Summer signalled what should have been the start of wedding season – flutes of fizz, canapés, laughter and tears (happy ones, of course).
Instead, couples were forced to postpone and rethink their wedding plans, with photographers, florists, venue owners and caterers taking unplanned sabbaticals.
Although, following Boris Johnson’s announcement on 23 June, smaller weddings and civil partnerships can now go ahead in England; civil ceremonies are looking to be a popular choice for couples who want a smaller celebration, and perhaps a party later.
Doing the legal bit as a small civil ceremony with a big party later is a route lots of people take if one person lives in another country, or if the couple plan on jetting overseas for a big wedding and some family members or friends can’t make it.
While many couples who had a big wedding planned but had to cancel due to coronavirus are opting to just getting married anyway, and forgoing the big event altogether.
For the brides-to-be who are 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.
When choosing a dress for a civil ceremony, look for breezy silhouettes with eye-catch details, such as a 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.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us 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 tierred design.
For something vintage-inspired, opt for this Aadina crepe column wedding dress (French Connection, £59). It’s minimalistic, and the sheer balloon sleeves and square-neck – detailing that is on trend – gives way to a paired-back design at a very affordable price point (albeit it’s in the sale).
The modern and minimal silhouette of the Isla tiered wedding dress (Whistles, £649), coupled with it being made from 100 per cent silk, means it is an elegant choice. The boho-style and lace tiered design give it a hint of fun and playfulness, while the spaghetti straps make it a little less formal; ideal for a civil ceremony.
While this ruffled metallic fil coupé maxi dress by Rat & Boa (Matchesfashion, £250) is just as gorgeous. The plunge V-neckline and elongated bodice are flattering, yet not over the top, while the cap sleeves and ruffles add an element of femininity.
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.
This Clare hammered-satin midi dress (Net-A-Porter, £375) is a timeless classic. The silhouette nips in at the waist, making it a flattering fit, while the ruched, split sleeves add a pretty detail. For a more formal affair, try this grosgrain-trimmed guipure lace midi dress by Self-Portrait (Net-A-Porter, £380). Thanks to the high, twisted neckline and scalloped hem, this 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 (Net-A-Porter, £750). 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.
For something a little less conventional, yet still gorgeous, go for Cecilie Bahnsen. The light pink Kelly dress (Cecilie Bahnsen, £2,295) features a fitted bodice, voluminous puff-sleeves, and a midi cut that lightly grazes the ankles. The transitional nature of this dress means you can wear it way beyond your wedding day. You’ll want to wear it with a heeled sandal, like this Steve Madden pair (Zalando, £89.99).
While a typical wedding dress is floor length, if these gowns aren’t quite your style or right for your civil ceremony, channel 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 surprised us with its bridal wear this season, and we love this tulips dress (Reformation, £300). The long sleeves counter the plunging V-neck, while the relaxed fitting skirt makes this one perfect for any low-key celebrations. It’s a yes from us. For something totally chic, we’d advise this cape-effect draped crepe mini dress by Halston (Net-A-Porter, £325), it is a timeless, paired-black dress that will make any bride-to-be look effortlessly beautiful. Similarly as
If you really want to break the mould, and are after a truly decadent and different dress, this feather-trimmed crêpe dress by Saint Laurent (Mytheresa, £3,515) is equal parts elegance and drama. The voluminous feather trim frames the bust and the body-skimming silhouette will bound to turn heads.
For something a little kinder to your pocket, opt for this Remi mini dress (Revolve, £298), which features metallic threading throughout – 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.
Sleek, sophisticated and timeless – slip dresses are perfect for a minimalist and flawless bridal look.
Often a favourite brand among wedding guests and bridesmaids alike, but Ghost’s bridal offering is strong too. This satin Bella dress (Ghost London, £245) 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 (Net-A-Porter, £645.60); 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. We’d use self-adhesive cups (Net-A-Porter, £24) to underpin the plunging neckline.
For something equally as gorgeous with a nod to 90s minimalism, the harmony champagne satin dress by Alice + Olivia (Harvey Nichols, £400) 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.
For a slightly tailored, yet not too much of a tuxedo style, this The Own Studio jumpsuit (The Own Studio, £945) is 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.
For something less understated, and more striking it’s got to be this signature corset jumpsuit (Galvan London, £995). 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, it’s got to be this backless washed-satin jumpsuit by Vanessa Cocchiaro (Net-A-Porter, £413.90). It’s slightly fitted at the bust, and we love the backless detailing. Accessorise with a Shrimps beaded tote (Mytheresa, £247). If you’re civil ceremony, is a more fun, low-key affair, why not go for the metallic version of Vanessa Cocchiario’s jumpsuit (Net-A-Porter, £155.75); at such an affordable price, this will see you through your wedding, as well as many a party season.
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.
Yet again, Whistles is coming out tops with its wedding sartorial choices. Nothing speaks to the modern bride quite like this Annie wedding blazer (Whistles, £229) and coordinating trouser (Whistles, £229) suit. Both a flattering fit, wear buttoned up or with a slinky, lace trimmed camisole underneath – you can’t go wrong with this Anine Binge (Selfridges, £100) silk number.
Mango is another great high street contender; this linen button blazer (Mango, £49.99) and matching linen-blend trousers (Mango, £35.99) is a great co-ord at an affordable price point. It also comes in yellow, blue and lilac, should you prefer a less traditional approach.
If your happy to spend more, it’s got to be these Frankie Shop Elvira belted woven pants (Net-A-Porter, £230) and matching woven blazer (Net-A-Porter, £330). The high-waist cut and cuff of the trousers make these more tailored, but just as flattering. Finish the look off with a classic pair of navy Manolo Blahnik suede maysale mules (Harrods, £545) or for something a little kinder on the pocket and a little different these mesh mid heel slingbacks (Zara, £29.99).
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 got it all.
If it’s a skirt and a nice top combo you’re after, we love this Veronica sequined chiffon midi skirt (Net-A-Porter, £545) and matching Kathleen one-shoulder satin-trimmed sequined chiffon top (Net-A-Porter, £445). Set apart from a classic tailored suit, this is a fun, yet gorgeous choice for jazzy bridal look. Check out the cut out detailing of the top, we’re obsessed.
For something a little more traditional, it’s got to be this A-line skirt (The Own Studio, £695). The high-waist cut features a subtle front slit and a train, working to create an elegant silhouette. Equally as classic, yet slightly more fun is this sequin skirt (The Own Studio, £675). Pair both with this camisole (The Own Studio, £270). To add a little sparkle and finalise the look, we suggest pairing the skirts with this gemstone bridal jacket (Needle & Thread, £125).
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.