Expert answer: Formal or informal wedding dress?

Absolutely Weddings’ experts answer your wedding questions. Here, the leading British wedding couturier Phillipa Lepley suggests her solutions for designing one dress suitable for both formal ceremony and more relaxed celebration

Q: I will be having a formal wedding ceremony, followed by an informal evening celebration so I need one dress that looks appropriate for both. What are my options?

A: This is quite a common request from brides and there are many ways to manage the formality of the ceremony and also the party afterwards. Do ensure that your designer knows from the outset what the dress has to achieve.

I would suggest a number of options. For instance, you could choose a core strapless dress and then – for the ceremony – a lace or tulle button-back top that fits over it. Another solution would be to create a lightweight coat to go over the top of the dress. Again, tulle or lace would work well for this.

Some brides are happy showing off shoulders, back and arms, but you may prefer a gown that has a bit more coverage

A key consideration is to decide how much flesh you want to show for the evening celebration (and how much is appropriate for the style of your wedding). Some brides are happy showing off shoulders, back and armpits, but you may prefer a gown that has a bit more coverage at the neckline and shoulders, and then you could cover that with a tailored shrug or jacket for the ceremony.

Bear in mind that a veil can also assist in creating a more formal impression; a wonderful wide veil (we use French silk tulle with traditional embroidered edges) will offer coverage and adhere to the conventions of modesty at the ceremony. This could then be removed later.

Phillipa Lepley is a leading couture bridalwear designer, based in London and with an international clientele.

Find out what goes into creating a Phillipa Lepley dress.

More expert answers: how to pick an off-the-peg dress