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How to find a modest wedding dress

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Wedding season is here and it’s time to grab your crew and head to the dress shop. But before you have the assistants clip you into your first white, ivory or champagne gown, it’s a good idea to know what your modesty standards are and what your church has to say about it. 

Requirements given to brides at St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield, Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville and a few other diocesan churches contrast with many current bridal trends such as gowns with plunging necklines, open backs and extra-sheer fabrics.

Know that in the end, you will find something that makes you look so stunning no one will even realize you were aiming for modesty, too.

Fortunately, easy and instant cover-up options, including a Bolero, topper or cape, can be worn during Mass, with no alterations needed. St. Raymond keeps a number of white and off-white silk scarves on hand that can stand in as the bride’s “something borrowed.” 

According to Father John C. De Celles, pastor, providing garment guidelines helps those taking a liturgical role in the ceremony to respect its holiness in a way that honors God and expresses reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.

Carly Boucher, who will be married at St. Raymond this May, agrees. “I think it is useful to have guidelines in place,” said Boucher. “It can take that moment when all the attention is on the bride and remind everyone that this is a place of worship. This is the house of God.”

Boucher found a strapless dress at Ann’s Boutique in Springfield, but knowing that St. Raymond prohibits strapless gowns or ones with “spaghetti-straps,” she added small cap sleeves. 

Thanks to a growing demand for these types of alterations, more bridal shops are teaming up with seamstresses to provide alternative top designs. While modesty alterations are more readily available, they are not always economical. Depending on the style, alterations could add hundreds of dollars to your dress.

Melanie Cameron, president of St. Anthony’s Bridal — a non-profit bridal dress thrift store in Fairfax — offers wedding dresses and alteration services to brides on a budget. She suggests taking fabric from the train to fashion straps or sleeves that match the dress. 

 “We believe that every bride is beautiful and we hope that brides will embrace that image of the church as the Bride of Christ when they are getting ready to walk down the aisle,” said Cameron.

St. Anthony’s and other bridal consignment stores may have older dresses, which is a good way to find a modest, vintage gown. In that vein, your mother, grandmother or future mother-in-law’s wedding dress might be more modest than its modern-day counterpart. 

Don’t be discouraged by the challenge of finding a dress that you like, looks good on you and is modest.

Many mainstream dressmakers feature modest options on their websites.  When you start shopping, keep your standards in mind but don’t be afraid to try on a dress or two you weren’t considering. Do let the salespeople know your priority is modesty.

Know that in the end, you will find something that makes you look so stunning no one will even realize you were aiming for modesty, too.

 Check out our Modest Catholic Wedding Dresses Pinterest board for inspiration and options. 



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017