Unforgettable designer wedding dresses—right off the runway

Relaxed elegance, floral details, and a carefully exposed shoulder are the belles of the ball on bridal runways this year. Which look is for you?

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When I got married six years ago, all I wanted was a simple white cocktail dress, but that wasn’t so easy to find. I discovered that traditional bridal shopping didn’t make sense for me because my simple ceremony did not call for a ball gown look—that most stores carried. Luckily, I had a friend, designer Chloe Dao of Project Runway, who was able to create the look I wanted for me based on one of her cocktail designs.

Today, with the rise of destination weddings and other unique venues, bridal fashion is changing to meet the needs of every bride, focusing on the individualization of fashion. Designers are being careful to create a style for every type of bride, not just the very traditional ball gown bride. But that presents a new challenge: finding the dress that’s right for you in a sea of options.

And Spring 2017 Bridal Week brought so many beauties to choose from. Some designers brought back beloved looks from past seasons: the sheer illusion, deep v-necks, floral lace, old Hollywood, and bohemian influences. But, also some new trends: layered looks, sweetheart necklines, and even some 3D floral details.

More to read: The truth about bridesmaid dresses!

But before you start browsing through wedding dresses … first, ask yourself what is appropriate for your venue. If you have a beach wedding, for example, one of the more relaxed silhouettes that are trending right now would be perfect under the blue sky and hot sun. (Trust me, you don’t want to sweat in your wedding dress.) While in Mexico for a small destination wedding in 2011, I was shocked to see every single bride in a traditional wedding gown. (But, again, the options were slightly more limited, even just a few years ago.)

So with one eye on your venue and the other on your personal style, browse these latest bridal trends, hot off the runway:

The exposed shoulder

The biggest news for Spring 2017 in Ready To Wear lines was the exposed shoulder look. Bridal designers incorporated this look in many ways, including the use of illusion materials and adding statement necklaces, but sometimes it’s nicest just to have a beautiful, bare collar bone, too.

Marchesa off-the-shoulder lace gown

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Marchesa showed off romantic lace designs on the runway, but the more vintage feeling draped sleeves are balanced beautifully by a delicately exposed shoulder.

Romona Keveza off the shoulder wedding gown

Photo courtesy of Romona Keveza

Romona Keveza‘s strapless wedding dress was a beautifully draped departure from the traditional strapless ballgown skirt.

Relaxed elegance

Perfect for that beach in Mexico, many dresses this season were pared down to a super simple look, devoid of all details, but with stunning fabric and clean cuts.

Oscar de la Renta Bridal Spring 2017

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The clean lines of this Oscar de la Renta gown are sophisticated, and completely understated in the best way. (See more Oscar de la Renta gowns here.)

Delphine Manivet Bridal Spring 2017

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Another quietly chic design, this Delphine Manivet gown (See more dresses by the designer here.)

Sweetheart neckline

Runways have updated the sweetheart neckline that aren’t just feminine, but powerfully eye-catching, using unexpected details like pop-out flowers and metallic fabric. Don’t shy away from a little something different: I was completely delighted to attend a cousin’s wedding in a historical gold trimmed ballroom, where the bride wore a gold tinged dress. She actually looked like a Disney Princess! It was spectacular.

Anna Maier Bridal Spring 2017

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Anna Maier showcased designs with feminine necklines and lace, but this one stood out: pairing metallic detailing at the bodice with a flowing white skirt.

Tony Ward for Kleifeld Bridal Spring 2017

Photo courtesy of Tony Ward for Kleinfeld

Tony Ward for Kleinfeld is debuting classic sweetheart necklines, but embellishing gowns with trending 3D florals as an extra special touch of glamour. And absolutely perfect for a garden wedding. (See more Tony Ward dresses here.)

Modern sleeves

Fancy a dress that covers your arms? Runway designers played with negative space, illusion materials (using either sheer lace or sheer mesh), and even collars to give these dresses sleeves that feel chic, not stuffy.

Romona Keveza Bridal Spring 2017

Photo courtesy of Romona Keveza

Romona Keveza turned a beautifully simple design into a statement piece by connecting the sleeves at just the shoulder cap.

Christian Siriano Bridal Spring 2017

Photo courtesy of Christina Siriano

Christian Siriano used illusion sleeves on this dress to give it an extra sparkle, but the real drama is created by the high neckline.

Isabelle Armstrong Bridal Spring 2017

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Isabelle Armstrong balanced a lace-heavy mermaid style dress with delicate sheer sleeves that showed off the gown’s sweetheart bodice, while still giving the model a flattering boat neckline.

More to read: Affordable bridesmaid dresses to complement every style bride!

Layered looks

The layered trend is another chance to create a unique look on your big day. How about a peplum, tiered layers of tulle, or my personal favorite, the bridal cape or beaded capelet?

Oscar de la Renta Bridal Spring 2017

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Oscar de la Renta used an overlay almost like a long-sleeve blouse that fell over the bodice of the gown. (And, again, you see that 3D floral trend springing up!)

Temperley London Bridal Spring 2017

Photo courtesy of Temperley London

This Temperley London dress feels airy and light with romantic details: especially the sheer flowing cape.

Monique Lhuillier Bridal Spring 2017

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Monique Lhuillier played with layers of tulle that dropped at different lengths down the skirt, creating a fairy-tale spring vibe.

Retro

Some designers evoked the Victorian era with delicate ruffled fabrics, scalloped lace and sweeping silhouettes.

Delphine Manive Bridal Spring 2017

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This Delphine Manivet dress is almost all tulle draping, but with a surprising mini skirt and bandeau-like lace outline underneath.

Angel Sanchez Bridal Spring 2017

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A gathered high neckline with small embellishments by Angel Sanchez is an old-fashioned and highly-stylized look for the dramatic bride.

Lani Inlander
Lani Inlander
At age 11, Lani was often mistaken for a salesperson as she brought clothes back and forth to the fitting room for her mother and twin sister. Today, she's a personal stylist and owner of Real Life Style, who empowers women through fashion. Featured in New York Magazine, In Style, The Washington Post, and more, Lani lives with her husband and two sons in Washington, DC.