Why Wedding Dresses Have Trains: History & Perks

One of the most recognizable bridal dress features that sets these gowns apart from other fancy dresses is the train. Eye-catching and picture-perfect, wedding dress trains come in a variety of styles and lengths and are a timeless favorite of many brides. Ever find yourself wondering, why do wedding dresses have trains? There are a few historical reasons for the development of this gorgeous feature, but before we dive into the history of wedding dress trains and their perks, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page and know exactly what a wedding dress train is.

What is a Wedding Dress Train?

You’ve probably seen classic, elegant wedding gowns with extra fabric (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little) trailing behind them. That extra fabric is called a “train,” and it can be a part of the skirt, a detachable piece, or an extension from the shoulders. A staple for many brides, the train is just one feature that sets bridal gowns apart from other formal dresses.

There are many types of wedding dress trains available. They can be short (only a few extra inches) or long (over twenty feet). Trains are usually an extension of the same fabric as the rest of the bridal gown, so they could be styled in any of the popular wedding dress fabrics like tulle, satin, or lace. And, just like the rest of the gown, trains are often embellished in a variety of ways, such as with embroidery, beadwork, or sequins. For more information about the different types of wedding dress trains, be sure to check out our Wedding Dress Train Length Guide! Now that we all definitely know what a wedding dress train is, let’s dive into a little history about this favorite bridal feature.

Wedding Dress Train History

Did you know that trains have been a part of wedding traditions since medieval times? The goal behind this dramatic extension of luxurious fabric was much the same back then as it is today: to draw all attention to the bride. While less true of today’s brides, traditionally wedding dress trains also symbolized the wealth of the family (the longer the train, the wealthier the family). In fact, the longest trains were reserved for royalty, so the more closely related to the royal family the bride was, the longer her train could be. Initially, there were even rules about the train styles that could be worn by non-royals depending upon their rank within society. Overtime, fabrics became much more affordable and connections to royalty and social rank became less important. Now wearing a wedding dress with a train is less about wealth and status and more about the bride’s personal style.

Throughout the history of dress trains, it’s clear that they were never meant to be a practical feature. They’ve always been glamorous embellishments. They make wedding gowns look more dramatic and elegant, which is just what a bride needs to feel special on her big day. Wondering if this iconic bridal gown feature is right for you? Let’s look at some of the wedding dress train pros and cons before you decide.

Pros and Cons of Wedding Dress Trains

In these modern times, you can wear almost any wedding dress style, with or without a train. With the freedom of choice and so many beautiful options to explore, it’s important to think through big or dramatic gown features (like wedding dress trains) before you make your final decision. Here are a few of the wedding dress train pros and cons to consider before you decide which one is right for you.

  • Pros: Dress Trains are…
    • Traditional. Classic, and at times expected, with many cultures, wedding dress trains are full of history and traditions for many families. Wearing one is the perfect way to tap into your personal roots and celebrate your family history on your wedding day.
    • Dramatic. It probably goes without saying, but the longer the train, the more impressive your bridal look! Keep heads turning in your direction and eyes locked on your stunning gown when you wear a long train wedding dress style!
    • Regal. Ever want to feel like (and dress like) a princess for your wedding? Trains naturally create a majestic vibe, most likely because of the dramatic feel and historical roots that link them to wealth and royalty.
    • Photogenic. If you’re hoping for stunning wedding day photos, bridal gowns with trains offer so many gorgeous picture-perfect opportunities to explore. There are countless ways a train can be arranged and posed, and you’re sure to love them all!
    • Available in many styles. From just a few inches to numerous feet, trains come in several different lengths, and they also come in a range of fabrics and embellishments. This makes it easy to find a length and design that best suits you and your wedding theme. Take a peek at our Wedding Dress Train Length Guide for a breakdown of each type of train.
  • Cons: Dress Trains are…
    • Involved. Especially if you choose a long train style, you’ll likely have to do a lot of planning ahead of time to prepare yourself for your wedding day. Here are a few things that you may need to plan for: figuring out how to safely stuff yourself and your train into your mode of transportation, deciding how you will move with the train (over arm, bustled, flowing freely), possibly paying for bustle alterations, getting help with posing the train or pinning it up, or asking for help to use the bathroom.
    • Difficult to move in. While this may not be much of a con with a short and simple sweep train, the longer the train gets, the harder it will be for you to maneuver (let alone dance) in. While pinning it up after the ceremony or draping it over your arm may make it easier, you’ll still need to plan in advance (see previous point) to work around the movement challenge.
    • Heavy. With that extra fabric trailing behind you, you’ll have much more weight to pull about even for a simple walk down the aisle. You can get a good feel for just how much extra weight you’d be hauling around when you try on the dress, but make sure you consider how it will feel carrying that weight after a few hours.
    • Expensive. It makes sense that a dress design with more fabric would be more expensive than other styles. Another expense to consider with dress trains though is that you may wish to have the length altered or pay for a bustle design.
    • Easily damaged. With fabric trailing on the floor, train wedding dresses can get very dirty or easily damaged. It’s easy to imagine the different ways your train could get torn or stepped on throughout the course of your wedding day. Whether it gets snagged on something as you walk or you turn about too quickly, the chances of you having a tripping incident that damages your gown are much higher when you’ve got a trail of fabric behind you.

Loving the pros, but stressing over the cons? Not to worry! You can absolutely still get the same dramatic, picture-perfect, regal vibe without some of the common hang ups for bridal trains. Read on for some of our suggested wedding dress train alternatives.

Wedding Dress Train Alternatives

There’s no need to give up on your dream of a glamorous wedding look if you’ve got your doubts about dress trains. Here are a few wedding dress train alternatives that might ease your worries and build your excitement.

  • Detachable Trains: Did you know there are wedding dresses designed with the option to add or remove a train? These detachable trains make it easy for you to sport the bold, eye-catching look for your ceremony and photos before transitioning to a no train style for your reception.
  • Long Veils: Wearing a long veil gives you that beautiful trailing fabric effect, but you can easily remove your veil once you’re ready to party. One of the longest veil styles, the cathedral veil, even mimics the length and style of the cathedral train. If you think this is the perfect option for you, check out Avery Austin’s cathedral veils.
  • A Second Dress: There’s no rule that says you have to wear the same dress for both your ceremony and reception! Many brides opt to wear a wedding dress with a luxurious train for a memorable walk down the aisle at their ceremony, then they change into a second wedding dress (no train) for the reception so they can mingle and dance with ease.
  • Other Dramatic Designs: If a wedding dress train really isn’t for you (and as you’ll see below, that’s totally fine!), there are still ways you can achieve a bold and fabulous look on your wedding day. Simply consider other dress features that can turn heads. For example, at Avery Austin, there are full and fabulous ball gown wedding dresses that provide the perfect princess look, as well as low-back wedding dresses that offer a dramatic detail to admire as you walk down the aisle.

Wedding Dress Train or No Train: Which Style Should I Choose?

Of course, a wedding dress with a train is the best choice if you want your dress to be extra special and dramatic, or even just traditional and in line with your family or culture’s customs. For more tips on choosing the best wedding dress with a train based on your style preferences, wedding venue, and bridal theme, check out the Wedding Dress Train Length Guide.

Wondering if it’s okay not to have a train on a wedding dress? It sure is! Whether the cons have changed your mind or you wish to explore one of the wedding dress train alternatives above, you get to decide what you’re going to wear on your big day. There are lots of reasons you might want to skip the wedding dress train, but sometimes it just comes down to what is the most practical and stylish for you.

If you don't want a wedding dress with a train, there are plenty of options for trainless gowns. But what if you've already bought your wedding dress? Or what if the wedding dress you want has a train? All things considered, it is much more cost-effective to buy a trainless wedding dress, but if you find yourself changing your mind after buying a dress with a train, you’ve still got options. To learn more about how you can customize your wedding dress train length, check out the details in the Wedding Dress Train Length Guide. There are tips for ordering gowns with custom-length trains, as well as getting alterations to a gown you already have.

Final Thoughts on Wedding Dresses with Trains

Whether you’re finding yourself on Team Train or Team No Train, you’re sure to find a gorgeous style that suits you. It’s up to you to choose a wedding dress train style (or no train style) that is perfect for you and your occasion. Bridal trains add flair and extravagance to wedding dresses, creating a more regal and sophisticated look for any bride who wears one. If you want to wear a train on your special day, be sure to check out Avery Austin’s wedding dresses with trains.