Let’s not deny it, we’re all friends here. We know what the real star of the wedding is. No, it’s not the couple. It’s not even the bride.

It’s the bride’s GOWN.

Author’s Note: The terms gown and dress are used interchangeably, but here, you will see only the words “wedding gown,” not “wedding dress.” Because I’m stubborn about it, and I don’t get a chance to use the word “gown” often enough.

Though my wedding love has grown in sophistication to the point where I now equally observe all aspects, from garter choice to veil placement, I’m sure for all of us, it all goes back to the gown.

I don’t have enough hours in the day to go over all the different styles and kinds of gowns available today. There’s a whole show for that: TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. And judging by the fact that it’s had eight total seasons in two locations, it’s safe to say a whole lot of us think the gown is the most important part of the whole day.

You can only take beading and embroidery so far

I haven’t seen many interesting or different choices when it comes to gowns. No matter what the personal style of the bride, I’ve only ever seen (in person) the same tired, traditional ball or A-line gown.

“Ooh, but look at the beading!”

Yeah, beading. As traditional and generic as it gets.

“Look at the embroidery!”

It’s white on white…kind of hard to see unless I’m right up against the bride. And we all know how much the married couple moves on their wedding day. You’re lucky if you get two minutes with them.

Enough with the strapless, already

“It’s fancy because it’s strapless!”

Wrong. Strapless gown are THE most common, generic kind out there for the last fifteen years. Sure, there are many that are beautiful. But when was the last time you saw a bride who wasn’t in a strapless gown?

Boring, boring, boring. And what’s worse is, most prom dresses are strapless, too. Look at the photo below: can you tell whether it was made for a wedding or a prom?

In fact, let’s just strike the word “fancy” from our wedding vocabularies, okay? We’re going for “chic,” and “elegant,” and “sophisticated.” It’s probably just me, but “fancy” conjures up a little girl in her mother’s old bridesmaid monstrosities, playing dress up in the attic.

Back to the matter at hand: I realize that, in the end, we’re all likely to wear a white wedding gown. It takes a brave woman to wear champagne, let alone pink or blue or something. And it can be hard to make a long white gown look new and interesting after all the millions of brides before you. But please, don’t go for something generic just because you think it’ll still look good in twenty years. Odds are, it will still look dated, and your future daughters will still look at you aghast and ask what, in the name of sweet world peace, you were thinking.

Find the balance between being trendy and being classic, and here’s how you do it:

Go classic in the cut and fit, go trendy and/or modern in the fabric and accessories.
Ivanka Trump had Vera Wang make her a gown with sleeves, based off that of Princess Grace.

See? This is borderline generic…except for the pretty modern use of sheer tulle with lace applique. Still very traditional, but not like all the other strapless gowns out there.

Gown by Anna-Maier Ulla-Maija. Yes, it’s strapless. But I’ll overlook it because there are actually other things to look at in this gown. Classic bias-cut seaming, with the ever-popular full skirt, in a modern sideswept kind of thing. Anna Maier is known for this kind of work. Side note: this is the gown my college girlfriend wore. It was stunning. And I only saw it in photos.

Lace sheath by JLM. It doesn’t get more traditional than a full lace gown, does it? But look how subtly sexy it is. If a gown could wink, this one would.

Remember, you don’t have to have an expensive wedding…just an expensive-looking one. And you can definitely accomplish a lot of that with the gown. Vera Wang just launched a new line with David’s Bridal. And unlike what happens a lot of the time when famous designers lend their name to a line at a “bargain” store, it actually looks like a VW line. Which means, it looks chic, modern yet classic, and expensive.