Think all wedding dresses are white? Think again!

Traditional white makes some brides look stunning – and others look like the walking dead. You don’t fancy wearing a brightly coloured dress though, so what options do you have?

Colour BG2

From left: Mariana gown in barley by Jenny Packham; style 640 by Martina Liana; style 16022 by Oronovias; Salamanca gown by Ian Stuart Bride; Nancy gown in medium ivory by Eliza Jane Howell

Not everyone suits white. But there’s no need to call off the wedding just because the palest hue is doing nothing for you: there’s a spectrum of alternative tones that might suit you better. We’re not talking a rainbow explosion (although that’s not to say you couldn’t embrace your inner My Little Pony if you wanted to – no judgement), but rather a slight shift in thinking to oyster, barley or cream, or, for braver brides, gold, blush or blue.

“Choosing the right shade of wedding dress can lift your skin tone, making you look healthier and fresher,” says Anne Priscilla Bridal’s Ashleigh Elliott. “It’s something I chat about regularly with our brides and is not to be overlooked if you are channelling the typical classic bride – you can still look classic with colour! All brides should give colour a chance.”

Unless you’re something of a colour expert, it can be tricky to distinguish between a multitude of marginally different off-whites, so trust your boutique to guide you through the labyrinth. “Take as much advice as possible from your bridal stylist and ask if you can see fabric swatches,” says Hannah Muckersie at Eleganza Sposa. “Many of our gowns can not only be ordered in a different tone but can be layered in a variety of shades, which softens the colour of the dress.”

Hand-placed lace and organza gown in ivory/blue (style 80007), around £749, Kelsey Rose
Emma strapless high-low gown in ivory, £2295, Sassi Holford
Nancy gown in medium ivory by Eliza Jane Howell, £2085, Pan Pan Bridal
Elsa gown in blue brocade, around £1485, Donna Salado
Valeria crêpe mermaid gown with short sleeves and bateau neckline in white/ivory, from £1720, Pronovias
Mermaid-style gown in ivory with boat neckline, sheer sleeves, Swarovski belt and tulle train (style 16017), £POA, Oronovias
Lace illusion sheath wedding dress by Martina Liana (style 690) in silk ivory, £1599, Pan Pan Bridal
Coco wheatsheaf embroidered gown in taupe/metallic with floral appliqué, £2900, Ian Stuart Bride
Salamanca metallic lace gown by Ian Stuart Bride, £2225, Anne Priscilla Bridal
Eliza ruched taffeta and tulle gown in champagne with beaded waistband (style 69018), £1450, Ronald Joyce
Parisian silk chiffon wedding dress in ivory (style 726), around £2099, Martina Liana
Swan double-sided satin gown in pale gold with lace appliquéd bodice from the Couture collection, £POA, Joyce Young Design Studios
Antique Rose silk charmeuse satin and Italian lace gown in blush, around £1675, Ivory & Co
Madelyn gown in champagne (style 2702), around £1350, Amanda Wyatt
Leonora short tea-length tulle and lace gown in blush pink, around £1450, House of Mooshki
Berry French lace jacket and Thea crêpe-back satin backless dress in ivory, around £1875, Halfpenny London
Beaded lace sweetheart gown (style 640), around £2799, Martina Liana
Empire-line gown with V-neck and pleated skirt in champagne (style 16022), £POA, Oronovias
Mariana gown in barley by Jenny Packham, £3360, Pan Pan Bridal
Cressida gown in coffee, around £3450, Jenny Packham

Even shades you might think you could identify with confidence can deviate. Take ivory, for instance. “There is huge variation in the shades available – 88 of them, to be exact,” says Emma Doig from Pan Pan Bridal. “Eggshell Ivory is the lightest, and is perfect for a darker skin tone. Candlelight is a deeper shade of ivory, with a creamy beige undertone.

“If you are lighter-skinned, this is the shade for you, as it is not such a harsh contrast again your skin. And Ecru is the deepest, bordering on tan or beige. This is less traditional than Eggshell Ivory, offering a modern twist for a fashion-forward bride, and it particularly suits pinky-pale complexions.”

Ellis Bridals’ Regine Ellis agrees: “There are so many variations in the ivory colour palette, from yellow-based shades to pink-tinged tones, that there is invariably an ivory that will suit you. The colour brings radiance to any skin tone.” A word of warning from Ashleigh for dark-skinned brides: avoid yellow ivories: “They can make you look drained.”

If you’re still at the research stage and looking at images of dresses rather than seeing them in the flesh, don’t waste time wondering if the underlay is biscuit or burlap. “Do not be put off by initial photography – designers will often only shoot a style in one colour, even if the gown is available in a range of tones,” explains Hannah. “In any case, our made-to-measure service lets you create the gown in a fabric and colour of your choice.”

Another hue to consider is decidedly more girly: shout out to blush, the year’s strongest contender to white’s dominance in bridal design. “We love blush,” admits Regine. “It adds a hint of colour without going over the top. Blush looks great on warm skin tones.” Very fair skin? You shouldn’t discount blush either. “Pure white will pick out your blue tones and make you seem ever paler,” notes Ashleigh, “so say yes to soft blush dresses such as Alan Hannah’s Cherie style.”

It’s true that gilded golden gowns can be lavish and luxurious, but if you’re a wallflower, this warm metallic can equally be dainty and understated. Strike the right tone with gold embellishments, neutral additions and accessories. “Jenny Packham and Eliza Jane Howell both have an original take on gold beading and embroidery,” says Emma.
Olive-skinned brides should also put gold on their hit list, suggests Ashleigh: “Avoid mocha, as it can be too close to your skin colour, and instead dip into champagne and gold. One gorgeous gold dress I would recommend trying is Ian Stuart’s Salamanca.”