Hayley Lehmann Photography Blog

Wedding Dresses for Jewish Brides

Monday February 8th 2010

While many of today’s most popular wedding gowns are sexier and more revealing than ever, styles that show too much skin – like strapless, backless and low-cut gowns may not be kosher under the chuppah. Below, are some guidelines for keeping on the right side of the Rabbi whilst retaining your sense of fashion and style.

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Wedding dress with detachable sleeves

When it comes to bridal attire, the three major denominations of Judaism – Reform, United, and Orthodox – have different requirements. Reform Judaism has few, if any, restrictions on dress. United synagogues usually require that a bride’s shoulders be covered and no jewellery worn, while Orthodoxy places even greater restrictions on attire such as wearing dresses with long or three-quarter length sleeves, high-cut necklines, ankle-length skirts, and covered backs.

The following guidelines should help you find a gown that makes you look elegant and stylish, but check with your Rabbi first. Rules regarding bridal attire can vary even among synagogues within the same denomination.

Go Undercover
Covered shoulders is the most common requirement for brides marrying in a United synagogue. Most brides find a strapless or spaghetti-strap gown that comes with a wrap or bolero-style jacket. This provides coverage for the ceremony which can simply be removed for the reception.

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Wedding dress with fur jacket for Winter weddings

Make a Change
Finally, if you think you’ve found the perfect dress – but the neckline is too low, the sleeves are too short, and so on – ask someone at the bridal shop if the designer can alter the dress. Of course, you can’t turn a sexy, spaghetti-strap sheath into a demure ball gown, so be realistic. Some designers have styles that come in both short and long sleeved incarnations. Most others will make slight alterations, such as putting short sleeves on a sleeveless dress or raising a neckline an inch or two.

Pure Colour
A few final thoughts before you buy: Avoid gowns with too much colour. In Jewish custom, a white wedding dress symbolizes spiritual purity. But if white’s not your colour, don’t worry. As you can see on the Weddings section of our website, we have photographed brides in a variety of shades from the most delicate duck egg blue, to lemon and cappuccino. Also, ask the bridal shop to reinforce the hooks and straps that will hold the train in place for the Israeli dancing. Although we attend weddings with loads of safety pins and a needle & thread, our temporary attempts to hold the train up are not much better than the flimsey hook and eyes provided by most dress designers. And lastly, check that you can dance and move in your dress. It is all very well posing in front of the mirror at the bridal shop, but if your dress stops you from partying and having fun it can ruin your special day.

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Wedding dress with detachable sleeves removed

Carolina Herrera
Caroline Castigliano
Mira Zwillinger
Paloma Blanca
Suzanne Neville

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