How to choose the perfect wedding dress

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

I'll admit, I have a weakness for watching 'Say Yes to the Dress' and have probably watched 95% of all the episodes ever made, so I know how exciting choosing your wedding dress may be. This is the time when playing dress-up and venturing outside of your clothing comfort zone, is encouraged. Yup! You have my permission to challenge your own idea of the perfect wedding gown, you might be pleasantly surprised by trying on different dress shapes.

Before you make your dress appointment, I’d love to share a few points, from a photography point of view, to keep in mind when selecting your dream gown.


Always keep the season (summer, autumn, spring, winter) of your wedding date in mind. It won’t be wise to wear a long, vey covered gown for a summer wedding or a crop top and soft flow-y skirt for a winter wedding. By selecting a design which compliments the season, will allow you to feel and look effortless in your images. That’s a guarantee!

Have a look at my wedding dress ideas Pinterest board for designs which photographs beautifully.


From a photography point of view, THE MOST important aspect to is the FIT of your gown. Regardless of the silhouette of your dress, it needs to fit your proportions like a glove. This is where a talented designer with specialist tailoring skills will make your dress ideas come to life. Your wedding dress should fit in the same way as you would selecting your underwear. Your dress needs to shape WITH your body. A dress which is too small / tight, will photograph to show all the lumps and bumps (sorry to be brutally honest) and if a dress is too loose, you will be pulling and tucking on it the whole day. If you take anything from this post, please make sure your wedding dress fits properly.

TIP: It is recommended to have a final fitting 1.5 weeks before your wedding day. You might loose a few extra centimeters in the last weeks leading up to the big day, and the final alterations will ensure your gown fits perfectly.


What if I told you, your dress can be ANY colour you want! You don’t have to settle for the traditional white gown. When choosing a white gown, ensure that the white does not have a colour undertone when photographed. This is usually present when more affordable fabrics are used and one of the reasons a high quality wedding gown costs an arm and a leg! If a colour undertone is not intentional it can be a post production nightmare for any photographer. If you want a non-white dress, choose a colour which is flattering to your skin tone and which compliments the colour scheme of your wedding celebration. Smart fabric choices can up-level a simple dress design to look and feel luxe; you don't need to paste a billion Swarovski crystals on your gown to look like royalty.

TIP: It is recommended to have a final fitting 1.5 weeks before your wedding day. You might loose a few extra centimeters, and the final alterations will ensure your gown fits perfectly.

Everyone loves a great reveal, so why not have a dress for your ceremony which then converts into a second (surprise) dress for the reception? Below is bride Ali, she opted for a 2-in-1 wedding gown. She had a full silk skirt, which clipped off and revealed a fun, shorter ostrich feather party skirt for the reception / dancing portion of their wedding.

I love it when my brides put a lot of effort into the styling of their wedding gown. Styling can make or break a wedding look! Consider a unique pair of wedding shoes; statement jewelry, head piece/ crown/ unique veil / a bridal cape to communicate your personal style and tie your wedding look in with your wedding theme.

Below are some local vendors who supply the industry with trendsetting accessories;

Jeanne & Co | Vagabond Bridal | Bo & Luca |


Being a documentary wedding photographer, my style depends a lot on capturing in-between moments and avoiding stiff overly posed photographs. I am able to achieve this by allowing movement to take place and this approach will impact the wedding gown you select.

I encourage my brides to choose a dress in which they feel comfortable, but also allows them to effortlessly move around in. This is not to say you can only choose a dress with a Chiffon skirt! Please don't! Yes, dress / skirt movement is magical in photos, but I am more specifically referring to you and your legs being able to move around in your dress without losing blood flow or being poked from every angle. Sometimes we have to hike a little to a special / epic spot and being in a very tight mermaid gown might make things a little tricky ;) Alas if you do find love in a mermaid gown, I have ample tricks up my sleeve to make your golden hour photoshoot effortless and stress-free.

TIP: Before saying YES to your dress, dance around in it, twirl, bend, sit and casually walk - don't be shy to test drive your dress, you'll thank me later!


Some are ruled by them, others avoid them like a plague. You'll need to determine where you fall on this spectrum. If it is your personality to follow trends, then sure, go for it Sharon. If you tend to challenge trends, then it is your duty to have a gown that reflects this. That said, I am of the opinion that trends should inspire decisions, but not control every aspect of your wedding day. Its more important to choose a dress, which enhances your beauty and makes you feel excited to walk down the aisle, they copying a Pinterest board.

That's all from me friends! I hope these tips will help you on your quest to find your perfect wedding gown. Apply the tips above to guide you towards a design which will not only photograph beautifully, but capture you, your style and wedding theme perfectly.

Need advice on how to deal with a very opinionated mother of the bride or bridal party during your dress fittings? Drop me an email and Ill gladly assist. Happy wedding planning!


#weddingdresstrends #sayyestothedress #weddinggowns #bridestyle #bridetobe #weddingplanningtips #dressfitting #documentaryweddingphotography #letsgetmarried




Cape Town, South Africa  |  |  @marlikoenphoto

© Marli Koen Photography 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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