Time was when a spectacular wedding gown was a bride's biggest priority. In recent years, however, local brides are eschewing multiple gowns and costly rentals in favour of pared back silhouettes that are functional and less fussy. To cater to this new demand, wedding boutiques such as Central Weddings & Occasions have popped up across Hong Kong offering dresses by international designers such as Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrera. Prices are comparable to overseas and the choices are sleek and modern when compared to regular bridal shops. 'Local brides are shifting towards buying one gown over renting,' says Carolyn Chow, partner at Central Weddings. 'Rentals are not fitted 100 per cent to the body since the stores have to be able to loan the same dress out later. Having one gown is much easier so the bride doesn't have to worry about changing and can enjoy the dinner.' Versatile dresses with detachable trains and bustles are flying off the shelves, such as a Carolina Herrera lace ensemble that features a detachable skirt to create a chic after-ceremony cocktail dress. And while it was once common for brides to switch gowns six or seven times during celebrations, priorities have shifted. '[A wedding] was like a fashion show and the bride was the star,' says Vien Lee, chief designer of Belier Design. 'But the trend nowadays is to have one dress that's easy to wear and carry on planes if they're getting married [abroad].' Hong Kong designer Dorian Ho has also noticed that most of his local clients have reduced their number of dresses to three. For brides who want the option of changing looks without changing dresses, Ho has designed interchangeable styles or more classic shapes such as asymmetrical and one-shoulder gowns that can be worn to dinner afterwards. These, he says, tend to feature simple details such as pleating. Recent trends also reflect this shift. Skirt shapes are less voluminous, so brides can shorten them or add veils, while others are opting for more unusual colours. Elmis Chiu of White Bridal says that many of her customers choose shades of blush, champagne, starlight (bluish silver), ivory and ruby instead of white. 'After shopping, I had white overdose,' says Jessica Knipe, who opted for a gown in silver grey. 'My grandmother is a bit shocked by the colour, but I figured that later I can get it shortened to make a cocktail dress.' To give her gown a touch of drama, Knipe added a detachable bow at the back of her A-line dress. 'I'll add the bow for the ceremony since I'll be standing sideways, but then for dinner I can take it off to be more comfortable when I sit down,' she says. While off-the-rack dresses are great for brides who know what they want, they may not suit everyone. Another option is to take your desired design to a seamstress or in-house tailor at a bridal boutique. After searching for a dress for months, Knipe enlisted a tailor to whip up her vision in a matter of weeks - a sexy, low V-neck, draped Grecian gown. 'I started searching for simple, straight dresses but if you have hips, it doesn't look good. I realised I liked lots of different bits from various dresses so I combined my favourite styles and went to a tailor,' she says. Custom designing also allows brides to choose their own fabric, which is great if you want to keep things simple and costs down. Chiu says most of her clients are switching from dramatic duchess satin to lightweight fabrics such as organza, tulle, net and silk chiffon because of the weather. 'If a client is getting married in Hong Kong, we recommend breathable silks instead of stuffy polyesters since Hong Kong is still warm,' she says. And if you want to add some personality, choose an accessory, such as a beaded sash to take the dress from day to night. Of course, once the wedding is over, there's still the question of what to do with your dress. If you don't want to spend money on a gown that you'll never wear again, Brenda Ng of the Wedding Shop recommends looking into two-piece styles that can be worn separately in the future. These are becoming more popular and are more comfortable she says. 'We have a lot of brides who don't like two-piece gowns at the beginning, but once they try them on and see how they make them look taller and thinner, they change their minds.'