Photography: Shelah Osbrink aka digital She

Makeup and hair: Christal Saville

Models: Jocelyn, Ashton and Tejel

The brief city hall ceremony or ‘champagne wedding’ is every bit as significant as the formal wedding planned months ahead. City hall weddings are ideal for couples who don't want to bother with juggling florists, caterers, bands and wedding planners. No longer considered the spontaneous events they once were, civil ceremonies have gone through new approval and popularity. Some couples simply prefer the ease of a short ceremony with a few friends and family to share in the celebration. City hall weddings offer a fast, elegant and meaningful ceremony (which most are these days) and in the case of the opulent San Francisco City Hall shown here--the use of a palace for half an hour or so for the price of the marriage license and officiant. Now that's a real bargain!

Realize though if you go with this simple a ceremony, you might be dressing yourself differently than the traditional bride. Because civil weddings usually take place on weekdays when government offices are open to perform rites, chances are you’ll be in a street-length suit or dress—possibly white but it doesn’t have to be. Any color or length is fine as long as you look good in it and feel special. When these shots were taken there were two other weddings going on--one formal--the other less formal with the bride in a street-length dress. Whether or not you you go all out as a bride is your decision. Realize though you’ll be dressing for a lifetime of shared memories, so it’s worth the effort to opt for a few ‘bride’ touches here and there.

For brides bypassing the ‘all out’ bash for that brief and private gathering, below are some ideas for putting together the type look you want. First let’s look at some of the hemlines you might consider as a non-traditional bride.
Mini: Well above the knee; a light-hearted and playful length.
Just Above the Knee: Popular length for the casual bride. Ideal for suits and cocktail dresses.
Just Below the Knee: Another great length for a suit or cocktail dress. Proportion flatters many figure types and a range of ages.
Ballet Length: full skirt falling just above the ankles. Sometimes worn with tulle petticoats.
Asymmetrical: Irregular hemline falling diagonally.
Handkerchief: Another irregular hemline that falls to a point, more a treatment than length as the longest point usually falls anywhere from the knee down. Typically in sheer fabrics like chiffon. Very chic and in now.
Ankle Length: An inch or two above the floor.
Floor Length: Yes, this is a good choice for an informal wedding as long as the dress is simple in its cut, doesn’t have a great deal of volume in the skirt or train extending beyond the heels. Picture a slip dress or tailored suit.
Silhouette is really the shape and style of your dress—the overall effect of how you’ll be seen and see yourself. Think of silhouette as the foundation of your look. Below are a few to consider:
Suit: Elegant in floor length; chic in shorter versions. White wool is most striking especially on winter brides. An ideal look for the night time or hotel wedding, especially with a hat.
A-line or Princess: Flatters most figure types. It’s fitted through the bodice and can have a slight to moderate flare in the skirt.
Fitted Sheath: Fitted through the bodice and skirt. Go just above or below the knee and you have Audrey Hepburn’s dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (think white though)—perfect for a cocktail reception.
Relaxed Sheath: As in slip dress. Add some delicate beading or hand painting and this makes for another cocktail wedding knock-out. Again, any length is great for this style. Try a short veil or pouf of netting as a headpiece.
Empire: Fitted in the bust and flared below. Wear a mini in this silhouette and you have a Baby Doll cut. Longer styles in the empire lean to a more elegant 1930s look, particularly styles with asymmetrical or handkerchief hemlines. All lengths would be elegant at evening weddings.
Hourglass Dress: A natural waistline atop a full skirt. Dior claimed fame to the Hourglass in 1947 once restrictions were taken off fabric. Now can you picture it? Those French Models in fashion lay-outs with wasp waistlines atop full skirts? A beautiful silhouette in any length.
Shirt-waist Dress: A more relaxed version of the Hourglass—a classic and tailored look, usually with billowing sleeves. Can be made out of lightweight fabrics like organza, chiffon and crepe, as well as medium weights like linen. Nice for a garden reception, especially with a wide- brimmed hat.

Now that you have some idea of what your dress can look like, finally, a word about the groom. For an informal wedding your groom can wear anything stylish from his best suit to something more laid-back like a navy sport coat or silk shirt and khakis. Clothing here follows the simplicity of the celebration, and one of the most important things you and your groom need keep in mind is, informal weddings are brief and the attire though stylish and even elegant, is never ultra formal. War brides of the 1940s had swift weddings with quick preparation out of necessity. Today couples are fortunate. The informal wedding is a choice having more to do with lifestyle and many times the belief, less is more…