Choosing a Wedding Dress

When shopping for a wedding dress, experts say, consider the setting.

(Photograph by Amative Creative)

When brides get engaged, two things top their list besides showing off the new bling: Dress shopping and picking a venue. Of course, it makes sense as both are excellent foundations for setting the tone and style of your big day. But have you ever considered pairing the two? Virginia experts say that doing so could simplify the process of choosing your gown.

“I have noticed that the majority of my brides already have their venue picked out before selecting their dream gown,” says Olivia Rumsey, assistant manager and stylist at Caryn’s Bridals, Formals, & Tuxedos in Farmville. “I find this extremely helpful, especially if a bride is between two or more gowns.” Not only can the style of your venue help you narrow down your dress selection, but considering the location may seal the deal.

Andrea Lewis, owner of Amative Creative in Lynchburg, imagines the bigger picture when helping her brides select a dress. As a photographer, Lewis likes to conceptualize the gown ahead of time to get to know the bride’s style and consider poses that complement the dress. Having the gown coordinate with the location is a satisfying bonus. “You’d be surprised how many weddings I shoot where the bride beams with joy stating that her dress matches her venue,” says Lewis.

The location may also dictate other factors, such as selecting a durable fabric if you’re getting married in the woods. “If your venue is a hotel ballroom, you have more flexibility with wearing sleeves and heavier fabrics because you’ll be in a climate-controlled space,” advises Alyce Carlin, owner of The Newfangled Bride in Salem. She also suggests lightweight fabrics for rustic settings with uneven terrains, such as a barn floor or the outdoors.

Although you should keep your wedding’s setting in mind when dress shopping, don’t fall out of love with a gown that seems perfect simply because it’s not the same style as your chosen venue. If it makes you feel amazing, go for it! “The most important thing to consider when picking a dress is how you feel,” suggests Carlin. “When you feel beautiful in what you’re wearing, the confidence will come across to your guests and in your photos.”

Rumsey also agrees that brides should stay true to themselves. “Find a gown that reflects your personal style and love story,” she advises. “Be mindful of what is genuine to you.” No matter what, your wedding day reflects you and your partner, and if you want something unconventional, don’t be afraid to go outside of perceived norms. Whether you adore colorful vibes or clean lines, there’s a dress—and a venue—for that.

The choice is yours. (


Traditionally more offbeat, these locations are often found inside art galleries, breweries, flower gardens, and reclaimed spaces. Pick a gown that is playful, yet a bit understated—perhaps even with a pop of color—to let your personality take center stage.


Modern lines and an impeccable fit characterize minimalistic gowns. It’s no wonder as these events often take place in clean, bright, unfussy spaces, such as refurbished buildings and warehouses with light-colored walls that act as the perfect backdrop for your big day.


Gowns inspired by old Hollywood glam are perfect for darker, moodier venues, such as theatres and luxe ballrooms. This maximalist approach to dressing concentrates on crystal accents, layers, and statement details like unexpected sleeves or a bead-laden bodice.


These venues are ideal for those who love boho and rustic vibes. Consider gowns with handmade-inspired detailing and lace overlays. Slight nods to the 1970s also fit with this style of dress, which is perfect for the outdoors, barns, and farms.


These classic events often occur in light and airy hotel ballrooms, open reception spaces, and well-curated gardens. Although it’s not necessary to overspend, elegant gowns often look expensive by focusing on the overall construction instead of mounds of tiny details.

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue.

(Dresses by Church Street Bridal, Lynchburg)

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