Wedding Dresses for Older Brides: Women Over 40, 50, 60, 70 (Updated Article)
by Tina Boomerina / Christina Gregoire (UPDATED ARTICLE)
Do you want to know what you can wear for your second wedding? Hey girlfriends, what ARE the rules for wedding gowns when the bride is over 40, 50, 60... or 70 or...? I don't think I can count any higher than that.
Guess what? There used to be lots of “rules” for weddings. Today, we call those rules “guidelines”. In other words, there are no rules, so you are free to imagine your wedding as whatever you want it to be. However, there is one rule about wearing a blusher veil that I think you should follow. What do I know? Well, I’m on my third marriage. That’s what I know.
My last wedding was a few years ago when I was 52. So, read about my common sense guidelines for all women over 40, 50, or even (gasp) over 60 or 70.
Are You an Older Bride?
I’m sorry that I called you an "older bride" in the title of this article. I had to do that so Google would lead you to this groovy page. Hey, I’m teetering towards 60, and the word, “old,” has been expunged from my vocabulary (along with silver, golden, mature, and elderly), unless the word is absolutely necessary.
And, whenever I hear the term “old lady”, I think of my hippie days. Back then, any man who uttered the sentence, “Sally’s my old lady,” meant that Sally was the speaker’s girlfriend, even when his “old lady” was only 18. So, I must confess that I refer to myself as an old lady from time to time, but I say it with a wink and a smile.
Bridal Gowns for Second Weddings - It's Your Party
It's your party, and you can cry if you want to, cry if you want to, cry if you want to. You would cry too if it happened to you. Hey, I cry at everyone's wedding, even my own, which can be slightly embarrassing. So, here's an offbeat tip: Wear the right mascara if you're a romantic sap like me... Now, I hope I can get that Leslie Gore song out of my brain... and get my head wrapped around bridal gowns again.
... Okay, I've filled the interim with Purple Haze and now I'm ready to continue explaining "proper" wedding etiquette.
If you are over 40, you are not a baby anymore. However, you are not a dried-up old (mature) hag, like some wedding sites imply.
Well, according to old biddies like Amy Vanderbilt, if you have never been married, it is totally proper for you to wear the traditional white get-up, along with a blusher veil, no matter what your age. However, if your three children will be your attendants, I don’t think you’ll fool anyone into thinking you are a virgin by wearing that veil. Therefore, although a blusher veil is technically correct for first-time brides, I don’t think it looks right on most women over 40. (Netting on a hat or a fascinator is not the same as a blusher veil, and netting is elegant on any woman of any age.)
Your Second Wedding?
If this is your second wedding (or your third or your seventh), you can wear a white dress and a shorter veil (that's not cathedral length) as long as the veil doesn’t cover your face. However, whether it’s your first or fifth wedding (Mazel Tov), you should feel free to wear an elegant blue evening gown, a black Gothic wedding dress, or a pair of pink pajamas, as long as you don’t wear that dreaded blusher veil.
Hey, no matter what marriage you’re on, you can wear any color you want. You are over 40 years old. You’re a big girl and you’re probably paying for your own wedding, so you don’t have to please mommy and daddy like you would if you were a scrawny 20 year old. So, if you like blue, wear blue (or white or green or lavender or drop-dead red).
I have read and reread several websites that talk about “mature bridal style”, a phrase which seems terribly funny to me because, when I was remarried at 52, I felt like my usual young and imperfect Baby Boomer self. The photo of the older blonde at the very top of this page is a picture of me, so my advice is, as always, honest and based upon experience.
My fiancé (current husband) really wanted me to wear a white dress and a veil, so I wore a 2-piece cream-colored gown with a little veil that hung halfway down my back. I was hesitant to wear something so traditional, but it turned out to be an absolute gas.
Wedding Dresses for Women Over 40
Okay. Most of you don’t have the same body you had when you were 20, so there are two areas of your wedding dress that I would like you to consider:
The style you will choose for your dress, such as A-line, ballgown, mini, or sheath, is somewhat predetermined by your body type, but the wrong neckline or fabric can undermine everything. The neckline will frame your face and can make you appear to be fatter or thinner than you really are, and that neckline will be what people notice in your photos.
And, the fabric of some dresses can be too sheer or too shiny or too whatever... and fabric like that can show every bulge.
So, after walking down three different aisles, my conclusion is that (1) showing off the right amount of skin with the right neckline and (2) diligently determining that you're getting a dress with the right fabric are two of the most important things to consider when trying on dresses. (You can fiddle and faddle and add smoke and mirrors, but if these two items aren't right... you're going to freak out when you see your crappy wedding pictures.)
Modest Wedding Dresses for Wrinkled Necklines
Just because you have a wrinkled décolleté or neck doesn’t mean you have to cover EVERYTHING, but this must be judged on a case-by-case basis. If you want a high neckline that covers your chest up to your chin, try searching for “modest wedding gowns”. Here are some options for what to google:
- Victorian Style Wedding Dresses: These are similar to prairie dresses, ala the Gunne Sax line from the 70s.
- Muslim Bridal Gowns: You don’t have to convert to Islam to wear one of these. Just make sure this type of gown fits your body correctly or you will look frumpy.
- Gothic Neck Ruff: You can wear a neck ruffle with, or over, your dress. Check out Etsy-ish websites and Goth stores. No tattoos or piercings required.
If you don’t have serious wrinkling or if you just don’t care, you can show off your cleavage, but you still have to find the right neckline to frame your face. I think that most women look good in sweetheart, scoop, or V-neck style necklines (with or without sheer overlays).
If you have a top-heavy upper body, try on wedding gowns with deep V-necklines, deep U-necklines, halter necklines, asymmetrical necklines, and strapless necklines. Then, cover the wrinkly, droopy, jiggly parts you hate with gauze or a lacy bolero.
If you have a huge tush or monstrous hips, you're on your own because that's out of my area of expertise. However, I think ballgowns and dresses with shoulder detailing (to balance your butt) would be good things for you to try. And, don't laugh, but I happen to recall seeing a maid of honor who once camouflaged her growing tuckus with a dress that had a little bustle... and it worked. (Use professional guidance on this.)
Fabric for Wedding Dresses
Unless you are a Pilates instructor, don’t get a wedding dress made of shiny material like satin (unless it's hammered and textured) because your dress will probably show every bulge on your bod. Matte fabric with embroidery or embellishment helps with camouflaging bulges. Heavy fabrics will hold you in... but they can be stiff and severe if not done right.
Note: Don’t starve yourself when being measured for a dress. I am telling you from personal experience when I say, “You will regret it.”
If you want to cover your arms, you have lots of options just like you do with necklines. You can cover your arms with:
- Fabric Sleeves (added to the dress)
- Sheer Sleeves (of lace or netting)
- A Lacy Bolero (a quickie fix)
- A Lacy Shawl (an even quicker fix)
However, there is no law saying that women with heavy arms must wear sleeves. Sometimes, sleeves make you look wider.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You MUST hold your dress up to the light to see if you need a slip... especially if you are wearing an alternative wedding dress that doesn't come from a bridal store. Fortunately, I was extremely thin when I married for the second time, because I took my second set of vows while clad in a white designer dress that was not meant to be worn as a wedding gown. And, at a point where it was too late to make any changes, I heard someone whisper, “You can see right through that dress,” as I walked down the "aisle" in the large, double ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel... during my afternoon wedding. “More champagne, please!” The sheerness of my dress might not have been a problem at night... but I was trying to have an elegant second wedding at a chi-chi venue, and a sit-down luncheon for the multitudes was cheaper than a sit-down dinner for that same group of merry rabble-rousers.
Alternative Dresses for Brides
If you've been married before, you probably were all decked out like a ruffled cream puff at the prior wedding. So, if you want to wear something different, a short white or pastel dress is artfully tasteful and perfectly beyond reproach. Here are a few phrases to google for inspiration.
- Short Wedding Dresses (Try channeling your inner Betsey Johnson.)
- White Festival Dresses (Try channeling your inner Janis Joplin.)
- Long Embroidered Caftans (Try channeling your inner Mama Cass.)
For an elegant "occasion" dress that is not white, try searching for “mother of the bride dresses”. Who cares what someone else calls your "wedding" dress? You can make anything look great.
- Bridal Wedding Suits
- Silk Suits for Women
- Long Mother of the Bride Dresses
Just because you’re getting married, you don’t have to look like a Barbie Doll. You can wear a skirted suit or a pantsuit. Search department stores as well as wedding websites.
- Bridal Pantsuits
- Dressy Pantsuits
- Evening Pantsuits
- Embellished Pantsuits
I, Tina Boomerina, veteran of several weddings, hereby give you permission to wear anything that you think is flattering on your body and festive enough to be appropriate. As long as you are having a good time, I say, “It’s your wedding, so wear whatever makes you happy.” And, don’t invite friends or family members unless they are truly happy that you are happy.
Life is too short to put up with people who make a big deal out of nothing. It's your wedding, not theirs.
More Articles for Hip Baby Boomer Women and Other Happening Chicks:
Photo Credits: Christina Gregoire, Prshots.com, Louise Green Millinery (with permission).
- Main Photo: Yes... that's a photo of MOI at my last wedding ceremony. I would have had my hair done professionally if I would have known I was going to show my face to older wannabe-brides on every freaking continent in the world. Acccck. (I ended up using this photo because I couldn't find a free pic of an older bride.)
- Birdcage Veil Wedding Hat: LouiseGreen.com (from 2012) when I first wrote this article.
- Wedding Dresses for Older Brides: Wear Your Favorite Color: LaRedoute magenta dress (2012), Monsoon blue occasion dress (2015), Monsoon embellished maxi dress (2015), Dorothy Perkins long party dress (2015), Phase Eight embellished maxi dress (2015), Phase Eight appliqued occasion dress (2015).
- Wedding Hats for Brides: LouiseGreen.com (2012).
- Wedding Dresses for Older Brides: LaRedoute (2012).
- Wedding Dress for Older Bride: Hobbs (2012).
- Wedding Dress Necklines for Older Women: These are all true wedding dresses and each of these necklines are super flattering, yet not too revealing. Phase Eight (2015), Monsoon (2015), Phase Eight (2015).
- Low Neckline Wedding Dresses for Heavy Upper Bodies: LaRedoute party dress (2015), Monsoon wedding dress (2015), Monsoon wedding dress (2015).
- Wedding Dress Fabric for Women Over 40, 50, 60: House of Fraser party dress (2015), Monsoon short wedding dress (2015), Phase Eight embellished dress (2015), House of Fraser party dress (2015).
- Lace Overlay Wedding Dress to Cover Arms: LaRedoute (2012).
- Bridal Wedding Suit for Women Over 40, 50, 60: Frank Usher (2012).
- Bridal Wedding Pantsuit in White is Perfect for Women of All Ages: Hobbs (2012).
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