Unpopular opinion: adding a bustle to your wedding dress is one of the worst alterations mistakes you can make. And it’s 100% not worth spending money on. Hear me out: as a wedding photographer, I work with couples ALL THE TIME who hate the bustle and are constantly on the search for the best wedding dress bustle alternatives. And frankly, that was me too when I got married.
Lucky for me, I found an epic solution to my bustle hatred for my own wedding (which I promise to share). And after photographing more weddings than I care to count at this point, I’ve found some awesome wedding dress bustle alternatives that work for any wedding dress aesthetic you’re going for.
The short answer? No, it’s absolutely not necessary to have a bustle on your wedding dress. In fact, as a photographer who specializes in photographing adventurous, outdoorsy weddings (where you’d maybe think a bustle would be essential), I actually encourage my couples to opt for wedding dress bustle alternatives instead.
Why? Honestly, most wedding dress bustles take away from the magic of your dress. And bustling the gown doesn’t look as good in photos as an un-bustled dress. But the wedding dress bustle alternatives I’ll share in this guide still keep the magic of your dress, without the annoyance of buttoning anything back.
The idea behind the bustle is that you can basically “button back” the train of your dress after the ceremony, which makes mingling with guests and dancing easier. Don’t get me wrong, it serves an important purpose, one of the main ones being avoiding scenarios where your dress gets stepped on.
But if you’re not a fan of the bustled look (because frankly, bustled dresses tend to look awkward, even when done right), it can be frustrating when the wedding industry makes it seem like that’s what you have to do once you wrap up your ceremony. Especially when there are so many great wedding dress bustle alternatives.
So as a wedding professional who personally doesn’t love the bustle (and who also avoided bustling her dress on her own wedding day), I’m sharing my best advice I give to my couples on how to choose the right wedding dress bustle alternatives for your wedding day.
To put it simply, bustles are quite literally an afterthought in the dress design process, whereas wedding dress bustle alternatives are super intentional. The reality is, most dresses will not come designed with a bustle already sewn in.
While that’s largely because a wedding bustle needs to be added at an alterations appointment to factor in your height and dimensions, it often makes it so that the bustle isn’t really front-of-mind when a dress is designed in the first place.
Most of the wedding dress bustle alternatives I’ll share, however, are intentional design choices that allow you to still have your dream wedding dress aesthetic.
Another reason I hate bustles? You have to have at least one person (and ideally, multiple people) with you on the wedding day who can bustle your dress (and do it quickly!).
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a group of friends or members of the wedding party trying to bustle a wedding dress, and watched as the timeline for the day fell way behind.
Seriously, sometimes bustling ended up taking 20+ minutes (when a lot of seamstresses claim it’s supposed to only take a few minutes…yeah, right), because it was that complicated and the person bustling the dress hadn’t prepared for this in advance.
The best wedding dress bustle alternatives avoid this hassle altogether.
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I get it. Finding the perfect wedding dress bustle alternatives can be a challenge. But over my years working in the wedding industry, photographing more weddings than I care to count (and helping so many people find their dream dress), I’ve identified the best wedding dress bustle alternatives that work for any style or budget. Let’s get into it!
This is actually the wedding dress bustle alternative that I used on my own wedding day. I fell in love with my dream dress: a gorgeous, fitted gown with a princess-like attachable train that allowed me to basically have two looks in one, while also avoiding the dreaded bustle.
My husband and I eloped in our favorite national park, on a giant sand dune in the Colorado mountains. So easy movement was essential. And I wanted a wedding dress bustle alternative that allowed me to still show off the beauty of my dress (and its wildly long train), while still being mobile.
My wedding dress had an extra long train (spanning several feet of tulle fabric) that detached at the waist. I could put it on and take it off as I pleased (and it was a ton easier to maneuver than a traditional wedding dress bustle). It basically functioned as a built-in wedding dress bustle alternative.
The photo below shows how my wedding dress looked without the train attached to it. It still had a smaller lace train, but not nearly as long as the detachable one. The detachable element made for the perfect wedding dress bustle alternative.
One of the things I loved most about this wedding dress bustle alternative was the way the dress had an entirely different vibe and aesthetic with the train attached than it did when the train wasn’t attached.
With the train, it’s giving off an ethereal and whimsical princess vibe. And without, it’s fitted and sleek, with a very elevated look.
If you like this specific wedding dress bustle alternative, there are a few options:
This is the wedding dress bustle alternative that is most common amongst the wedding couples that I’ve worked with. With this wedding dress bustle alternative, you’ll need to ask your seamstress to sew in a wrist loop on the underside of your wedding dress.
I’d recommend asking for one made of sturdy fabric, so that it can handle the weight of your dress’s train. This loop is something you can wrap around your wrist on the dance floor (or while you’re hiking in the mountains, if you’re planning an adventure elopement).
This wedding dress bustle alternative works best when you have a train made of a moderately lightweight fabric, versus something on the heavier end.
Materials like satin or chiffon are good candidates, whereas dresses with heavy beading tend to weigh more, making the wrist loop wedding dress bustle alternative less realistic.
Who says you have to limit yourself to one wedding dress on the big day?! This is hands-down one of the most fun and unique wedding dress bustle alternatives.
With this option, you can wear a long, dreamy non-bustled wedding dress for the first half of your day, and swap out for a shorter, more movement-friendly gown for the mingling and dancing portion of the night.
Plus, nowadays, there are so many budget-friendly short wedding dress options, some of which actually cost less than getting a bustle sewn in.
The two dress wedding dress bustle alternative is a trend I’ve been seeing more and more in the wedding world, and frankly, I love it. Why pay to have a bustle on your dress, when you can have two looks instead?
Plus, so many people end up wearing that second, shorter dress well after the wedding day, too (this shop has my fave super budget-friendly dresses you can totally rewear).
And this wedding dress bustle alternative also allows you to opt for a more traditional wedding gown for the ceremony, while trying something more playful or daring for the reception.
To say I’m obsessed with this wedding dress bustle alternative would be an understatement.
Your dress has a huge impact on how your wedding photos turn out, which is why I’ve helped SO MANY of my couples find their dream dress. And one of the biggest players in creating those dreamy wedding photos is a wedding dress with flowy, dramatic elements to it.
Most people interpret this as a train or a long flowy skirt, but never underestimate the power of an epic veil or wedding cape (capes are seriously trending right now, and they’re something that I highly recommend to my couples).
But more than simply adding drama, a long veil or cape can function as the perfect wedding dress bustle alternative. They tend to be easily removable (so you can take them off for mingling and dancing), but they make for the prettiest of wedding photos.
Adventure weddings call for dresses that hold up better than most and look stunning in the great outdoors. Our wedding dress guide covers our top tips for finding your dream gown, no matter the season.
Mini dresses, tea length gowns, ankle length looks. When it comes to wedding dress bustle alternatives, short wedding dresses reign supreme.
Why? If your gown is short enough, you don’t need to even bother with a bustle to begin with. So what qualifies as “short enough?”
Typically, if a wedding dress is floor length or shorter, you’re good to go. And even if if has a train, my general rule of thumb is that for trains shorter than 2 feet (especially when made of lightweight fabric), adding a bustle is typically overkill.
But if your dress has a longer train, definitely look to the other wedding dress bustle alternatives in this guide for inspiration.
This wedding dress bustle alternative is for anyone who loves a less traditional look. Wedding jumpsuits are seriously taking the wedding world by storm, and they’re perfect if you’re aiming for a non-traditional look.
When there’s literally no train involved, you already have a built-in wedding dress bustle alternative. If you still want that flowy, feminine vibe, but like the idea of a jumpsuit, I highly recommend adding in a statement cathedral veil to complete the look.
This is definitely one of the more unique wedding dress bustle alternatives on this list, but I’m personally in love with it.
Sometimes you just have to say “screw it” to tradition and forget the bustle entirely. If you hate it that much, embrace the no bustle look. It’s your wedding day after all; you get to make the rules.
As someone who photographs weddings in some of the most adventurous outdoorsy places (think: muddy hiking trails), I work with so many couples whose preferred wedding dress bustle alternative is simply to embrace the elements and go with the flow.
Does that mean your dress may have an ombre effect from the dirt or mud at your ceremony location? Yes. But does it also look extremely cool and make for an epic keepsake that shows how much fun you had on your wedding day? Also yes.
Honestly, sometimes the best wedding dress bustle alternative is simply to skip the bustle altogether. Embrace the moment. Trust me, it’s not unrealistic to do so, and anyone who says otherwise is flat out wrong. I’ve been a part of enough weddings where my couples choose no bustle as their wedding dress bustle alternative.
This is the most expensive option on my list of wedding dress bustle alternatives, which is why it’s last. The reality is, if your dress has a lot of fabric on the train, and that fabric is heavy in weight, it may make sense to simply have the bustle sewn in during your alterations appointments, just in case.
You have the peace of mind knowing that you can use it if you truly need it, but you can still aim to avoid it.
As a wedding industry expert, I love creating free resources on all things wedding planning.
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