,” Amanda Greeley says of her Oscar de la Renta ball gown made of silk and cotton lace. “I almost didn’t want this dress to be the one. I had seen it on the runway.”
Modern in Adam Zohar
When Danielle Moson went shopping at The White Dress bridal boutique in California, two Adam Zohar gowns caught her eye. "I literally couldn’t decide," she admits. "One was super geometric and edgy—what I always thought I’d wear—and the other was beautifully soft and romantic—not my personality at all." But when she came back to the boutique the following morning, her dress choice was clear: She had to go with the latter, a light-weight long-sleeve chiffon gown with intricate floral details.
A Last-minute Day of Switch
"Up until the day of the wedding, I thought I was going to wear a sage green collared shirt under my white blazer even though I never really loved the way it looked," revealed Laine Strickland. But, she made a last-minute switch the day-of, wearing a floral 7Diamonds collard shirt with her white J. Crew suit instead. "I am so glad that I did and Kaila loved the whole look," she says.
Kaila Strickland tried on several dresses before slipping into this strapless Pronovias number. "I loved it instantaneously," she says of the gown, which featured a deep sweetheart neckline and lace overlay.
A Self-Portrait Number for an Intimate Wedding
Before changing her wedding plans, Justine Victoria Roach had planned on wearing a Valentino gown down the aisle. But when the extravagant nuptials turned into an intimate garden occasion, Justine opted for this floral lace midi dress by Self-Portrait instead—a look she decided on just five minutes before heading to the altar! She accessorized with her mother's jewelry, including a diamond and platinum bracelet from 1935, and carried a bouquet of white roses wrapped in silk.
Green Velvet and Bridal Separates
Katie Hathaway wore an ensemble from Suistudio. “I immediately knew the green velvet blazer was for me,” she says. “My mom also bought me amazing earrings from the Sundance Catalog and sweet velvet lace-up Oxfords from Bruno Magli.”
Lilla Goettler chose bridal separates from BHLDN. “I spent about a month trying the outfit on over and over again before I decided,” she admits. “I really wasn’t expecting to love a long-sleeved dress, but it ended up looking great and keeping me cozy.” She paired her dress with a pair of white sneakers. “The outfit didn’t feel completely right until I tried on the Converse," she says. "It was a great androgynous touch that made the whole outfit feel more ‘me.’”
A Designer-approved Choice
Following the ceremony, Maanasa Indaram changed into lace-and-crepe gown by Sarah Seven. “After having gone dress shopping several times in San Francisco, I was prepared to show my mom, mother-in-law, and sister the dress that I was intending to buy while on a trip back to New York,” she recalls. “However, when we walked into the studio, all our eyes caught this dress. It was comfortable but flattering, sweet but also very chic." The icing on the cake? The designer was in the studio and gave the Maanasa her seal of approval. She says, "Sarah immediately stopped by our group to give me the thumbs up when she saw me in it!”
Matching Mikado Silk Looks
“I’ve modeled many wedding dresses during my career but never fell in love with any,” Meaghan Garland admits. But, when she tried on her Mikado silk dress by Pronovias, “it became the dress of my dreams!” Meaghan completed her look with a veil, pearl drop earrings, pearl hairpins, and a diamond-and-gold necklace passed down to her by her mother.
Kiyomi McCloskey chose a white suit made from the same Mikado silk material as Meaghan’s dress. “It was unique, chic, and everything I’d envisioned,” she says. She completed her look with personalized cufflinks—which were a gift from Meaghan—as well as a white tuxedo shirt and a white bowtie. Her boutonniere featured plum ranunculus, heuchera leaves, and olive branch.
A Custom Creation by Brandon Maxwell
Choosing a dress (or three!) was easy for Stephanie Puntillo: She turned to client-turned-friend Brandon Maxwell for everything she wore on her wedding day. “I told Brandon I didn’t want a big princess dress, but when I showed up for my first appointment, the photo I brought with me was of the biggest pink dress from his Spring 2019 collection,” Stephanie says with a laugh. For the ceremony, he created a white basket-weave organza ball gown with a fitted scoop-neck bodice. Stephanie wore her hair in a sleek chignon to match the gown’s clean lines.
A Hanbok Found on Instagram
“I had seen a hanbok that I just loved on Instagram so when I was in L.A. I went by the shop that had made it,” Megan Rose says. “Even though I knew exactly what I wanted, the process was so much fun, they had me pick the fabric for every little part of the dress.”
The Jumpsuit of the Year
After dinner, Danielle changed into a second look, a lace-and-silk jumpsuit by Rime Arodaky. “I have followed Rime for a while and love how modern and edgy her pieces are,” Danielle says. “It was fun, playful, and sexy—the perfect thing to wear to the party portion of the day.”