This Is Your Permission To Ditch The Formal Wedding Gown

You call them reception dresses. We call them wedding dresses.

I wore a short wedding dress to my wedding. A decade ago, short wedding dresses were just starting to make a comeback, and picking one felt like a bit of a wild choice (in fact, you can see my early overthinking of the subject right here).

Back in the day, finding a short wedding dress was something of a nightmare. Every time I saw a blog post with a short wedding dress, I’d desperately look for the credits, only to find that the dress was custom made, or vintage, or simply not credited at all. So I did what any reasonable person would do, which was go into wedding dress boutiques and show them pictures of dresses I liked. The salespeople would always nod and smile very politely, and then tell me they had something very similar. Then they’d pull out several full length, strapless, cupcake dresses, and suggest I might look GREAT in a dress like this. (Further review would confirm all the dresses in the store looked exactly the same.) In one particularly desperate moment, a saleslady pulled out a $10,000 Vera Wang dress that weighed at least ten pounds, and suggested I could just chop it in half. Clearly, the logical thing to do with a recent $10K purchase is to chop it down the middle and hope that it works out. Needless to say, I didn’t follow that salesperson’s advice or even end up buying a dress at a bridal salon. Instead, I…. you guessed it… tried to make my own dress, and when that failed, I lucked out and found a perfect $250 vintage short wedding dress. Nice for me, but just as unhelpful to you as all those blog posts I read back in the day.

A row of women posing in wedding dresses with five women in short wedding dresses, one in a long dress, and one in a pants separate with a crop top

Now (with thanks to the wedding Goddesses, along with a changing industry), finding a short wedding dress isn’t super difficult, though you still often can’t find what you’re looking for at your local bridal boutique. But thanks to the wonder of the internet, now you can buy great wedding dresses online, saving you ridiculous conversations with salespeople, who suggest chopping dresses in half to achieve your desired look. Plus, short wedding dresses have the added advantage of not always being marketed as wedding dresses, making them much more affordable.

Pro-tip: If you’re having a hard time finding a short wedding dress you like, try looking for reception dresses. Often super stylish, super affordable short dresses will be marketed as dresses to wear while you dance… but they’re clearly cute enough to wear all night long. In fact, BHLDN has a whole reception dress section, and it tends to be pretty killer.

So without further ado, here is a selection of vintage short wedding dresses, bohemian short wedding dresses, and modern short wedding dresses, in a variety of price points and sizes (including some rental options).

Vintage STyle Short Wedding Dresses

Personally, I’m grateful that the silhouette originally known as The New Look has made a comeback. One day I may be like my grandmother, rocking it regardless of whether it’s in or out of style because it is the single most flattering look on my body. If like me, you’re looking for a vintage short wedding dress, this might be the vibe for you. But we’ve also thrown in vintage styles from a bunch of different eras because we can all get behind some ’60s chic or ’70s glam, and we’re always here for the flappers.

A short wedding dress with a black belt sash

Illusion High Neck Tiered Short Dress via David’s Bridal ($199)

A knee length wedding dress with pockets

Miami Lace & Mikado via Nordstrom ($1,400)

black woman with lace white dress and flowers

Chi Chi London Gilded Grace Lace Dress* via Modcloth ($175) *available in plus sizes

laughing woman in sequined white dress

Goldie Dress via BHLDN ($400)

A simple short white wedding dress

Frida Dress via Revolve ($170)

flower applique ball gown short dress

Truly Zac Posen 3/4 Sleeve* via David’s Bridal ($758.00–$808.00) *available in plus sizes

A woman in a short, vintage wedding dress with full sleeves

Elva Dress via BHLDN ($495)

white dress with gold overlay top

Ketu Dress by Catherine Deane via Rent the Runway ($125–$145 rental)

woman wearing a lace mock turtle neck dress

Mock-Neck Illusion Lace via David’s Bridal ($99.95)

woman wearing a ivory cocktail length sheath dress

Ivory Lace Cocktail Sheath by Marchesa Notte via Rent the Runway ($130–$145 rental)

woman wearing an off the shoulder lace dress

Mia Dress via White Runway ($155.45)

Tea Length Cotton Eyelet Dress

Tea Length Cotton Eyelet Dress* by FrenchKnotCouture ($800) *available in plus sizes

Bohemian Short Wedding Dresses

When you think bohemian, it’s often the maxi dress that comes to mind. More is more is MORE, right? But some of the coolest bohemian wedding dresses are short ones. The balance of maximal with less (dress), creates a really design-y take on one of our favorite looks.

A bohemian wedding dress

Defining Devine Sleeveless Dress via Modcloth ($159)

woman wearing a High Neck lace Shift dress

High Neck Shift via Grace Loves Lace ($544.50)woman wearing a dress with a Full skirt, Short sleeves, Crew neckline


White Lace by ML Monique Lhuillier via Rent the Runway ($75 rental)

woman wearing a dress with a Bardot neckline, fit-and-flare silhouette, and lace hemline

Grace Around You Off-Shoulder via Chicwish ($60)

Short And Simple

The wedding industry loves to push this idea that you need to make sure your dress is “bridal,” whatever that means. One assumes that a bride wearing a dress makes it bridal, but in an industry that loves a good upsell, it’s easy to get the idea that your dress needs to be EXTRA, even if that’s really not your jam. So rest assured, even if your dress is short, it’s bridal. And if your dress is simple, it’s also bridal. And if it’s short and simple? Well then it’s not just bridal, it’s super modern. With that in mind, we’ve picked some little white dresses for those of you with a more minimalist aesthetic. You’ll look like a bad-ass bride in all of these, we guarantee it.

A modern fit wedding dress

Embroidered Lace Boat Neck Midi Dress via Dillards ($248)

a simple white dress with 3/4 sleeves

Black Halo via Rent the Runwayd ($345)

black woman wearing an off the shoulder white dress

Tara Sheath by Hutch via Rent the Runway ($30–$50 rental)

woman wearing a white halter dress

Light Ivory Halter Sheath* by Badgley Mischka via Rent the Runway *available in plus sizes

Modern Short Wedding Dresses

If you’re looking for a short wedding dress, chances are you’re a little fashion forward in the first place. So embrace it! Don’t be afraid of cutouts, exaggerated sleeves, or sleek silhouettes. Trust me, looking back, you’ll never regret going bold. Go big or go home, as we always say. Or in this case, little, with a big vibe.

A midlength wedding dress with pockets

Sleeveless Mikado Fit & Flare Midi Dress via Adrianna Papell ($160)

woman wearing a dress with cutouts and tulle

Venice* via Fame and Partners (customization available, starts at $329) *available in plus sizes

woman wearing a dress with a plunging neckline, floaty short sleeves, and a knee-length skirt

Sylvan* via Fame and Partners (customization available, starts at $279)  *available in plus sizes

woman wearing a dress with white sequins on mesh

White Carlene by Dress The Population via Rent the Runway ($50–$65 rental)

woman wearing a dress with structured ruffles

White Ruffle by MSGM via Rent the Runway ($60–$80 rental)

black woman wearing a white dress with intricate embellishments

Brandi Sequin Sheath by Dress The Population via Rent the Runway ($45–$60 rental)

short wedding dresses - woman wearing a dress with bell sleeves

Ivory Bell Sleeves by Badgley Mischka via Rent the Runway ($85–$100 rental)

woman wearing a dress with a deep v and balloon sleeves

Delray by Rime Arodaky ($849.57)

NONTRADITIONAL Short Wedding Dresses

You know our rule on this. The only thing that makes a wedding dress a wedding dress is that you wear it to your wedding, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Your bridal style is what you make it. So while these dresses might not be sold as wedding dresses, they probably should be.

A wedding dress with a high cut front

A-Line Chiffon Cocktail Dress via JJ’s House ($103)

woman wearing a dress with white lace leaves

Defining Divine Midi* via ModCloth ($150) *available in plus sizes

woman wearing a short dress with a train

Gaga by Daughters of Simone ($1,195)

woman wearing an intricate white lace dress

White Lace Luxe by Alexia via Rent the Runway ($140–$155 rental)

Bride twirling with text "50 short wedding dresses"

If you wore a short wedding dress, where did you get it? What did it look like? Pictures or it doesn’t count!

Featured Sponsored Content

Please read our comment policy before you comment.

The APW Store is Here

APW Wedding e-shop

go find all our favorites from around the internet, and our free planning tools

Shop Now
APW Wedding e-shop

Planning a wedding?

We have all the planning tools you need right now.

Budget spreadsheets, checklists, and more...

Get Your Free Planning Tools