History knows no important fashion choice greater than the wedding dress. Those stylized swaths of white fabric are captured forever, in both photographs and memories. Do you go for the fairy princess look? Or something sleek and elegant? Vintage? Trendy? It’s a lot of pressure and the possibilities are infinite.
What better place to turn to for inspiration than the larger-than-life world of movies and television? It has shown us wedding dresses more extravagant and fantastical than we could ever imagine (or afford). From period pieces and fairy tales to modern rom-coms, Hollywood has graced us with dresses that look like a dream come true.
But…. there have also been a few nightmares as well. We’ve seen attempts at “classic” come off as “relic”. How many times have you shuddered at a poor onscreen bride who’s drowning in layers upon layers of ruffles and lace, so much that you question whether you’re looking at a dress or an explosion in a cupcake factory? For the optimists among us, at least these dresses are examples of what not to wear on your big day.
We admit it, though. Sometimes it’s just as much fun to cringe at ugly dresses as it is to marvel at gorgeous ones. For your inspiration (or wicked amusement), here are the 5 Nicest (And 5 Ugliest) Onscreen Wedding Dresses.
10 Ugly Dress - Lillian Donovan (Bridesmaids)
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Lillian certainly doesn’t have much luck when it comes to wedding dresses (or Brazilian food). This dress is a classic example of what happens when you let your know-it-all friend take over your wedding. Snooty bridesmaid Helen took Lillian to Paris for the purpose of acquiring this couture ruffle-bomb. It just goes to show, some “high fashion” looks are best left on the runway. At least that white hornet’s nest, or “veil”, protects Lillian from being able to see this disaster or people's reactions...or anything at all.
9 Nice Dress - Bella Swan (Twilight: Breaking Dawn)
Though Bella and Edward’s relationship is all kinds of problematic, this dress is sheer perfection. It completely captures who Bella is, which is so often a neglected wedding dress priority. Bella is simple and understated, just like the exquisite front of this dress. But that’s not all she is, and that’s where the back comes in. The intricate lacework on this Caroline Herrera dress is an absolute work of art. Edward may sparkle in the sunlight, but nobody can outshine Bella in this dress.
8 Ugly Dress - Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City)
And this is what happens when a dress doesn’t match the bride’s personality. Sure, Carrie loves her designers and we’ve definitely seen way worse dresses than this Vivienne Westwood number. But what Carrie specifically wanted was quiet sophistication and this isn’t it.
As Anthony Marantino said, fitting Carrie and her dress into a limo was like “putting a cream puff through a keyhole”. On Carrie, this dress just looks cumbersome. What a hint for the tragic events to come. While we’re at it, what’s with the bird headpiece? Carrie may be a courageous fashion risk-taker, but sticking a dead animal on your face hardly screams “romance”. We think our Sex and the City heroine just got a little too, ahem, carried away.
7 Nice Dress - Charlotte York-Goldenblatt (Sex and the City)
Charlotte and Harry are one of the best TV couples ever. Their wedding may have been a disaster, but this dress is anything but. One of Charlotte’s best qualities is her effortless elegance and this Badgley Mischka dress totally embodies that.
Nothing says “classy” on a wedding dress like subtle details and we love the beaded edge of the veil and soft ruffles of the hemline. While Harry’s proposal made our eyes red from crying, this dress has us green with envy.
6 Ugly Dress - Allison Giampietro-Smikowitz (Grace and Frankie)
In Grace and Frankie, Brianna said it best: the dress is like “what a dead child was buried in in the 1800s”. A little mean? Yes. A shade macabre? Sure. But this is what happens when you take the vintage look a step too far. Some pieces of the past are better just left there.
What was Allison thinking? At least her hair is on-point. While we may have our fun taking good-natured jabs at unfortunate outfits, Allison proves one thing - a happy bride will always look beautiful no matter what she’s wearing. Just do yourself a favor and don’t wear anything like this. Ever.
5 Nice Dress - Midge Maisel (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
This is what happens when vintage is pulled off correctly. The 1950s may have not been the best time for women, but we can’t help but love that decade’s fashion. This dress is the perfect cocktail of Audrey Hepburn glamour and Midge’s own whimsy.
If Mrs. Maisel is marvelous at anything, other than comedy, it’s doing a wedding right. From that dress to hiring chorus dancers to pose as guests, Midge has all her bases covered, even if things didn’t turn out so well down the line. Midge and Joel show us that in marriage, just like life, nobody’s perfect. This dress, on the other hand, certainly is.
4 Ugly Dress - Margaret Tate (The Proposal)
The advantage to a quickie wedding? Saving yourself hours of unrelenting stress. The disadvantage? Not having time to find the perfect dress. Family heirloom wedding dresses can be an absolute score but they have to hit some key criteria.
First, the dress must have a timeless look. In other words, it shouldn’t look like it was made more than one century ago. Cue these poofy sleeves and sky-high neckline. Second, the dress has to fit. Poor Margaret is swimming in all this fabric. Even when it’s altered to fit her, Margaret looks more like a museum statue than a bride.
3 Nice Dress - Maggie Carpenter (Runaway Bride)
It’s hard to hear the words “romantic comedy” and not think of Julia Roberts. Her smile, and her laugh that reminds you of fresh-baked sugar cookies sprinkled with pixie dust. The rom-com queen is no stranger to onscreen wedding dresses.
Neither is her Runaway Bride character, Maggie Carpenter. She fled four, count ‘em, four weddings. While Maggie may struggle with commitment, after that many trips down the altar, she sure knows how to pick a beautiful wedding dress. The delicate lace bodice exquisitely captures Roberts’ graceful girl-next-door charm. That sweetheart neckline couldn’t be more fitting for America’s sweetheart herself.
2 Ugly Dress - Juliet (Love Actually)
Right off the bat, Juliet and Peter’s marriage is fraught with problems, so if this dress was meant to be foreshadowing, it wholeheartedly succeeds. We’re all for trying something unique, and there are some enchanting two-piece wedding dresses out there.
But here, the top piece has feathers. Yes, actual feathers. It looks like a lingerie robe meant for the wedding night and her bizarre matching headpiece makes her look like an angel in a child’s Christmas pageant. That is not a good combination. How do we feel about this dress? Loathe, actually.
1 Nice Dress - Danielle de Barbarac (Ever After)
“Breathe. Just breathe.” That is exactly how we want our perfect wedding dress to make us feel. In fact, Ever After fans refer to this dress as the “Breathe Gown”. This is based not just on the iconic quote, but on the reaction the dress inspires. While the film doesn’t feature any magical elements, Danielle sure enchants us in this ornate Renaissance-era gown. That beadwork and detailing is to die for and we love the wings she added to her mother’s wedding dress. They’re appropriate too, because she looks like an absolute fairy tale.