After a year of uncertainty, postponed weddings, and countless setbacks that 2020 brought about, couples planning their weddings met 2021 with optimism and hope. Since a global pandemic forced so many couples to change their wedding plans in 2020, many made sure to go above and beyond in 2021—especially when it came to their fashion choices.
Although this past year still had its fair share of challenges and unpredictability as the pandemic wavered, nothing could deter these brides from showing up to their aisle in style.
Bold colors, eye-catching details, daring hemlines, and personal touches made an appearance at intimate elopements, boisterous macro weddings, and everything in between. Whether it was a fashion-forward mini or a dramatic ball gown, brides had fun with their looks and definitely brought their A-game. More and more brides challenged the notion of a traditional white dress and sported attire that felt more “them,” which made 2021 weddings even more meaningful.
Since fashion is such a pivotal part of the wedding planning process and a huge undertaking, we wanted to highlight some of the best looks from 2021 to inspire you. From romantic ruffled gowns to sparkly beaded getups, here’s a roundup of our 35 absolute favorite wedding dresses from this year.
A Dreamy Lace Dress
Charlotte René looked effortlessly elegant in a long-sleeve lace dress with pearl accents from designer Emma Beaumont. “I love everything about my dress and only wish I could wear it again someday,” she admits. However, choosing this dress wasn’t as seamless as she had hoped.
Charlotte found the entire dress shopping experience to be an overwhelming process until she met Emma Beaumont in person. “Emma immediately put me at ease, and I knew I wanted her to design and make my dress,” Charlotte shares.
Incorporating Contemporary Cutouts
For Alexis Foglia, finding this strapless trumpet dress with asymmetrical cutouts and an oversized bow was fate. She came across this gown while browsing Ines Di Santo’s Instagram page and immediately knew it was the one. Trying it on in person gave her further confirmation. “It was the only shop I went to and the only dress I ever tried on,” she says of her shopping experience.
Channeling Timeless Elegance
The easiest part of wedding planning for Dylan Baker was selecting her dress. When she saw this crepe trumpet dress on Made with Love’s website, she fell in love with the cowl back and delicate trail of buttons and knew she had to have it. After trying it on at the store, with her dad and planner by her side, she sealed the deal. “It is elegant, simple, and effortlessly beautiful,” Dylan says of her dress. The bride went with minimal accessories, so her dress could really shine.
A Romantic Floral Number
This Netta BenShabu gown is full of charm with its lace and tulle fabric and floral embroidery. When shopping for her dress, Christina Jacke embraced an open mind and didn’t have any expectations, so everything fell into place. “I immediately loved the way I looked in it,” Christina recalls.
A Minimalist Design with a Special Touch
Blogger Lauren Elyce Price wore two dresses on her wedding day, but for her ceremony, she wanted something modern and minimalist. A strapless satin ball gown with a deep V-neck from Anne Barge certainly delivered. “I tried on a few ball gowns and even a few fitted styles, but I kept going back to this dress,” Lauren shares. The bride added her own personal flair by incorporating a daring slit on the side and buttons down the back. What really set the dress apart was a floral “tattoo” that Lauren wore on her shoulder.
Feeling Pretty in Pink
When Uche Nwosu walked into the salon with her mom, she had a certain wedding dress in mind. Then, she saw this strapless Zuhair Murad gown with layers of tulle and ruffles and was sold. “My mom and I walked in and saw the dress on the mannequin—they had just got in the day prior—and instantly knew it was the one for me,” Uche recalls.
A Fashion-Forward Jumpsuit
Although Devon Stewart intended to wear a Galia Lahav gown on her wedding day, this chic jumpsuit with wide slits from Jonathan Simkhai did not disappoint. The bride originally bought a dress for a 200-person wedding, but after postponing her nuptials twice due to the pandemic, she decided to hold an intimate elopement with just six guests and selected an outfit to match.
Forgoing Tradition in a Floral Pattern
Since the pandemic interrupted Andrea Alvarado’s plans for a big wedding, she opted for a beachfront micro wedding with 11 guests. To match the smaller scale, she donned a ruffled dress with a green floral pattern, a square neckline, and ribbon sleeves from Brock Collection. She bought the dress online because its easygoing design was more suitable for a beachside celebration.
A Long-Awaited Dress
Before Jeanine Juliano even got engaged, she had her eye on this strapless mermaid gown with a sparkly corset bodice from Ryan and Walter. Once the bride finally tried it on in person, there was no going back. “Growing up doing beauty pageants, I’ve had my fair share of gowns, so it was incredibly important that this gown was the most special gown I ever put on,” Jeanine explains. Since her wedding had a modern-meets-glam theme, the glittery details coordinated exceptionally well.
Building Something Modern
Nikki Rothberg knew she wanted to wear something modern on her wedding day, so she tapped her creativity to piece something together. The bride found a one-shoulder top from Australian designer Toni Maticevski, and since she liked the idea of representing her home country, she decided to pair it with a skirt she had in mind. “It felt decidedly very me,” she reminisces.
A Sleek Style with Epic Sleeves
Since Matoli Keely is a wedding photographer, she’s seen a great deal of wedding dresses during the seven-year span of her career. When shopping for her own dress, she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. Matoli found her statement-making gown at LOHO Bride, and when she tried it on, everything felt real. “I got very quiet as I stood there looking at myself in the mirror because that was the moment it really hit me that I was getting married,” she reveals.
Rocking a Chic Mini
At first, Alyssa Smith planned on wearing a classic lace dress to her wedding, but once she decided to elope in Bora Bora, she opted for something more tropical. The bride found a draped satin mini dress from Monique Lhuillier that still felt bridal but was practical enough to wear barefoot on the sand. “I never in a million years thought I would get married in a short dress,” she confesses.
Looking Luxe in Pink and Gold
Amanda Balglobin always dreamed of wearing Sabyasachi on her big day, so she flew all the way to Atlanta to browse his designs. She knew she found the one once she tried on this dusty pink lehenga with intricate gold detailing. “[With] the way it enhanced my skin tone and made me glow, I was immediately in love,” she says.
A Beautiful Ball Gown Fit for Royalty
All it took for Casey Hicks was two bridal salons and 10 dresses to try on before settling on a strapless Peter Langner ballgown with a tulle skirt and embroidered lace flowers. Casey went dress shopping with her mom, who gave her daughter the nod of approval as soon as Casey walked out of the fitting room wearing it. “I felt like a princess, and occasionally, I still watch the video from that initial try on,” she shares.
Serving Looks in an Unconventional Hue
In 2021, more and more brides embraced bold colors. Serena Hampton always thought she would wear the classic white dress on her wedding day, but when she saw this emerald green gown, something clicked. “Green is my favorite color, so it didn’t take much persuasion for me to order this dress,” Serena confesses.
A Custom Creation by Penelope Perkins
After trying on countless wedding dresses and not arriving at a decision, Lucy Scholl felt deflated. Since she wanted something that wasn’t in stores, she decided to customize her look. The final product? An elegant long-sleeve gown with a V-neck and flowing fabric. “It was important to me to find something that felt unique and that no one had really seen before,” the bride illustrates. Throughout the customization process, Lucy worked with designer Penelope Perkins. Every few months up until her wedding, the bride traveled from Franklin, Tennessee to Nashville for fittings, but it was worth it.
Seeing Double in White
Since Marleni Santana opted for a two-person elopement with her partner Ezinne Okpo, her family wasn't present on her wedding day. To honor her family, Marleni chose an off-the-shoulder BHLDN gown with sleeves that reminded her of the clothes she wore growing up. “I wanted something that would capture the essence of my childhood,” she explains. Ezinne loved the idea of matching her partner, so she sported a white tuxedo for her look. “I couldn’t get past the vision of us both wearing white and knew Marleni would be completely surprised,” Ezinne says.
A Glittery Red Lehenga
Victoria Zamaripa hosted two ceremonies—one Indian and one Western—for her nuptials. Since red is a prominent color for Indian weddings, Victoria dressed herself in the vibrant shade for the Indian ceremony. What really caught her eye was the exquisite gold detail. “The beading is so beautiful and intricate,” she reflects.
A Dazzling Beaded Ensemble
When Nichole Lee first went dress shopping, she thought she would find the right fit without any issues. Once she tried on the dresses in person, however, her plan fell through. Before throwing in the towel, Nichole’s mother suggested that her daughter try on this sparkly beaded dress with a corset bodice. “When I walked out and saw myself in it, I immediately started tearing up,” she recalls.
Strutting Down the Aisle in Chiffon
After actress Inbar Lavi tried on countless wedding dresses in designer Daniella Hajaj’s studio, nothing felt right. Instead of calling it quits, Daniella grabbed chiffon and told Inbar to feel the fabric. In that moment, Inbar knew she wanted to wear a chiffon gown. “Daniella went to the back and brought out a massive roll of fabric and started wrapping me in it,” Inbar remembers. “We literally crafted it on my body from scratch.” The duo ended up creating a one-shoulder chiffon gown with a crepe corset for the bride’s one of four looks.
A Timeless Look with a Trendy Edge
This simple and elegant sheath dress from Carol Hannah was everything Alix Pijeaux could have imagined. When she tried on the gown, “I felt my eyes water,” Alix admits. “I thought that only happened in movies, but it’s real.” Instead of wearing a veil, the bride donned a silk chiffon cape to complete her look.
Drawing on Her Fashion Expertise
Laura Lajiness is a Brides contributing writer who covers fashion for a living, so she knows a great deal about wedding dresses. The bride drew on her knowledge about wedding fashion to find the right fit for her. Once she spotted a strapless Oscar de la Renta floral lace gown on a website with pre-owned wedding dresses, she immediately contacted the owner. “The dress was exactly what I’d hoped [for] and barely needed alterations,” Laura remembers.
A Structural Ball Gown from Anne Barge
Since Jasmine Owens has always enjoyed getting dressed up, her wedding day was no exception. On her big day, the bride wore a strapless ball gown with a plunging V-neck from Anne Barge. “I really wanted something timeless that had a highly fashionable modern twist, and [the dress] had everything that I wanted,” Jasmine dishes. “I loved the architectural detail at the top and how it sat away from my body.”
Bringing Her Vision to Life
Throughout her wedding weekend, Tania Kottoor sported four custom dresses. For her Western ceremony, the bride rocked a long-sleeve dress with a sweetheart neckline and a sculptural skirt. “I designed a simple but bold and voluminous silhouette with elegant sleeves that would make all the guests address me as ‘your highness,’” Tania says. After each trial, she added a new detail. “I think this is what I enjoyed the most—evolving with each process and creating my dream look,” the bride elaborates.
A Simple Ensemble with Statement Sleeves
When self-care blogger and speaker Aisha Beau Johnson went dress shopping at Mews Bridal in New York City, she had a vision in mind. “I’m a very decisive person, so I had a clear idea on which dress I wanted before my appointment,” Aisha explains. She had her heart set on this fitted crepe dress with puff sleeves from Rime Arodaky, so seeing it in person was all it took to verify her choice. “I loved the classic silhouette of the gown,” the bride says. “It was chic but still made a statement with its large sleeves and low back.”
Reaching for the Stars in a Celestial Gown
Model and actress Shantel VanSanten sported five wedding looks throughout the span of three different ceremonies. For her second ceremony, she wore a strapless Galia Lahav ball gown with beaded stars that resembled a galaxy. “When I put it on, I was reminded of stargazing in the cornfields of my grandparents’ home in Minnesota,” Shantel illuminates. “I knew we would be under a star-filled sky on the wedding night and it would feel seamless.”
Light and Airy for Summer
Jessie Kim looked radiant in her off-the-shoulder A-line gown with beaded lace. Since the bride loves to dance, she anticipated swinging around the dance floor all night, so her top priority was finding a dress with a movable design. “It felt classic but still a little sexy,” Jessie summarizes. “I felt like a princess in it.”
A Sweet Nod to Family
To personalize her look, Robyn Iglehart stitched on a bow from her mother’s wedding dress to her Martina Liana lace trumpet dress. The bride actually intended on wearing a beaded wedding dress, but once the pandemic forced her to postpone her original wedding date, she decided to switch up her attire. “I always kept the lace dress in the back of my mind,” Robyn confesses. “After postponing the wedding and working through the challenges of the year, I questioned myself about it and thought, ‘Girl, live your best life and get the dress.’”
Embracing Endless Ruffles
This strapless gown with a daring ruffled neckline by Markarian was everything Janine Nabers imagined for her outdoor Brooklyn wedding. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she reveals. This statement-making gown was even a huge hit with her guests. “I knew my best friends would scream when they saw it — which they did,” Janine says.
A One-Shoulder Wonder from Liz Martinez
Dress shopping was a massive success for Ashley Chapman. This one-shoulder gown with a thigh-high slit from Liz Martinez was the first wedding dress she ever tried on. “There was a moment of shock when I put it on,” she explains. “I’d never seen a dress like it before.” The dress checked all of the boxes for Ashley: both comfortable and elegant.