Alternative + Colorful Wedding Dresses

October 19, 2023
New York Wedding Photographer | Colorful Wedding Dresses | Non-White Wedding Dresses

Why wear standard white wedding dress when there are plenty of amazing, stand-out colorful wedding dresses to explore? See some of these brides who chose to be non-traditional and colorful–and learn about the history of white wedding dresses.

by destination wedding photographer Kathryn Cooper Weddings

Why a Colorful Wedding Dress Instead of the Standard White?

Because being different should be celebrated, and colorful wedding dresses are so exciting. If you want to go for it, well, standing out with your colored wedding dress is awesome.

First: Why Are Wedding Dresses White?

Believe it or not, wedding dresses used to be all sorts of rich, vibrant hues. Red was the most common, and white was scoffed at. Think about it: Without dry cleaners nor plastic, who could possibly afford to purchase, transport, and wear a white anything? Of course it would get dirty, and of course the stains would be near impossible to get out.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that white became more of the norm in the Western world, and even when white first came onto the scene, it took a while to catch on. Queen Victoria is credited with starting the white trend, and you can read more about the history of white wedding dresses right here.

Do Wedding Dresses Have to Be White?

HECK to the NO! Dresses being white were unheard of just a few centuries ago (explained above). Some might call white wedding dresses a “trend” that has been around less than 200 years. Perhaps in 2100 it will be unusual to wear white once again.

Even if it’s the norm, you don’t have to conform to the norm, right? Darn right.

As a nontraditional wedding photographer who has more than an average number of offbeat brides, I’ve had couples in arrays of colors. Brides in jumpsuits, suits, and dresses of all colors. From red wedding dresses (probably the most popular after white and black) to floral wedding dresses and purple wedding dresses, here are some of my favorite colorful wedding dresses I’ve had the pleasure of photographing.

Without further ado, here are some amazing colorful, alternative wedding dresses I’ve had the pleasure of photographing during my career here at Kathryn Cooper Weddings.

Dyed Blue Wedding Dress

For when you really want to add a pop of intense color to the saying “something borrowed, something blue,” do as Michele did here. She had her Martina Liana dress hand-dyed by Kerianne Meehan, who did shades of blue accented with gold. (Michele found my photography on Offbeat Wed, naturally!)

Dress designed by Martina Liana
Dyed by Kerianne Meehan New York
Dress shop: North Fork Bridal Shoppe
Taken on Long Island, New York

Royal Purple in Da House

For when you really want to add a pop of intense color to the saying “something borrowed, something blue,” do as Michele did here. She had her Martina Liana dress hand-dyed by

Dress designed by Mark Zunino
Dress from Bridal Reflections salon
Taken in Brooklyn, New York

Black Wedding Dress

Black wedding dresses are second after white, because people love the mysterious, dark, non-conforming ways while still being sophisticated and elegant. It’s such a versatile color, you can do anything and it’ll still stand out!

Dress from Emerald City Gowns
Taken in Oakland, California

Emerald Green Dress

If you love jewel tones and greens, and shimmering emerald green gown is perfect. Elise wore this dress for photos around Utah’s orange rock landscapes, and it was such an unusual look!

Taken in Moab, Utah

Spanish Red Dyed Dress

For Phoebe’s Flamenco-inspired look, she had her dress dyed pink and red, with red flowers in her hair to match. She’d and her husband had done the legal paperwork previously, so this extra dress was a surprise for everyone!

Dress unknown
Taken in the Catskills, New York

Not a Dress: A Wedding Jumpsuit

I had to put one in here! With or without a waist skirt, a jumpsuit is always a choice. This unusual striped ensemble definitely stood out while getting married in the woods

Taken in Big Indian, New York

Go for the Gold

Why not have a gold wedding dress? Tiffany and her now-husband eloped at a waterfall near my home in the Hudson Valley, and her gold dress blended into the warm rocks and contrasting forest surrounding their intimate waterfall elopement.

Taken during Tiffany & Frenchie’s Upstate NY elopement

Stars and Hikes

During our grueling 8-mile, 3,000-foot elevation gain hike for Shelby & Shane’s Eastern Sierras elopement, this light, star-studded, cream-colored wedding dress was a good fit (and easy to hike in).

Taken in Yosemite NP, California

Dripping with Florals

This beautiful Rebecca Schoneveld dress was made for Jill! Airy sleeves and gold/blue/red embroidered florals on this wedding dress stood out so beautifully.

Dress designed by Rebecca Schoneveld, and from Rebecca’s flagship Irvington, NY store
Taken in Saugerties, New York

Red for Waterfalls

When you’re eloping at a waterfall…and of Scottish descent…a simple, slim red number is a great choice. It stands out against a waterfall much better than a white dress would, and looks fabulous on those with lighter skin!

Dress from a NY thrift store
Taken in Hunter, New York

Pink and Blush Accents

While you don’t need to totally avoid white, these blush-and-pink accents on this unique wedding dress make it very intricate.

Taken against the blue Caribbean waters and her pink-and-blue bouquet, this one stood out!

Taken during their destination wedding in St. Thomas, U.S .Virgin Islands

Simply Champagne

This relaxed ceremony with gorgeous views over St. John featured a champagne wedding dress. It helped this older bride feel a sense of sophistication, and it stood out beautifully against the blue background of the Caribbean.

Taken in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Light Blue, Anyone?

For something decidedly different, this light blue Rebecca Schoneveld design is different, but not loud. With beautiful texture and layers, it softly lands and swirls tulle layers around you.

Dress designed by Rebecca Schoneveld Bridal
Taken in Saugerties, NY

Pink Sparkles

As a person, I’m not a huge fan of light pink. But when bride Haley (pictured here) brought out this slinky pink sequined

Taken in Yosemite NP, California

Saree/Sari

Of course one can really only wear a sari for an Indian wedding–no cultural appropriation allowed unless at a wedding or wedding-type celebration, or in the South Asian areas! When couples are in saris, the color explosions are simply awesome to photograph. Red is pretty standard, though pinks, greens, golds, and occasionally whites make themselves known

Sari designer unknown, from India
Taken in the Poconos, Pennsylvania

Red saree wedding photos Bollywood

Colored skirts

Dresses aren’t mandatory! Try pairing shirts with solid, flowy skirts for a more customizable look. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable and photographs so well. Changing in public or on a hike? No problem with a skirt!

Skirts from Amazon
Taken in Los Angeles, California

Embroidered Flower Wedding Dress

For the wild child…or wildflower child, an adorable overlay or embroidered fabric is the perfect choice. Personally, despite it being purchased years ago from Shein–a company that we now know does not have ethical business practices–this is one of my favorite dresses (I own it) for the alternative bride who still wants to be semi-traditional.

Pair it with bold flower choices and even if it’s the dead of winter, you’ll be surrounded in color and joy.

Dress from Shein (Company not recommended);
Taken in Los Gatos, California

Filipino bride www.KathrynCooperWeddings.com SF Bay Area embroidered flower wedding dress

The Red Ballgown

If you’re in a dramatic landscape such as Joshua Tree, Yosemite, an Alaskan glacier helicopter elopement, a snowy wedding, or the like, then a brightly-hued ballgown could be perfect. For their Yosemite wedding, Jessica purchased this voluminous red ballgown. She told me she was nervous it’d be too much, but it was the best decision ever.

Dress from Amazon.com
Taken during their elopement in Yosemite National Park, California

The Pink Mystere

If you like something unique and less princess-y, this Carol Hannah number showcases pink and peach layers that sway and shine differently under different lights.

Dress from Carol Hannah Bridal
Taken during their Manhattan wedding, New York

big doors at 632 Hudson bride

Purplish-Red

If you can pull off this red-hued purple dress, it makes for a simple, elegant vision that really stands out (and is light and easy to walk around in)

Dress from Unknown;
Taken in Big Sur, California

Black with a Bridal Nod

Try a unique black Monique Lhuillier dress on, and you’re in for a treat. With white flowers adorning the offbeat wedding, it’s a dress that will leave guests knowing you’re not the typical bride!

Dress from Monique Lhuillier
Taken in Cornwall, New York

Where Can I Buy Colored Wedding Dresses?

If you’re on the search for non-white wedding dresses, I’ll be honest…it’s not easy. Most wedding dress shops cater to traditional wedding dresses, and may have an occasional black or red dress.

But, there are certainly options, and you are definitely not alone.

  • Ask wedding salons if they can special-order in another color
  • Get a custom tailor like the famed Mark Zunino—or a bridal shop that will work with such a designer
  • Shop thrift stores, especially higher-end ones
  • Check out independent dress shops where the owner is the designer. They’ll likely have colored options—or be able to design something custom for you
  • See if the dress [material] you’re interested can be dyed
  • Find well-known dress designers who may hurt your pocketbook, but have experience making amazing alternative wedding dresses. Monique Lhullier, Oscar de la Renta, Carol Hannah, etc.
  • Look online at dress shops such as Lulu’s. Try to avoid sites with beautiful options but not-so-stellar employee treatment records, such as Shein (they have awesome stuff, but now that I know, I won’t purchase from such a store)
  • Post in Facebook groups with your inspiration photos, and see if anyone has secondhand or unique suggestions
  • Ask salespeople at stores like Nordstrom’s if they have recommendations
Lake Minnewaska State Park engagement photos

Can You Dye Wedding Dresses?

Yes, but it’s complicated. Because I photograph nontraditional weddings, a lot of my brides (no grooms have worn dresses…yet) opt to have their dresses dyed. Perhaps they already wore white for their elopement and are now having a party, or maybe white was never what they wanted, but it fit perfectly.

Yes, you can dye your wedding dress—but it’s advised you have a professional do it. Otherwise, it will be a very, very costly mistake! Certain fabrics and adornments can be dyed, while others will simply not accept the color. A professional dress dyer (yes, they exist) can do multiple layers and colors with proper equipment. This is a 10+-pound item that’s 5 feet tall we’re talking about, so to dye it yourself and get it right on the first try is probably not a chance you want to take.


So, there you have it–a small sampling of the different types of colorful wedding dresses you can have. Go yellow. Go orange. Go blue flowers–or whatever you want! Dots, stripes, flowers, white, black, not a dress, suit–do what you want if you love it. And have a blast~

Kathryn Cooper Weddings: Colored Wedding Dresses | Alternative Wedding Dresses | Red Wedding Dresses

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COMMENTS
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These black dresses stole my soul! So obsessed with such an alternative style. Definitely need to become brave enough and buy one for my 10 year anniversary!

Wow! That floral dress is incredible. I adore how you showcased so many different kinds of wedding dresses – hoping it’s a new trend!!

What an amazing collection to inspire couples to choose colour over white! As much as I love colour, I think the black dress looks pretty unique, thanks for sharing!

Yes! Alternative and colourful dresses need to become the norm already! I particularly love the emerald and floral-patterned dresses 🙂
You’ve captured such a beautiful variety of wedding dresses, Kathryn!

I love the variety. This post looks like a rainbow! There are so many great options for exciting and bright wedding outfits!

I love this idea! White wedding dresses are lovely but there’s also so many other amazing options for a non traditional look. Great post.

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