Gowns that take a cue from the venue

CITY HALL Chic and elegant suits or

CITY HALL Chic and elegant suits or a little white dress will complement the informal setting of a city hall ceremony. "A cute, fun and usually short gown are best for a City Hall wedding," says Halatas. "But if you do opt for a floor-length gown it should have a straight skirt without any detail." Pictured: Elizabeth Fillmore bridal collection. You'll look sweet and chic in this floral lace shift dress with organza ribbon shoulder straps, $2,750. At Mark Ingram Atelier. Call 212-319-6778, markingramatelier.com. (Credit: Handout)

Imagine your wedding ceremony is in an ornate house of worship with a long nave and stained-glass windows. The bridal party, in flowing gowns and classic black tuxedos, waits with the groom at the altar. And before you make your grand entrance on your father's arm, two adorable flower girls in white dresses sprinkle rose petals on the runner as a string quartet plays "Canon in D" by Johann Pachelbel.

Now picture your wedding dress.

Are you wearing a sexy, V-neck sheath with an open back and a revealing slit, a la Angelina Jolie at the Oscars? Or is it a ball gown with a voluminous skirt and a strapless bodice encrusted with beading and embroidery? Sexy may be back, but it may be as appropriate for this church wedding as your honeymoon bikini and flip-flops.

No matter your childhood fantasies, when shopping for your wedding dress, it's important to take the ceremony and reception venues into consideration. In fact, one of the first questions a bridal sales consultant will ask is, "Where are you getting married?"

"The gown we help the bride select is usually directly related to where she has chosen to have her wedding," says Cristina DeMarco of Bridal Reflections in Carle Place and Massapequa. "It's very important to know the venue, because it sets the tone."

Depending on the place, there are certain realities to consider. A summer wedding on the beach lends itself to a lightweight chiffon or lace so the bride doesn't overheat. A heavier fabric, such as Duchess satin or a gown covered in beads and embroidery, is more appropriate for a formal affair held in a grand ballroom.

In addition to fabric, the location can influence the dress's overall design. A fashion-forward or even avant-garde gown will play off an urban setting or loft space, while a tea-length style may be a better choice for a garden wedding -- with all that grass, why risk tripping over a floor-length hem? And for couples running off to City Hall, what could be more chic than a bride in a sleek white suit or minidress?

Confused? Don't be. No matter the venue, this season's choices are nothing short of spectacular.

Loft

A modern space can give a bride the freedom to choose a more fashion-forward look. Opt for a wedding dress with a flattering fit, creative fabrication and detailing. Want to make a real statement? Forget white and pick a color that matches your wedding palette.

Garden

Whether in your parents' backyard or at the Old Field Club in East Setauket, a garden wedding can be casual or formal. Consider something delicate, perhaps a tea-length dress and brightly colored pumps or a figure-hugging mermaid gown with full skirt.

City Hall

An elegant, stylish suit or a little white dress is in keeping with the informality of a City Hall -- or Town Hall -- ceremony. "A cute, fun and usually short gown is best for a City Hall wedding," says Vassa Halatas of Wedding Dresser Couture in Woodmere. "But if you do opt for a floor-length gown it should have a straight skirt without any detail."

Vineyard

The rustic atmosphere of a vineyard wedding -- think Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue or Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack -- lends itself to a gown with a romantic feeling. "Typically, brides marrying in this setting are fond of beautiful lace, perhaps Chantilly or Alençon, that softly hugs the body in a sheath or even in an A-line or fit-and-flare silhouette," says Terry Hall, fashion director at Kleinfeld Bridal.

Ballroom

You can go all out for a formal wedding in a majestic ballroom, such as the Garden City Hotel or Oheka Castle in Huntington. Vassa Halatas of Wedding Dresser Couture in Woodmere suggests a gown with grandeur, such as a ball gown with embroidery or other sumptuous detailing.

Beach

Whether you're having a destination wedding in the Caribbean or saying "I do" on the sand at the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club, you'll want a gown that feels lighter than air. Kleinfeld's Terry Hall suggests a dress made of a whispery, flowing fabric such as chiffon, organza or lace.

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