In planning a wedding, choosing a location that reflects the personalities and lifestyles of the bride and groom is always essential. Seasons count, too; formality and time of day should be dependent upon the overall picture everyone has in their mind. An evening wedding during the freezing months of winter offers the opportunity for full formal evening dress; a summer afternoon outdoors will feel more free. A dress should reflect the mood of the prospective event, maybe even dictate it, so all this is worth keeping in mind for any bride who naturally intends to be the star of the show.
Modernity to the Ultimate Degree: Dramatic Minimalism
The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion is serene and spiritual, with clean, bold, architectural lines. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the magnificent cathedral-like space calls for a dramatic yet minimalist dress. Consider Vera Wang‘s full silk satin ball gown at $4,500: The long-sleeved light ivory design with stretch illusion and a black corset creates an elegant edge. The black and white decor adds a Zen-like touch.
Farm to Table Foodie: Elegant Country Girl
For a bride committed to the localvore movement who truly wants to celebrate in the spirit of “farm to table,” Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, is the perfect place. A year-round working farm and educational center, Blue Hill sources from the surrounding fields and pastures of the Hudson Valley. Each season can inspire a different dress selection. This formal farm print by Romona Keveza Luxe Bridal makes a statement for the setting with a halter in Tuscan silk mikado and a full pleated skirt for $7,800. To complete the look, use flowers picked locally.
Urban Rooftop Garden: Keep it Sexy
The Gramercy Park Hotel Terrace is a lush garden set to a backdrop of 20th-century art and the sweeping Manhattan skyline. For a daytime wedding, beautiful light streams through the glass rooftop. In the evening, it is intimate and inviting, with lanterns and candlelight. Led by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, this is the venue is for an urban girl with that effortless New York cool. Wear something almost “non wedding,” keeping it exciting and glamorous but still special—like Alon Livné White‘s delicate ruffle and lattice-inspired embroidered bodice, with a lace and pearl collar and tulle skirt for $11,250. Feathers and sparkle would also work well.
Opulent Mansion Party: Go Classic and Formal
Some venues demand “BLACK TIE!” as the only acceptable look, like the Anderson House on Washington D.C.’s Embassy Row, built in 1905 in the Beaux-Arts style. This formal event space was once the winter residence of Larz Anderson, an American diplomat, and his wife Isabel, an author, who used to throw lavish, high society galas. The Anderson House lends itself to all things elegant and classic. A soft, simple and frothy-yet-uncomplicated dress would complement this style of Washington wedding: think Kenneth Pool‘s strapless drop-waist gown with a layered tulle skirt and hand-appliquéd Alencon lace, at $5,280. Warm-toned flowers and silver chairs work perfectly in this Gilded Age space.
Boutique Hotel Pool: Charming Floral Details
The mid-century modern Parker Palm Springs in Coachella Valley is not only a stunning venue, but the location can almost guarantee perfect weather. A happy place to wed in California style, let your imagination go wild as you pick from the Parker’s selection of lawns, gardens, or interior spaces designed by Jonathan Adler. Wear a dress in the spirit of lighthearted, easy and stylish charm, making sure it is comfortable to wear as you mingle poolside with your guests, and breezy enough for the hot desert sun. Lela Rose‘s organza petal-embroidered halter gown with a jeweled neck is just the right amount of quirky, for $12,995.
Barn Wedding: Boho Chic Baroque
A barn wedding is still an American favorite, and the 66-acre Flanagan Farm in Buxton, Maine is a rustic and sophisticated option for a setting of this kind. Built in the late 19th century, the Flanagan Farm barn was restored in 2012 to its original structure and authentic charm, with locally crafted chandeliers and sconces by sculptor Joe Lops. An unstructured, relaxed gown with antique colors is a glowing choice to accent the flickering lights against warm wooded tones. Consider Claire Pettibone’s aquamarine and platinum lace gown with a full skirt with beaded mutton sleeves, for $4,875.
Italian Villa: Lace Fit-and-Flair
Inspired by their honeymoon on Lake Como, Hal Sevier, editor of the Austin American, and his wife Clara Driscoll, built Laguna Gloria in 1916. Clara planted native and foreign plants throughout the gardens and terraces, and the estate—overlooking the shores of Lake Austin in Texas—is now part of the Contemporary Art Museum with sculptures scattered across the grounds. Dress like you own the place, wearing all-over lace in a fishtail gown with plunging v-neckline and three-dimensional floral arch embroidery. This Marchesa dress, for $8,995, mirrors the motifs in the windows of the villa, and when worn a floral tiara for $250, your modern romance is complete.
Industrial Winery: West Coast Hipster
Celebrate in an unfinished space at the Maysara winery in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This raw structure of stone, wood and steel sits on 540 acres of the Momtazi Vineyard, where the wine is made chemical-free using holistic and naturopathic practices. Layer sophisticated separates of sheer silk organza by Houghton Bride, like their opera coat with a wide sash for $1,370, a bralette in French corded lace for $875 and full ruffle skirt in Chantilly lace and cotton gauze for $1,395.
Sweeping Mountaintop: Formal Western
Marry at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. overlooking a breathtaking views of Paradise Valley, where Food Network Chef Beau McMillian runs one of the top-rated restaurants in the country. Paired with a relaxing spa, what more could you ask for? A little Western influence can work, but keep it formal in this elegant Oscar de la Renta ivory strapless sweetheart gown, with a rose garden matelassé trumpet shaped skirt, for $ 7,990—and stay warm in the evening with an elbow-length front-corded rose garden Chantilly lace caplet, for $2,990.
Destination Island: Sheer Packable-Chic
Set between a marine national park and a nature reserve, Amanyara is a peaceful retreat surrounded by white sand in the pristine waters of Turks and Caicos. Consider a lightweight gown for the heat, packable if possible or carry-on for safety. Amanyara is for the low key bride. Celebrate in this chic two-piece Chantilly lace off-the-shoulder button front coat over a lace skirt by Israeli designer Inbal Dror for $7,260. You could even wear it again over your bathing suit on your honeymoon.
Rachel Leonard was the fashion director of Brides Magazine for 18 years—and the first employee at Condé Nast to make the jump from advertising to editorial. Rachel is currently the editorial director for The Bridal Council, and can be followed on Instagram@_rachelleonard.