A bride in a yellow dress and vintage hiking boots shows off her bouquet.

The Top 3 Things To Look For When Buying Your Elopement Dress

When you’re shopping for elopement dresses, it can be hard to know where to start!

You Don’t Have To Settle

Some folks think that dresses for elopements necessarily are less exciting, less elaborate, and less expensive than traditional wedding dresses. Of course everyone has different styles and budgets, but there isn’t some rule that says you can’t wear a “real” wedding dress for your elopement! 

You deserve to wear whatever makes you feel celebrated and amazing. 

“Our experience with couples that decide to elope is that our clients are still hoping for a traditional looking gown to celebrate, even if it is just with their partner and a celebrant. Eloping doesn’t mean you need to settle on a super casual look if that’s not what will make you feel special.”

Christine Greenberg, Owner of Urban Set Bride in Richmond, VA

What To Look For When Shopping For Your Elopement Dress

If you’re going to be doing anything active for your elopement, like hiking or frolicking in a meadow, you’ll want to look for a few key features to make sure that you feel amazing all day long. 

1.Breathable and Moisture-Wicking Fabrics

Not all fabrics are created equal when it comes to staying comfortable in the outdoors. 

Cotton

While super breathable and comfortable, cotton doesn’t dry quickly, and can leave you feeling…swampy. If you’re like me and tend to get sweaty, you may want to look for a dress with a low cotton content.

Nylon and Polyester

These synthetic fabrics are showing up more and more, even in higher-end designs. These fabrics wick moisture very well, and can be pretty breathable depending on how tightly they are woven. 

The trade-off with these fabrics is that they tend to retain odors, but unless you’re planning on wearing your dress multiple days in a row, for something like a sunrise session the next morning, that probably isn’t something you even need to worry about. 

Rayon, Lyocell, Viscose

These cellulose-based fabrics are often found in dresses because they drape well and feel silky. In addition to a silky look, they also dry pretty quickly (although not as quickly as polyester) and can be very breathable depending on what they are blended with. 

A downside to rayon, etc., is that it tends to wrinkle, which may not be the best option if you’re planning to carry your wedding clothes in your backpack for part of your hike. 

Linen

A great, lightweight fabric made from the flax plant. While usually super breathable, this fabric is a lot like cotton in that it gets heavy and holds onto water. This means it’s not a great option if you tend to get sweaty or will be doing a lot of activity.

Silk

Silk is the ultimate luxury fabric, and it can be a great option for your wedding clothes. It’s a lightweight and breathable material. However, silk is not good at wicking moisture and tend to hold onto odors. 

2. Legroom

Mermaid cut wedding dresses are super beautiful and popular, but are not a great option for a wedding day that involves a lot of walking or hiking, or really any activity that requires you to take normal-sized steps. 

When looking for your perfect dress for your elopement, an A-line skirt is going to be your best friend. Lots of room for you to move your legs, climb a mountain, and hop up on a boulder for that epic shot with your partner.

Christine Greenberg from Urban Set Bride says:

“[For our eloping clients, we recommend] A-line gowns with a fitted, structured bodice and a flowy skirt. A skirt with room to extend your legs fully on a hike and one that is still lightweight enough to maneuver and stay comfortable is key.“

Christine greenberg, Urban Set Bride

3. A Bodice You Can Breathe In

A beautiful boned, lace-up corset bodice might not be the right choice for an elopement day where you will need to be able to bend over and breathe deeply. 

Instead, look for a bodice where the structure is created by the cut and fabric. 

Additionally, if you’ve ever worn Spanx, you know that they’re not exactly “activewear”. Look for a dress you feel amazing in without restrictive shapewear. Your strong, beautiful body will be working hard to get you to that summit in time for sunrise, and you deserve to be comfortable. 

Elopement Dress Recommendations From A Wedding Dress Expert

I am so lucky to have an expert like Christine from Urban Set Bride right here in Richmond! With years of experience working as both a wedding planner and a wedding dress boutique owner, she is solidly an expert on finding the perfect dress(es) for every wedding. 

Based on her tips for what to look for in a dress for your adventurous elopement, she sent me several recommendations of gowns that she carries in her shop that check all of the boxes!

If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area, definitely consider making an appointment at Urban Set Bride so that Christine and her team can help you find your elopement dress!

Flattering elopement dress with a-line skirt and fitted bodice.
Image from Jenny Yoo

1. Martina by Jenny Yoo

Martina is the perfect combination of elegance and comfort. With the fine lace bodice and loose, flowy skirt, this is a flattering option for anyone planning an adventurous elopement.

Simple and beautiful elopement dress with button back
Image from Maggie Sottero

2. Josephine by Maggie Sottero

Josephine proves that minimalist doesn’t mean boring! This gorgeous, structured gown is a great option for anyone who is looking for simplicity in their wedding dress so that their love and the gorgeous scenery are what really shines through in their elopement photos. 

Elopement dress with oversized floral boho lace.
Image from Maggie Sottero

3. Burke by Maggie Sottero

Burke is the quintessential boho elopement gown, with its oversized floral lace and flattering cut. The A-line skirt and fitted, but not restrictive, bodice make it an obvious choice for your breezy and bohemian elopement day.

elopement dress with dramatic neckline and lace.
Image from Lillian West

4. 66163 by Lillian West

With its fuller skirt and plunging illusion neckline, 66163 is an incredible option for those looking for a little drama for their elopement day look. The illusion neckline makes a plunging neckline like that a viable option even for active wedding days, since the sheer netting helps to hold everything together up top. That means you can pay attention to where you’re stepping, and not have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions!


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Meet The Author

Leah is an elopement photographer based in Richmond. She is committed to helping couples shake off the pressure and societal expectations surrounding their wedding day, so that they can celebrate their love and commitment in a way that makes them feel seen and celebrated.

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8 Comments

  1. This was such an interesting reading, I had never thought about a linen wedding dress!

  2. Leg room 110%!! I want to spin and dance around in my wedding dress! Thanks for the tips.

  3. Erica Swantek says:

    Great tips! I definitely think brides will find this super helpful when trying to find that perfect elopement dress!

  4. Great tips for choosing a wedding dress! It’s definitely important to be able to move around and be comfortable in your wedding dress if you’re having an outdoor elopement!

  5. “Just say No” to no to swampiness on your wedding day! Excellent information. Finding the perfect dress for an elopement is definitely different than for a traditional wedding. Love the options you listed, and especially appreciate the fabric breakdowns as it can make or break the comfort level of a long day!

  6. angela hays says:

    So cool! I have never read a blog on how to choose a dress. Unique and fun!

  7. Loving how you got input from dress designers and shops! What a helpful article!

  8. Choosing the right dress is so so important….it’s one of the most important things for your big day! Great points!

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