Did you know most brides start the search for their wedding dress a whole year ahead of their wedding date? Bridal designers are incredible at creating gorgeous designs that feel totally in vogue for the time of your wedding, even if you've ordered it a year before! Before visiting any bridal boutiques, we recommend you dive into the most popular dress trends you can expect to see in 2022 and beyond and start gathering ideas about what will work for you.
These trends naturally continue to be influenced by Covid: postponed couples are finally getting their day, while those planning now are inspired by the emergence of more pared-back nuptials or - at the other end of the spectrum - spectacular parties that celebrate finally being able to see your loved ones.
Cynthia has seen "a newfound spirit of boldness among brides-to-be" following the pandemic and these trends are contemporary twists on timeless designs that feel fresh, personal and new - while still looking stylish in your wedding photos 20 years from now.
It's all about adding a bit of fun to classic looks, and we'll see that especially with the modern take on ballgowns, the return of puff sleeves, flamboyant party dresses and boho lace for elopements.
1. Short Registry Office Chic
"There will be a lot more smaller weddings as couples get comfy with reduced numbers. So we'll see the revival of the old school registry office wedding and a reception at a local hall, pub or the parents' house," says Peta. "It's probably the fastest growing trend and is seen as modern and chic, more eco-friendly, and less wasteful.
"On your radar should be short dresses, trouser suits, and lace for boho garden weddings."
Bridal separates, such as a bodysuit that can be worn with a skirt or trousers, soared in popularity over lockdown and demand will only increase as brides look for rewearable two-pieces that can take them from an informal ceremony to a laid-back celebration with family and friends.
Cynthia agrees that pared-back separates and transitional pieces will be huge in 2022: "Brides [want] a wedding dress design that is less bridal and that can be dressed up or down throughout the day."
A long, heavy dress with a train doesn't translate to a pub or outdoor space, so expect jumpsuits, tuxedo dresses, cropped tops, mini dresses, reversible tops and jackets, lacy overshirts and overskirts to be big on runways.
Shorter hemlines will lead the way here, whether that's ankle-flashing cigarette trousers, spangly playsuits or thigh-skimming short wedding dresses.
"Brands you should look at for modern, chic, relaxed outfits are Rime Arodaky, The Mews Bridal, Jesus Peiro, Kelsey Rose, Sarah Seven, Odylyne the Ceremony, and Sophie et Voila," recommends Peta. "Look into rentals too - Hurr are doing fabulous business."
2. Sexy Silhouettes
Hands up if you've been living in loungewear for the past 18 months? No wonder there's a trend towards brides wanting to finally go full glam and embracing figure-hugging, sexy wedding dresses in 2022 and 2023.
"We’re not suggesting that our brides want the ‘Playboy Bunny look’ for their big day but this surge and desire for more daring designs is balanced with a desire to maintain a sense of ‘classic timelessness’ that is overall elegant but with an edge of modernity," says bridal couture designer Cynthia.
"To keep this in line with their goals, we are designing gowns with thigh-high splits, removable overskirts and daringly low V-necklines."
3. Off-the-Peg Gowns
"After all the Covid-related postponements, as dates become available, there will be a rush to buy dresses. 'Off-the-peg' gowns will become more common, whether you buy from retailers like David's Bridal or seek out a ready-made collection that's in your local bridal store," says Peta.
As a designer gown can take up to six months to be ready from the date you order it, it's no surprise that in 2022 we'll see a boom in off-the-rail dresses that are ready to go for last-minute weddings. Don't think that 'off-the-peg' means any less wedding-worthy; styles are current, contemporary and often are diffusion lines from high-end designers meaning you get their looks for less.
"If you know your style and size and don't want the thrill of trying on in a store, you can shop online," says Peta. "Net-A-Porter, Needle & Thread, Coast, Self Portrait, Rixo, Frock & Frill, and Wolf & Badger are all out there with their own unique styles perfect for any wedding."
4. Cinderella-Inspired Modern Ballgowns
On the other end of the spectrum are the couples who are making up for lost time with a huge party with their loved ones. "The ballgown will be big news for the bride that's postponed. Whether it's a church, barn or on the beach, the light, modern ballgown is here to stay, with brides swishing down the aisle," says leading bridal stylist Peta.
"And make sure it has pockets - that's not a trend but a must-have! They are the best for looking good in photos; you have somewhere to put your hands when posing, hanky for tears, and for your lip gloss and phone!"
5. Bishop Sleeves
"Voluminous, billowing, statement sleeves are the look of the moment," says Cynthia, pulling out bishop sleeves as one of the biggest high fashion trends. These long, full sleeves gather at the wristband and work with almost every style of wedding depending on the volume, details, cut and cloth, "from the ethereal woodland fairy to the modern classic city chic."
Peta too has seen sleeves soar in popularity as a way for brides to customise their dresses. "It’s not a new concept, however, the creative bride-to-be will get an extra kick out of designing their own dress.
"Sleeves are big news! Little puff ones completely change the look of a strapless dress and by combining separates, shortening styles or adding overskirts, you can create your unique dream dress."
Many designers offer detachable sleeve options, or you can work with a seamstresses to personalise your dress. Bridgerton has inspired a rush of interest in puff-sleeved wedding dress (a 205% rise in fact) which is going nowhere, nor are delicate off-the-shoulder sleeves and voluminous long tulle sleeves that create texture and movement.
6. Colourful Screen Goddess Style
As well as Bridgerton, "TV series like The Crown, Halston, and the new Sex And The City spin-off have had an impact," says Peta. "As have celebrities like Lady Kitty Spencer getting married in Dolce & Gabbana, plus popstars Gwen Stefani and Ariana Grande who wore Vera Wang (who is releasing a collection with Pronovias). The upcoming Gucci movie will too.
"Short dresses with long veils, coloured dresses and big statement ones have been hot on social channels and designers have responded. Look out for Dolce and Gabbana, Molly Goddard, Sassi Holford, Savin and MillaNova."
Bridgerton will return in early 2022 with even more colour and tulle, while Season 5 of the The Crown - confirmed for a November 2022 release - will reinvigorate the renaissance of '90s fashion as it covers Charles and Diana's marriage. As teaser trailers and cast photos are released, expect to see the TV aesthetic bleed into new season designs.
7. Feathers, Ruffles and Dramatic Disco Dresses
"Taking the ‘Go Bold or Go Home’ statement to the ninth degree with a life’s too short approach," says Cynthia, who has seen brides asking for more feather, ruffles and drama.
"Whether inspired by Bridgeton or a childhood memory of the fairytale princess, think light airy fabrics for a delicate bounce and float - as in 'just descended from the heavens' kinda vibe!"
Peta has seen a retro return of beads and sparkles to accentuate the drama. "It’s less Great Gatsby, more '80s banging disco," says Peta. "Perfect for evening weddings or, dare we say, a second dress?"
All-over sequins are back in a big way, as are fringing, beading and playful frilled silhouettes. Celestial-inspired dresses with glittering stars will continue to be popular for reception dresses.
8. Ethical Wedding Dresses
"Many companies are now making you aware of their ethical credentials. Ask your retailer if you feel strongly about it; fast fashion is becoming a bit of a swear word and knowing the dress’s manufacturing journey is now more important than ever," says Peta.
"Check out your dress’s fabric: is it recycled or made from leftover fabrics?" she asks. Could you find a vintage or pre-loved wedding dress? What about organic cotton and bamboo fabrics? Does the company carbon-offset shipping or rescue deadstock fabrics (end of line or discontinued fabric)?
"If it’s that important to you, maybe look at hiring a dress?" she adds.
Many couples are choosing to source their outfits from British designers too, investing back into the economy and reducing the airmiles on their clothing. Ethical UK wedding dress designers include Charlie Brear, Kate Halfpenny, Kate Fearnley, Sabina Motasem, Andrea Hawkes, Kate Edmondson and Lucy Martin.
9. Romantic Boho Escapism
"The year ahead is most certainly set to overflow with romance, escapism and the ethereal," predicts Cynthia. "From combining ultra soft tulle and Chantilly laces, brides are searching for dreamy gowns in which they can feel exquisite and beautiful."
This style goes hand-in-hand with a rise in elopement weddings.
"Elopement style weddings are here to stay," says Peta. "Simply going away is a great way to lower numbers and you can combine your wedding and honeymoon. This is where the more boho-style dress works, whether a beach wedding, country wedding, or in a forest."
Even if you're travelling within the same country, eloping couples need to consider how their outfits will look on arrival. You're not guaranteed to have the time or equipment to steam or dry-clean your clothing, so a forgiving fabric and relaxed style will be in your favour.
"Lace dresses travel well and I love the romance of a high neck or great floaty sleeves for that extra romantic boho-inspired vibe," says Peta. "Lace is the eternal bridal fabric, but tulle and chiffon are also on the must-look-for list.
10. Minimalist Luxury
"As a complete contrast to the 'sparkle look', there is a trend for a minimalist look with clean cut and simple dresses," says Peta. "Perfect understated luxury in heavy crêpe or a satin."
Pared-back of embellishments, these simple, understated dresses make a statement through their cut and fit. Sleek silhouettes accentuate natural curves and thicker fabrics sit smoothly against the body. Couples who favour minimalism will revel in this trend, which puts the emphasis on tailoring, proportions and modern style.
11. The Return of the Veil
"Finally, not a dress trend, but we are seeing more veils, the ultimate in bridal accessorising," says Peta.
They're currently top of every celebrity's wedding accessory list: Ariana Grande wore a short bubble veil, while Jasmine Tookes sported a lace-trimmed, cathedral-length blusher veil, and Lily Collins took it one steps further with a hooded lace cape that doubled as a veil.
"They are having a bit of a resurgence. A veil can turn a plain shift dress into a wedding gown in seconds! Mums adore them, grannies get tearful at the sight of them and they are so hot right now.